The first beta for the next version of Android has landed and, naturally, developers and modders are already taking it apart to look for hidden or even incubating features. One of those small nuggets is a not so hidden desktop mode for Android. And while it’s definitely interesting that Google is finally considering such an interface, it might no longer make a difference in expanding Android beyond smartphones and some TVs.
Traces of this desktop mode already existed back in January but barely had anything worthwhile to offer. With Android Q Beta, however, the feature finally takes a more visible form. At the same time, the feature seems so crude and rough that it’s hard to tell where Google is heading with it.
Despite Android Q beta being available only on Pixel phones, you don’t need one to test this feature. You can also just use the Android Emulator running an Android Q image and enter the ADB command below to switch to a desktop-like interface.
In a nutshell, it stretches the Android homescreen across a larger display, almost like in a landscape tablet orientation. The navigation and notification panels are exactly the same, too. The only differences are two icons at the bottom corners, one for adding desktop shortcuts and changing wallpapers and the other for showing the app drawer at the center of the screen.
Given the ADB command, Google seems to be trying to pull off a Samsung DeX. Disregarding for a while that desktop mode might still be in very early stages, it still raises the question of usefulness. Without better-behaved Android apps running in windowed mode, any Android desktop thrust will end up with the same problems of inconsistent and sub-par app experiences. And unlike Samsung, Google is less inclined to modify how apps behave. It might have been a great feature a year or so ago when Android tablets and PC still mattered. Today, it might just be too late.