Android apps optimized for Honeycomb are growing by the day. The most popular ones already have a tablet version on the Market. However, there are still a lot of apps that haven’t made the jump to larger-sized screens. Most the time, these phone-only apps look pretty awful on tablet devices. And the experience feels a lot like using an over-sized phone and not a powerful computer (what Android tablets really are). Thankfully, Google feels your pain.
The company announced today that the next version of Honeycomb (Android 3.2) will support a new kind of compatibility mode that will let users change between stretch and zoom mode. If you’ve been using a phone app on your Honeycomb tablet, then you already know what stretch mode looks like–a “normal layout resizing” (using your app’s alternative resources for size and density).
Zoom mode on the other hand “runs your app in an emulated normal/mdpi screen” (approximately 320dp x 480dp) and scales that up to fill the screen. Imagine viewing your app at the size of a phone screen then zooming in about 200%. iOS users might be familiar with this mode, as this is the same way the iPad deals with iPhone apps. The result is that everything looks “bigger, but also more pixelated, because the system does not resize the layout.”
Neither of these modes are the perfect way to interact with apps on Android tablets, but at least Google is giving us options. This should become less of an issue once Ice Cream Sandwich arrives this Christmas, as the company plans to release an accompanying API framework that will make it as easy as possible to develop for all Android devices, including phones, tablets and TVs.