Judging from the latest leaks, the Google Pixel Fold and Pixel Tablet are both just around the corner. Matching that, Google appears to be readying more features and tidbits in Android 14 that look perfect for the upcoming Pixel foldable and tablet.
About APK Insight: In this “APK Insight” post, we’ve decompiled the latest version of an application that Google uploaded to the Play Store. When we decompile these files (called APKs, in the case of Android apps), we’re able to see various lines of code within that hint at possible future features. Keep in mind that Google may or may not ever ship these features, and our interpretation of what they are may be imperfect. We’ll try to enable those that are closer to being finished, however, to show you how they’ll look in the case that they do ship. With that in mind, read on.
Suffice it to say the Google Pixel Fold has been a long time in the works, with the device seeing numerous delays and cancellations over the years. In that time, Google has been steadily working on software in support of the (various generations of) Pixel Fold and Pixel Tablet, as well as large screen devices from other companies.
While much of this work first surfaced with the large-screen-focused Android 12L release, the experience for foldables and tablets has continued to improve with Android 13 and now Android 14. In the second Android 14 preview alone, our team has found a handful of improvements and features that look prime for the Pixel Fold and Pixel Tablet, as well as a tidbit about the Pixel Fold itself.
Notably, with Android 13 QPR3 set to release in June, it’s hard to be certain whether these features are specific to Android 14 or may arrive as part of the June Pixel Feature Drop.
Desktop mode improvements
During the Android 13 QPR2 Beta, we were able to showcase a major shake-up to “desktop mode,” a feature that Google has long been toying with on the platform. Desktop mode on Android essentially takes all of your apps and puts them inside of freeform windows that can be dragged around, managed, and resized.
In that previous beta, we saw the addition of a new pill-shaped control bar at the top of each app. This bar has been updated once again and can now be expanded to reveal many of the same controls typically shown in the Recent Apps view. For example, there are options to “Screenshot,” “Select,” and “Close” an app window, along with quick shortcuts for changing a window’s sizing and placement.
The design definitely feels modern and perhaps even “Pixel-y,” but so far nothing has directly tied the feature to the forthcoming Pixel Tablet or Fold. Of the two, the Pixel Tablet would definitely benefit the most from a desktop mode, especially in combination with a keyboard accessory.
Pixel Fold Face Unlock details
Elsewhere in Pixel Fold tidbits, Android researcher Kuba Wojciechowski spotted a new bit of text that seems to offer new information about how Face Unlock will work on the Pixel Fold. Specifically, it’s explained that Face Unlock will only be able to work when the device is folded.
<string name=”face_confirmation_info_outside_screen”>Face Unlock works from the outside screen only</string>
As Wojciechowski explains, the reason for this is that the Pixel Fold’s inner selfie camera (IMX355) does not use a dual-pixel sensor, a key technology behind Face Unlock on the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro.
That being the case, to quickly unlock the Pixel Fold when unfolded, you’ll need to use the side-mounted fingerprint sensor or Watch Unlock — if that ever launches.
One feature of the Pixel Tablet that we’ve been tracking closely is the ability to quickly take notes using the stylus. By pressing a button on the stylus, a notes app – which we assume to be Google Keep Notes, but this hasn’t been confirmed – will appear in an on-screen bubble where you can quickly jot something down.
As part of the Android 14 Developer Preview, Google updated some public-facing developer docs to explain some of the new APIs. One such example is “ACTION_CREATE_NOTE,” which Google explains is used to quickly start a note-taking app. More importantly, it’s noted that this action can also be taken “on the lock screen,” and that the app’s developers should take the appropriate precautions to protect sensitive data.
Starts a note-taking activity that can be used to create a note. This action can be used to start an activity on the lock screen. Activity should ensure to appropriately handle privacy sensitive data and features when launched on the lock screen.
In practice, we believe this should work a lot like the Google Camera app’s ability to take new photos without unlocking the phone. In that example, Google Camera even allows you to view and delete recently taken photos, but only those that were taken while the screen was locked. Any older photos are protected from view. By that logic, the Pixel Tablet should let you take new notes directly from the lock screen, but viewing any older notes will require you to unlock first.
Lastly, Android 14 DP2 also introduces a flag for a new feature called “dual_shade.” Unfortunately, the code for the feature is not yet included, but the “shade” name seems to suggest we’re looking at a new change for the notification shade.
On tablets and foldables today, there’s a single, massive pulldown shade, which features notifications on the right side and quick settings on the left. This design can be seen in our previous preview of the Pixel Tablet’s software, at around the 0:43 mark.
We can only speculate at this point, but it’s possible the new “dual_shade” feature may separate notifications and quick settings into two different shades, depending on where you swipe. This would be similar to how iOS will show either the Control Center or Notification Center based on which side of the screen you’ve swiped.
Thanks to JEB Decompiler, from which some APK Insight teardowns benefit.
Dylan Roussel contributed to this article.
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