Google is working on a “One-Handed Mode” for Android 12
Over the years, smartphone makers have made taller and taller devices. While that has made media consumption more enjoyable on mobile, it has resulted in making many phones impossible to use one-handed. To compensate, several phone makers have developed software solutions to improve one-handed usability: most notably Apple with its Reachability feature. Now, Google is set to bring its own version of one-handed mode in Android 12.
XDA has now learned that Google has been developing a one-handed mode feature for inclusion into AOSP, the open-source version of Android. That means the feature will be accessible to any smartphone maker using AOSP. More importantly, it means that OEMs that have not developed their own one-handed mode feature will be able to utilize Google’s version of the software. However, we do not know if Google plans to mandate the inclusion of its version of one-handed mode on all Android 12 devices.
While we aren’t exactly sure how Android 12’s one-handed mode will be designed, we think it’ll be like the many OEM implementations that shrink the entire screen down to a corner (eg. like the ASUS implementation shown in the featured image). We do know that Google’s current implementation in Android 12 involves shrinking the screen size down to 40% of its max size. We also know that there will be a way to trigger one-handed mode using the traditional 3-button mode as well as the newer gestural navigation mode. Currently, it’s planned for one-handed mode to be added to Settings > System > Gesture > One-Handed, which makes sense since it’s triggered using a gesture (likely swiping left/right on the navigation bar).
The addition of a one-handed mode in Android 12 comes long after many OEMs have already made their own versions of the feature. At one point, Chinese smartphone maker Huawei even attempted to submit its version of the feature to AOSP, but Google rejected its addition. The reason that was given was that Huawei’s implementation conflicted with other features and introduced bugs, though any issues could, of course, have been ironed out. That being said, it’s not unusual for Google to take its time to implement key features already present in its partners’ Android devices.
For example, Google is also finally introducing a scrolling screenshot feature in Android 12, years after it was implemented by OEMs. In an Ask Me Anything thread on Reddit last year, Google said that it did not want to implement scrolling screenshots in a half-baked way; the company pointed to how several OEM implementations fail to work on certain pages or fail to stitch images when scrolling through certain views. Similarly, Google may be putting a similar level of diligence into its work on one-handed mode. Besides shrinking and repositioning all system UI elements, Google also has to consider how one-handed mode affects third-party applications since its implementation will affect the entire Android ecosystem rather than just a subset of devices.
Since we do not have images of Android 12’s one-handed mode, we sadly can’t demonstrate exactly what it will look like. However, we expect the first Android 12 Developer Preview to land sometime later this month, so we may not have to wait long to see the feature in action. However, we don’t know for sure if Google will include the feature in the Developer Preview or even at all in a future Beta or Stable release. If Google decides the feature is still not ready for release, then we may not see the feature until next year’s Android version if at all.
Featured image: ASUS’ one-handed mode on a ZenFone 7 Pro running Android 11
This article was updated at 7:56 PM ET on February 17, 2021 to mention why Huawei’s one-handed mode implementation was rejected.