Android Q’s Desktop Mode is real, here’s your first look

Android Q’s Desktop Mode is real, here’s your first look

When I first leaked Android Q back in January, there was one feature that I really wanted to show off but sadly couldn’t because it wasn’t fully implemented: the experimental desktop mode. We found a setting in Developer Options that would “force experimental desktop mode on secondary displays.” While we could toggle the setting, nothing we tried would make this “desktop mode” show up anywhere. Now that the first Android Q beta has been released for all Google Pixel smartphones and the Android Studio emulator, it’s possible to try it out.

Twitter user @Shad0wKn1ght93 noticed that the AOSP Launcher has a new component that, when launched, brings up a new Android desktop interface. I noticed a reference to this launcher component in Q’s framework, but the AOSP Launcher that shipped with the leaked build did not have this component at the time. Now that it does, it’s possible to launch the component manually. If you have the Android Studio emulator, all you have to do is run the following ADB command depending on which Q image you downloaded:

  • Non-GMS: adb shell am start -n "com.android.launcher3/com.android.launcher3.SecondaryDisplayLauncher"
  • GMS: adb shell am start -n "com.google.android.apps.nexuslauncher/com.android.launcher3.SecondaryDisplayLauncher"

Once launched, here’s what the desktop interface looks like on the non-GMS build using the AOSP Launcher.

You can add app shortcuts to the desktop which launch in freeform multi-windows, a feature which first launched with Android 7.0 Nougat. You can also set a custom wallpaper for the desktop. The status bar and navigation bar seem unchanged, but you have a lot more room to work with now.

It’s possible to enable this desktop mode by going to Developer Options on a Google Pixel, Pixel 2, or Pixel 3 running the beta and enabling the “force desktop mode” Developer Option, then launching the activity in the Pixel Launcher using the “GMS” command from above. You’ll need to change your Pixel’s DPI before casting or connecting your phone’s screen to any external displays, though.

The Google Pixel Launcher, AOSP Launcher, and other OEM launchers may not be the only launchers that work in the new desktop mode. Developers of launcher apps can add an intent receiver to filter for calls to launch secondary home launchers, as described here. Once called, the third-party launcher’s secondary launcher component may be what’s shown in the desktop mode.

This article will be updated as we get more details. Check back for more information on the new desktop mode!


Update 1 3/14/19 @ 5:51PM CT: Added the command for the GMS Android Studio builds.

Update 2 3/14/19 @ 5:56PM CT: Added information on the fact that you can use this desktop mode on a Pixel phone by launching the activity, changing the DPI, and then casting your phone screen. Also added a fourth screenshot.

Update 3 3/14/19 @ 10:16AM CT: Added information on third-party launchers.

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