How to get Android’s tablet-only taskbar on your smartphone for a new take on multitasking « Android :: Gadget Hacks

How to get Android’s tablet-only taskbar on your smartphone for a new take on multitasking « Android :: Gadget Hacks

Android 12L and Android 13 have a tablet-only taskbar that lets you quickly open recent, suggested, or pinned apps and drag and drop apps into split-screen mode. While the taskbar is only meant for tablets and foldable devices, you can unlock this new feature for your Android smartphone with a little tinkering.

On tablets, the taskbar appears when you use other apps. You can long-press it to hide it when needed, then tap the navigation bar to show it again. It shows six recently used, suggested or pinned apps, and when it’s not on the home screen, it also provides a link to your app library for quick access to all apps.

The taskbar in action on a tablet. Image via Google

It’s an always-present feature, but it can change to a transient taskbar in later Android versions, where it’s visible temporarily before hiding. You will perform a small upward swipe from the bottom of the screen to reveal it.

The current process is similar on Android 13 phones after unlocking the feature, and the new transient version may be available if you’re running an Android beta.

Step 1: Enable developer options

If you already have developer options unlocked, skip to step 2. Otherwise, open the Settings app, tap “About phone,” find “Build number” and tap it until you get a toast message confirming that the developer options menu is unlocked . You may need to enter your device PIN to continue.

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You can find your unlocked developer options on a Google Pixel via Settings -> System.

Step 2: Adjust the minimum width option

In the Developer Options menu, find or search for the “Minimum Width” setting, which is nested under the Drawing section. Tap “Minimum Width”, then record the device-independent pixel (dp) number there at the moment so you can quickly return to the original width later.

This is important because it is not easy to find the original dp later and disabling developer options and restarting the device will not reset the device dp.

Once recorded in a safe place, change it to 600 dp and press “OK”.

Step 3: Adjust font and screen size

Because the change to the Minimum width setting shrinks the elements on your screen, we adjust the font and screen sizes to compensate. Go to Settings -> Display -> Screen size and text. Next, drag the “Font Size” and “Display Size” sliders to the far right.

Step 4: Engage with the taskbar

Now you will see the taskbar active at the bottom of the screen when apps are active. The first time you’re through, you’ll be greeted with a quick start guide to the feature.

Apps on the taskbar consist of recent and suggested apps and are flanked by an app library shortcut, which slides up over the active app when engaged. When no apps are active and you’re on the home screen, the taskbar reverts to the suggested app row and the app library shortcut disappears.

Tap apps on the taskbar to switch to them quickly. Tap and drag apps from the taskbar or app selector to assign them to half of the screen in split-screen mode.

There are a few kinks to living so far on the bleeding edge, including an awkward and somewhat limited home screen layout, a different keyboard layout that moves the position of the backspace key to the top row, and other quirks.

You will also notice that some apps will switch to a tablet interface. Messages, Google Photos and Spotify are among the apps that open in the tablet layout. The Calendar app uses the tablet’s appearance in landscape mode. The taskbar, split-screen mode, and app and tablet layouts really stand out when the device is in landscape orientation.

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Cover image and screenshots by Tommy Palladino/Gadget Hacks

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