New Android 15 feature could turn your smartphone into a desktop computer

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Did you know that Android OS has had a desktop mode similar to Samsung Dex for the past five years or so? It’s true. The mode first came out back in 2019 on Android 10.  It allowed you to connect your smartphone to a monitor, mouse, and keyboard setup turning it into a mini-desktop. No one can blame you for not knowing it existed in the first place. It was primarily meant for developers to use as a testing ground for their apps. It was as barebones as a system can be. However, recent evidence suggests Google is expanding the feature to be more friendly for the everyday user.

News site Android Authority dove into the Android 14 QPR3 Beta 2.1 update and with some technical know-how, activated desktop mode “to see how the… system has evolved.” As it turns out, it’s advanced quite a bit since 2019. 

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Their demo video shows windows can now be dragged around and resized on the screen. Resizing causes the page to go blank save for the app’s logo in the center. 

Moving a window over to either side causes it to snap into place. They then opened another app, clicking into place on the other side letting them have two pages side-by-side similar to Windows 11. Grabbing a full-screened page by dragging the top handle causes it to shrink, letting users make quick adjustments.

At the top of every full-screen is a small menu. Android Authority states it “contains the app’s name, icon, and three buttons to switch between full-screen, split-screen, and freeform mode. That last option lets you drag the window around. While the app is in freeform, apps gain a URL bar, a dropdown menu for altering the viewing mode, plus maximize and close buttons. 

Basic, yet important

This may seem like basic functionalities that all web browsers come with. Well, that’s because they are. Earlier when we said desktop mode is as barebones as a system can be, we meant it. The thing to keep in mind is this update signifies a continued effort to improve this feature. We could see where Android smartphones can turn into capable computers that are more portable than laptops. Technically, they already are, but they’re missing the necessary support.

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There is still a lot of work to be done, as the publication points out. Most apps, for instance, “don’t support drag-and-drop”. A few keyboard shortcuts are apparently present, but the report doesn’t go into detail.

No word on when the revamped mode will launch. Considering it’s part of a late beta, we could see the feature arrive on Android 15 which is scheduled to come out somewhere between August and October. 

Take this information with a grain of salt. After all, Google could suddenly change its mind and kill the project. Something similar happened recently with the WSA (Windows Subsystem for Android) app on Windows 11. It gives users a way to run Android software natively on the Windows operating system, however, starting on March 5, 2025, support is going cut off.

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While we have you, be sure to check out TechRadar’s roundup of the best Android phones for 2024.

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