Google's Android team is adapting the next build of its Android 3.2 "Honeycomb" tablet operating system to let Android tablet owners choose two modes with which to access phone apps not originally intended for the larger tablet form factor.
The idea is to boost the paucity of apps available for existing Honeycomb tablets, such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10, Toshiba Thrive and Acer's Iconia Tab 500.
"To keep the few apps that don't resize well from frustrating users with awkward-looking apps on their tablets, a near-future release of Honeycomb is introducing a new screen compatibility mode to make these apps more usable on tablets," wrote Scott Main, Google's lead tech writer for the Android developer Website.
When Android 3.2 arrives later this summer, any app not written to target the original Android 3.0 Honeycomb specifications will include a button in the system bar that allows users to toggle between two application viewing modes on tablets.
These modes are "stretch to fill screen," which provides normal layout resizing, and "Zoom to fill screen," which when enabled does not resize an app's layout to fit the screen.
This mode runs the app at 320dp by 480dp, scaling to fill the screen, which means more pixilated images, according to this side-by-side Google Maps comparison of the two modes.
Main warned that developers' apps that already resize well should be updated "as soon as possible to disable screen compatibility mode so that users experience" the app the way the author intended.
However, where an app does not properly resize for larger screens, screen compatibility mode improves the app's usability by emulating the app's phone-style look, albeit zoomed in to fill the screen on a tablet.
Main offered some other cautionary tales, such as the fact that screen compatibility mode likely makes for an inferior user experience for developers who have already written their apps for larger screens, in his blog post.
Android 3.2 is already rolling out to Motorola Xoom users, according to CNET. The build, which follows the current Android 3.1 version, will include support for 7-inch tablets, Qualcomm chips and media sync from SD cards.