Android 15 could finally reclaim some free screen real estate

Summary

  • Android 15 may require apps on the Play Store to utilize edge-to-edge mode, displaying content under the status bar and navigation bar for a better user experience.
  • Implementing edge-to-edge mode is currently opt-in, and may not be feasible for smaller apps or those with buttons that would overlap with system bars.
  • These changes could have a significant impact on foldable phones and make Android apps resemble iOS apps. The final decision will be revealed with the release of the initial developer beta builds for Android 15.


Android updates have focused on the beautification of user interfaces since Android 12 when Google introduced Material You and dynamic theming. However, things continue to get better, and a lot of improvement now comes through optimization of the existing UI designs. Recently spotted code suggests apps could look better on Android 15, with proper optimizations in place for displaying under the status bar and gesture navigation bar, so content can utilize every inch of the device display.

In the early days of Android, navigation buttons and the status bar rendered a large portion of our screens useless. However, screen-to-body ratios soared, and phone displays became larger, while Android allowed apps to display content under the status bar, around hole-punch cameras, and beneath the navigation bar or pill seen when using gestures. This is aptly named edge-to-edge mode, but even on Android 14, it is opt-in, and app developers aren’t pressured to implement it.

Yes, full-screen apps like e-book readers, video players, and the best Android games use edge-to-edge mode, but you won’t see it with apps like Google Keep or smaller apps developed by individuals. That’s partly because in-app buttons would overlap with the system bars or the effort involved in implementing the relevant APIs just won’t make sense.

edge-2-edge-mode-Android-15-forced-portrait

Source: Mishaal Rahman/Android Authority

However, writing for Android Authority, subject expert Mishaal Rahman says that Android 15 could make edge-to-edge mode mandatory for apps on the Play Store. That’s because code snippets about the mode which were spotted in Android 14 QPR2 Beta 3 reference API level 35 corresponding to Android 15. Moreover, the code snippet refers to Android 15 by the internal dessert codename “vanilla ice cream.”

Description: Make app go edge-to-edge by default if the target SDK is VANILLA_ICE_CREAM or above.

Rahman got this change running on an app, and the visual difference edge-to-edge mode makes is immediately apparent. In portrait mode, text and app content appear under the navigation bar at the bottom. In landscape mode, app content still shows up under the navigation bar, but we don’t see the eyesore of a black vertical stripe from the space blocked off by the status bar. These changes may seem trivial, but they could make a world of a difference on foldable phones, especially when in apps which aren’t optimized for running in landscape. It would also make Android apps resemble those on iOS.

edge-2-edge-mode-Android-15-forced-landscape

Source: Mishaal Rahman/Android Authority

Rahman also explains that although these changes are in the Android 14 beta, targeting Android 15’s API level, app developers listing creations on the Play Store will be compelled to target the Android 15 API level eventually, thus mandating edge-to-edge mode. However, we will only know Google’s plans for certain once the initial developer beta builds for Android 15 arrive, because this is but an optimization, and Google could drop it in favor of other pressing changes.

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