One-handed mode has been a thing for quite some time in iOS as well as some Android smartphones, and it’s for a simple reason: phones have kept getting bigger and bigger. While this trend has somewhat stalled, nowadays it’s not uncommon to see devices with displays from 6.5 inches to 6.9 inches, from flagship devices all the way down to the low end of the spectrum. Using one of these phones one-handed is a challenge, and OEMs have come up with a lot of ways to help to make one-handed usage easier, including one-handed mode, which basically moves UI elements closer to reach or outright just shrinks the display. A feature like this has notably been absent from Android natively… at least, that is, until now.
A deep dive into Android 12‘s first Developer Preview has revealed that Google is currently working on baking one-handed mode into Android natively. Now, I should clarify here that while we did get the feature to work well enough to cover it, it is currently not live on the first Android 12 Developer Preview, so you shouldn’t expect to simply install Android 12 and enable it.
Here’s Android 12’s one-handed mode – fully working. Sadly, it’s like Apple’s Reachability (vertically downsizing) rather than OHM on most OEM software (both horizontal and vertical downsizing). pic.twitter.com/IznRVHTgPu
— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) February 18, 2021
It is quite similar to Apple’s Reachability mode where, instead of shrinking the display both vertically and horizontally to make it easier to reach with your thumb, the display is instead only shrunk vertically, bringing down the top of the display for easier reachability. It probably still needs some work, though: there’s a reason why Google has not made it available for users in this Developer Preview yet, after all, so we might see a more finalized version (that users can actually enable and try out on their own) on a future preview. Of course, there’s also the possibility that this feature might be scrapped altogether from the final version of Android 12, as Android 12 is still in an early phase of development.
Still, this is excellent news for owners of big phones. This feature is present in some custom OEM skins as well as some custom ROMs, but they normally shrink the display both vertically and horizontally instead of an implementation like this. Concerns with one-handed usage still exist when we’re talking big phones, and shrinking the display or bringing UI elements, such as the status bar, closer to reach with your thumb, can help offset this.
Are you excited about Android 12?