How to Get Android’s Tablet-Only Taskbar on Your Smartphone for a Fresh 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 intended 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 are using other apps. You can long press it to hide it if needed, then tap the navigation bar to show it again. It shows six recently used, suggested or pinned apps, and if not on the home screen, there’s also a link to your app library for quick access to any app.

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The taskbar in action on a tablet. Image via Google

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

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

Step 1: Enable developer options

If you already have Developer Options unlocked, skip to step 2. Otherwise, open your 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 smallest width option

In the Developer Options menu, find or search for the “Smallest Width” setting, which is nested under the Drawing section. Tap “Smallest Width,” then note the device-independent pixel (dp) number that’s currently there 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 your device will not reset your device’s dp.

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

Step 3: Adjust your font and display size

Because changing the Smallest Width setting shrinks the elements on your screen, we will adjust the font and display sizes to compensate. Head to Settings -> Display -> Display size and text. Next, drag the sliders for “Font size” and “Display size” to the right.

Step 4: Engage with the taskbar

Now you will see the taskbar active at the bottom of the screen when the apps are active. Your first time through, you will be greeted with a quick start guide for the feature.

Apps in the taskbar consist of recent and suggested apps and are flanked by a shortcut to the app library that slides over the active app when engaged. When no apps are active, and you’re on your home screen, the taskbar returns to the suggested apps row, and the app library shortcut disappears.

Tap apps in the taskbar to quickly switch to them. Drag and drop apps from the taskbar or the app picker to move them to half 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 shifts the position of the backspace key to the top row, and other quirks.

You’ll also notice that some apps shift to a tablet UI. Messages, Google Photos, and Spotify are among the apps that open in the tablet layout. The calendar app adopts the tablet look in landscape mode. The taskbar, split-screen mode, and app and tablet layouts really stand out when your device is in landscape orientation.

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Cover photo and screenshots by Tommy Palladino / Gadget Hacks


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