Google has confirmed its Android mobile operating system will be updated to support folding smartphones and tablets, like the upcoming Samsung Galaxy X and Huawei branded competitor.
Dubbed "Foldables", this new breed of device is tipped to become hugely popular in the next 12 months as manufacturers look for new ways to squeeze more screen real estate into devices that can still be carried around in a pocket.
Samsung, Huawei, LG and Microsoft are all tipped to have a folding handset in the works. In order to prevent the fragmentation of Android as each manufacturer designs and programs their own software solution for folding displays, Google has announced plans to build the functionality directly into the operating system itself.
Speaking during the Android Developer Summit this week, Google Vice President of Engineering Dave Burke said the company is “enhancing Android to take advantage of this new form factor with as little work as necessary.”
Google hasn't revealed when the new feature will roll-out to Android manufacturers. For now, the company has mainly issued guidance for developers for best-practice to future-proof their apps and take advantage of existing features built into Android.
Glen Murphy, Director and Head of Android UX at Google, revealed the company was working very closely with Samsung on the launch of its upcoming folding phone.
Murphy confirmed that Samsung's Infinity Flex Display technology, which allows the 7.3-inch OLED to fold almost in half with no sign of a crease or hinge, will be officially supported within the Android operating system.
Google typically holds its annual developer conference, Google IO, in May. We'd bet our firstborn that the Mountain View-based company has plenty more about its optimisation for foldable handsets to share with software designers during IO 2019.
In the meantime, foldable handsets are already hitting the market.
Earlier this month, little-known Californian technology firm Royole unveiled the first commercially available foldable smartphone.
Dubbed FlexPai, the handset has a 4-inch AMOLED display that can be unfurled into a 7.8-inch tablet. You can watch a promotional video of the phone below. Because the folding mechanism is not yet supported at an OS level, Royole was forced to build its own Water OS interface that runs on top of Android 9.0 Pie.
Water OS is designed to intelligently switch between a tablet interface when the display is unfolded, to one more suitable for phones when it is folded.