Taller Android smartphones are here, but their apps aren't ready yet; Google offers a solution

If the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the LG G6 is anything to go by, we’re witnessing a shift in the aspect ratio of mobile displays. The screens are getting taller, which users seem to appreciate, but this is a slight problem for app developers and a source of minor consternation for early adopters.

Smartphones are generally designed with a fixed aspect ratio of 16:9 in mind. This figure refers to the ratio of the lengths of the longer and shorter side of your screen.

No matter what your screen size and resolution, if the aspect ratio is maintained, an app can scale up or down to utilise the entirety of the space available.

A 16:9 app on an 18.5:9 screen. Image: Google

A 16:9 app on an 18.5:9 screen. Image: Google

With the LG G6 and the Samsung Galaxy S8, LG and Samsung have gone for unusual aspect ratios of 18:9 and 18.5:9 respectively. This means that apps that are not designed to scale freely will have black bands on the top and bottom, much like the bands you see when watching a movie designed for widescreen TVs on a standard CRT TV.

To ease the burden on developers, Google has put up a post on the Android developers blog, where it explains how a developer can fix the aspect ratio issue by simply adding a couple of lines of code.

Currently, apps are designed to support a ratio of 16:9 or 1.86. Google now recommends that developers design their apps to support a ratio of 2.1 (approximately 19:1).

Apple developers faced a similar conundrum when the iPhone 5 was introduced. The 4-inch iPhone 5 featured an aspect ratio of 16:9 at a time when all previous iPhones were using a 3:2 aspect ratio.

Developing for Apple devices is, however, easier as the number of possible aspect ratios are finite. Android developers, on the other hand, have to account for innumerable form factors and hardware configurations.

Published Date: Mar 31, 2017 10:12 am | Updated Date: Mar 31, 2017 10:12 am