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Android 15 could force apps to occupy 100% of the screen

Smartphones have come a long way in size over the past few years, getting much larger an smarter. With increased screen space, you can now cram in more content than before. However, in recent years, smartphone sizes and bezels have pretty much stayed the same. This means app developers need to get creative with how they utilize the available space.

Android has been allowing apps to use the entire height and width of the display, going edge-to-edge, for a while now. However, many apps haven’t fully taken advantage of this. The game might change with the release of Android 15, as it’s set to make some apps go edge-to-edge by default.

Currently, for apps to go edge-to-edge, they need to willingly adopt it by incorporating specific APIs. This is because having the UI behind the navigation bar and status bar (also called “system bars”) might not work well for every app, especially if there are interactive elements like buttons that could clash with the system bars.

Developers have a way to handle these conflicts before activating edge-to-edge mode for their apps, but the fact that it’s optional highlights why Google hasn’t mandated this for every app. However, things might be changing soon. I stumbled upon code in the latest Android 14 QPR2 beta suggesting that the OS might enforce this for apps targeting the next Android version.

To give developers ample time for updating, testing, and debugging their apps for the latest Android OS versions, Google introduced a new settings page in Android 11 called “App Compatibility Changes.” This page lets developers switch on or off specific system behaviors that could potentially mess up their apps.

The set of compatibility changes applied to a specific app depends on its target API level, a number indicating how the app should run on different Android versions. For instance, an app targeting API level 34 (matching Android 14) will face all the new under-the-hood battery, memory management, and API changes enforced by the OS. Likewise, an app targeting API level 35 (the API level for Android 15) will need to handle any new system behaviors introduced by the latest OS version.