Future versions of Android will be able to sense the environment they are installed on. If lets say Android 4.0 ( ice cream sandwitch ) finds itself running on a phone like the Nexus1 for example it will look similar to previous versions of Android, that is to say it will have the pull down bar at the top where you will find notifications etc, the start menu will be as expected just like other Android phones and as you would expect the whole thing will feel just like Android 2.3 or 2.4 to use.
None of this is very amazing at all is it? but then you take the very same Android 4.0 ( ice cream sandwitch ) and install it on to a decent size tablet like the Motorola Xoom and the whole experience comes out looking like the Xooms very own version of Android 3.0 Honeycomb ! All the tablet dual pane apps will be present and the lovely home screen layout and notifications change to just the way Android for tablets should look and feel.
So how does one single version of Android work out what device its installed on? Well it could be that Android has a long list of devices stored in some xml file somewhere and just reacts to that when it decides how to present itself, it could but its not.. What it actually does it react to the screen resolution or .DPI to be exact. If your set up sits at 240 .DPI as would be tha case in most phones that run Android your new Android 4.0 ICS will adapt and display as a phone, however as in the case of the Xoom with its .DPI set to 160 your all new Android 4.0 ICS will know it needs to look just like the Xoom and other Honeycomb devices always have, tablet Android !
So this is great for Google because they can stick to 1 version of Android as the developments go forward, they wont need 2 seperate lines of development as is the case with current Honecomb for Tablet and Gingerbread for Phones builds. So just to prove how Google are making this happen i took my Motorola Xoom and installed Android 3.1 – its not available in my country yet ( UK ) but there are ways to adapt the US version to run on the Uk Xoom, once installed i set out to change the screens .DPI using the great LCD Density Changer App available from the Android Market. Here are the results.
Above you can see my Xoom with DPI set to 240 which is the same as a Nexus1 or even the good old G1, remember DPI isnt the same as screen size or resolution, here you can see the Xoom clearly looks like its running Gingerbread or Froyo… Bellow is the very same Xoom moments later with the DPI set back to its native 160.DPI and it returns to the Tablet user interface.
So it seems Google have already made a good start with making one single build to run on both product groups, it all makes a lot of sense this way when you look at devices like the pad-phone which will have the OS running on the phone but display in an entirely different manner when plugged into the screen it comes with.
Asus Padphone 2 devices – one Android !!