Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 is great, but I really love Android 12L

Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 is not really a phone. It is also not a tablet. It has a large tablet-like display and phone-grade cameras, but doesn’t fully engage both ways. Consequently, it needed software that moved between phones and tablets without falling one way or the other. This is where Android 12L comes in. It’s a shot in the shoulder that Samsung’s book-style folding needs, and it sets a new standard for curated software.

See also: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review

Shade the taskbar

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 camera interface on Android 12L
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Android 12L on the Galaxy Z Fold 4 lives and dies on the taskbar at the bottom edge. Okay, it might not be all that dramatic, but it makes managing the 7.6-inch display much easier. It performs a task similar to the taskbar on your Mac or PC, saving you yoga of the thumb instead of giving your mouse pointer a rest.

Not only is the taskbar easily accessible, it practically begs for multitasking. It stacks up a few essentials for everyday use alongside some personal favorites, making it easy to move from one topic to another. When you get into the multitasking weeds, you’ll also see some combinations that appear on the right side of the taskbar. One of mine is the combination of Chrome and Google Maps – the perfect mix for navigating to restaurants and reading menus at the same time.

The Android 12L taskbar puts more at your fingertips and offers a break from the painful yoga of the thumb.

If you can’t find what you need, the rest of the apps are just a touch of your left thumb. It took me a while to realize that the nine-dot icon was a shortcut to the app drawer, but now I hardly use anything else. The app drawer in the app is a bit condensed compared to the full screen version and doesn’t require you to go back to the home screen to get there. And yes, it’s just as easy to open a second app and multitask.

Screenshot 20220916 073010 YouTube

Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Access the app drawer from the taskbar

Perhaps the most ingenious part of Android 12L’s taskbar is knowing when to hold them and when to fold them (pun intended). It disappears when you close the main screen and every time you immerse yourself in a full screen video or in a game like Asphalt 9. Even if you can’t see it, the taskbar is just a swipe up – just don’t start from the very bottom of the screen or you will return to the home screen.

Learn more: Here are the best foldable phones you can buy right now

Circuits, circuits, circuits

samsung galaxy with fold 4 youtube multitasking
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Running two apps simultaneously is nothing new – at least on Android. However, it’s rarely as intuitive as in the Galaxy Z Fold 4. Splitting a huge display into two or three clean blocks is miles ahead of splitting Samsung’s next largest display, the Galaxy S22 Ultra, in half.

While multitasking with Android 12L, you also have full control over whether your apps are split vertically or horizontally. I prefer having windows on top of each other as it’s easier to scroll through both at once, but the choice is entirely yours.

Two applications, three applications, portrait, landscape, layouts have (almost) no limitations.

Samsung’s own apps also benefit from a healthy dose of system love. For example, the camera app looks almost comical when you consider the entire viewfinder screen. However, it offers optional enhancements such as gallery mode and cover screen preview to optimize for folding. Gallery mode opens a panel in the left half of the internal display to show the last few photos and videos taken, while the cover screen preview does exactly what it says on the external display.

The native dialer app also does the trick by adopting a sort of phone book layout. The Contacts tab displays the entire contact list on the left side of the fold and opens the detailed information on the right side each time you tap on the name. The Recent tab has a similar structure, although the keyboard is just a giant keyboard. YouTube is one of the few third-party apps that supports a completely customized layout, but work is still ongoing as I’ll explain below.

Not every Samsung app follows the highly customizable Android 12L trend, and a few omit multi-window support entirely. For example, a Samsung wallet is all or nothing when it comes to screen access. It’s probably okay if you only use the app to make mobile payments, but it’s not so convenient if you want to keep an eye on your finances when shopping online.

Read more: With Android 12L, Google should set an example

There are a few creases left to smooth out

Youtube on Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 Android 12L

Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Android 12L was never meant to be perfect right away. As a software solution for tablets, Chromebooks, and folds, it already had the mountain to beat. The three device types vary greatly in size, shape, and purpose, so optimizing a tablet application is not the same as optimizing for a Galaxy Z Fold 4.

For example, opening a YouTube video can take on any number of layouts. Works well with a fully open Galaxy Z Fold 4 in both landscape and portrait orientations, full screen or not. However, the moment you try to watch a movie in full screen with a partially folded display, you’ll see the horror above. Instead of shrinking the video and moving it above or below a tab, it stays inside where you can only see half of what you’re watching. Less thick black stripes – although they are more due to the square proportions than Android 12L.

Google may be the brain behind Android 12L, but its YouTube optimization is predatory at times.

Another problem is that some apps skip the optimization for Android 12L entirely. Instagram is a great punching bag for big screen devices simply because you don’t want to play the game. It doesn’t exist for an iPad or a Galaxy Tab, and its take on the Galaxy Z Fold 4 is something like “here’s a normal smartphone app, deal with it.” Instagram doesn’t even bother filling the screen on Samsung’s high-quality foldable case, it shows up as a window that you can slide left or right to make scrolling easier. Again, this isn’t Android 12L’s fault, but layout issues become a headache, especially when the developers aren’t trying to adapt.

Despite the bizarre layouts, Android 12L is the biggest step in the Galaxy Z Fold 4 in the right direction. Fortunately, Google has promised to keep developing the software as long as Samsung keeps pushing for folding, so there is still hope that some of the flaws will be removed. After all, the software makes me go back to the phone where every fiber of my being wants to believe it’s too big. My fibers are not bad. He’s a behemoth, but a behemoth that proves his worth on my busiest days.

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