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I was stumbling upon the "Smallest width" settings. It seems increasing this value will make everything show up smaller on the screen and vice versa.

What does it mean and what's its function?

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2 Answers 2

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The propery smallest width is inversely proportional to the PPI setting (called ro.sf.lcd_density) that is specified in the file /system/build.prop. Meaning higher numbers for smallest width correspond to lower numbers for ro.sf.lcd_density.

The property ro.sf.lcd_density specifies the UI 'density': for lower numbers, it will render the same UI element using fewer pixels, making it smaller.

The upside of rendering the UI smaller is that it's just like using a higher resolution (or lower DPI setting) on a desktop computer: you have more space to put everything because smaller things means you can fit more of those things on your screen.

The downside is that the smaller UI makes it harder to read for people having difficulties reading small fonts or discerning small details.

Another downside is that your touches need to be very precise to hit the smaller UI elements. Unfortunately the resolution of the hardware touch-sensors doesn't scale along, so very precise touches are not that easy to achieve consistently, thus putting a lower limit to ro.sf.lcd_density for what you can comfortably use daily.

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Here is the relevant excerpt from https://developer.android.com/training/multiscreen/screensizes.

The "smallest width" or "minimum width" screen size qualifier allows you to provide alternative layouts for screens that have a minimum width measured in density-independent pixels (dp or dip).

By describing the screen size as a measure of density-independent pixels, Android allows you to create layouts that are designed for very specific screen dimensions while avoiding any concerns you might have about different pixel densities.

The smallest width qualifier specifies the smallest of the screen's two sides, regardless of the device's current orientation, so it's a simple way to specify the overall screen size available for your layout.

Here's how other smallest width values correspond to typical screen sizes:

320dp: a typical phone screen (240x320 ldpi, 320x480 mdpi, 480x800 hdpi, etc).
480dp: a large phone screen ~5" (480x800 mdpi).
600dp: a 7” tablet (600x1024 mdpi).
720dp: a 10” tablet (720x1280 mdpi, 800x1280 mdpi, etc).

Remember that all the figures for the smallest width qualifier are density-independent pixels, because what matters is the amount of screen space available after the system accounts for pixel density (not the raw pixel resolution).

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