One of the big features for Android KitKat’s release was a fullscreen mode for apps. This fullscreen mode was dubbed as “Immersive Mode”. It only worked with a handful apps at the time, with Google Play Books as the highlighted app. Google promised that they’d roll out the feature for more apps, and third party apps were free to join in as well. Months passed but only the Photos app got the immersive treatment. Even Google’s own Play Newsstand was out of luck.
Luckily, Immersive Mode is becoming more viable. If you have a small to mid-size phone, Immersive Mode can make a big difference. For example, the readable space on my Moto G’s 4.5 inch screen with both the status bar and navigation bar visible is less than the iPhone 5′s.
While most of the time that’s not a problem, when I’m catching up on RSS feed or reading in the Play Newsstand app, the extra space provided by Immersive Mode really helps. The larger window also helps me to focus on the matter at hand.
If you’re on KitKat, there’s an easy way to enable Immersive Mode for every app on your phone. If you’re not on KitKat but are rooted, I have a solution for you as well.
1. GMD Immersive (No Root Needed)
GMD Immersive (only supports KitKat and Android L) is a simple free app with a paid in-app purchase for upgrades. It’s also the only app on this list that doesn’t require root access. Unfortunately, this means it won’t be as awesome as other dedicated solutions, but it will work.
Download the app to get started. It’s a new app and the first warning you get is that the keyboard may not work when software nav keys are hidden (spoilers: it doesn’t). Hit OK to get going.
From the top, select the immersive treatment you want. The three icons have made it easy for you. First is both nav and status bar showing. Second is just the status bar and third is full on Immersive Mode.
GMD is the only app on this list that shows a visual trigger for activating Immersive Mode. You can disable it or make it transparent but for that you’ll need to pay about $3 to upgrade to Pro. Do so if you really can’t stand looking at the red marker all the time.
2. Immerse Me Xposed Mod
If you’re rooted, you might know about Xposed Framework that lets you install mods as apk apps. If you don’t know what they are or how to install the Framework, check out the guides I’ve written on it before.
Here’s a quick recap. As long as you’re rooted and running a compatible ROM/stock ROM, go to Xposed Installer’s website and download it. Run the app and then go to Framework and download that as well. The phone will reboot and you’ll have Xposed Framework installed.
Immerse Me is a free Xposed module that does the same thing as the GMD immersive app, but lacks a trigger or any options. So once you enable it, it’s going to run until you disable the mod.
To get started, go to Download in Xposed Installer and search for Immerse Me. Swipe to the Versions page and download the latest version. Tap Install and it will show up in the Modules list. You’ll have to check the app to activate it. But it’s not done yet. Xposed modules need a reboot to be installed completely.
So after you’ve rebooted you’ll see that Immerse Me is activated and any app you use now takes up the full screen by hiding the status bar and nav keys. A swipe from the top or the bottom edge will bring them back for a couple of seconds.
3. Expanded Desktop In Custom ROM
I was using Immersive Mode on Android before it was even called that. The feature was officially added in KitKat 4.4 but similar functionality has existed in custom ROMs. Only there it’s called an expanded desktop. So if you’re running a CyanogenMod/CyanogenMod based ROM or any countless other feature-rich ROMs like Paranoid Android, AOKP, etc., you’ll find this mode in settings.
In CyanogenMod 11 it’s in Settings -> Interface. By default expanded desktop is disabled but you can choose to enable it by tapping on it and selecting Status bar visible or Status bar hidden. Nav keys will be hidden by default.
To activate the expanded desktop, press and hold the power key till you get the power menu and then tap on Expanded desktop.
So there you have it. Which immersion path is right for you? Comment below!