Android N is finally making multi-window a reality in stock Android, and the way it works is already more slick than what Samsung has been doing. Since not everyone has a spare device on which to install the developer preview, here's a quick look at how split-screen mode works.
Back in October, we posted a quick look at some of Google's very early plans for multi-window functionality on Android Lollipop, a feature that had apparently been in the works since at least KitKat. The system, in a nut shell, would allow users to have two apps open at a time, scaling the apps to take up more or less space on the screen, and interact with the overview or Google Search, passing text or other data back and forth.
Today, a reader pointed out an interesting Android commit that makes mention of the feature (about which we've heard nothing official). The commit in question, made January 27th 2015, mentions "multiwindows" briefly, implying that it's a feature destined for some unspecified future release.
One of Samsung's claims to fame is a feature meant to improve productivity on mobile devices. One that users of stock Android and manufacturer skins alike have been yearning for for a while. That feature is multi-window, which allows users to run two apps on the screen at once, dragging and dropping between the two.
The problem is no one has been able to get it right yet. A company in the mobile space - in this writer's opinion - has yet to perfect the balance between utility and intuition when it comes to multi-window functionality on tablets (or phones, though I haven't used the Note 4 yet), but a post to Android Internals in March confirmed that Google had been working on the programmatic side of multi-window in stock Android.
Time keeps marching forward, and Google keeps improving the mobile version of its Chrome browser. Those who want to see the new goodies before everyone else can check out the official Chrome for Android Beta, which updates to version 35 today. The official changelog mentions some interesting additions, including at least one that was there already: support for Chromecast on HTML5 videos.
Videos on your device have gotten better too, with better HTML5 controls and subtitle support (for those clips that include them). Users of recent Samsung phones and tablets will be happy to know that Sammy's unique multi-window mode is now supported by Chrome Beta, which will probably do away with the need for various root tools.
Mobile devices are designed primarily as a modal experience. You use one app at a time, but can switch between them quickly. Multi-window interfaces and floating apps have been implemented a few times as an alternative, but most of these solutions are a bit clunky. Ixonos has released a new video demo of its multi-window technology, and it looks much better. If only we knew where to get it.
Windows can be resized dynamically by dragging the corner, just like a desktop. Apps can also be snapped into a grid that can be re-proportioned as needed. Additionally, each one of the tiled apps is running live and the UI looks very responsive.
So you have that beautiful quad-core processor, but aside from games, what do you really use it for? Rockchip's newly unveiled upgrade to its Android multi-window system enables the windowed use of apps on Android tablets. Users can theoretically browse the web, stream a YouTube video, toggle system settings, and chat with friends without the hassle of hopping back and forth between full-screen applications. While we've seen windowed Android apps before, most notably on Samsung devices, only a few apps were supported, limiting the functionality's usefulness.
Rockchip's offering supports resizing windows via two-finger and three-finger gestures. Users can drag windows and position them manually, or watch as they snap automatically to fill half or a fourth of the screen.
While Samsung has been dipping its toes into the single-screen multitasking world, Google has yet to do the same. According to noted Android and Google tipster ryan_socio (Ryan Matthews, not his real name), that's about to change. Ryan posted a message to The Verge's social user section, detailing an upcoming version of the YouTube Android app that will let users watch videos and interact with the rest of Android at the same time.
According to Ryan's description of the current test app, you'll start a video using the familiar interface, then send it to a smaller window via a swipe button in the corner.
After some teasing, Paranoid Android has unveiled (in a lovely promo image) their plan for multi-window functionality on Android, which they promise to "get right," – Halo.
The premise is simple, yet extremely ambitious in scope – allow apps to give you notifications right on top of your screen, which allow you to pop into that app without leaving the one you're in (no matter what it is), take care of business, and resume your experience uninterrupted. The general concept, which rejects the notion of a distracting notification shade, and shuns implementations like "whacky s-multiwindow," is no doubt inspired by Facebook's admittedly awesome Chat Heads functionality, perhaps the most compelling feature of its new Home app.
Running multiple apps side-by-side is something that many users – especially those with tablets – have wanted on Android for a long time. And while we've seen a few implementations before (remember Cornerstone?), none have really taken off. Sure, Samsung has an option for multi-window on its more recent devices, but that's still a far-from-perfect solution, as it only allows certain apps to run together.
Given how oft-request/desired/lusted after this feature is, the devs behind the Paranoid Android ROM decided to try to bring it to life in a practical, usable way. However, it's probably not yet exactly what you're expecting, as it's little more than just pop-up windows with containerized apps held within.
It's not Jelly Bean yet. Well, I mean it is. It's the older Jelly Bean. Not the newer Jelly Bean. I'm sure this isn't confusing. However, Verizon is getting ready to roll out an update to the Galaxy S III that will bump the phone from 4.1.1 to 4.1.2. Unfortunately this isn't the 4.2 upgrade most users were likely hoping for. Among the listed improvements are a better keyboard and the ability to take pictures while on a call.
Additionally, the update will bring a few minor tweaks such as adding a refresh button to the lock screen stock ticker (try saying that three times fast), better email syncing and improved Bluetooth performance.