Google seems to be on a rampage of updates with small tweaks and adjustments to a number of apps. I like to think of it as polish. YouTube in particular has been flying through minor version bumps, the latest of which seems to include just a single visual adjustment to the player screen. Tap on the screen while a video is playing and the overlay now contains the current video's title, the channel it's from, and the total number of views it has acquired thus far.
Android N is finally making multi-window mode a reality on Android, but the included features are somewhat limited. There's support for split-screen apps, but what about true resizable windows a la Remix OS? That's possible too, but this feature seems much more rough around the edges. It also takes a little monkeying around to enable.
You're probably aware of Google's new multi-window feature in Android N. We've demoed it a few times, but there's yet more multitasking goodness to go over. When you're in split-screen, it's possible to drag and drop text between windows. Yes, Samsung has done this for a few years, and the Android N implementation is messy. Buy hey, we're getting there.
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.