While maybe not the biggest change in Android N, Google announced a few interface changes to app switching that were particularly well-received during the I/O keynote. A couple of them had already popped up in the Developer Previews, but the keynote serves as confirmation that they will make it to the final builds. A change that is new to all of us is that there will be a reduction in the number of apps shown in the recent apps UI. Anything that hasn't been used "in a while" will be hidden from the user.
This, Google says, is because their user research showed that over 99% of users never accessed an app further back than 7 in the recent apps UI.
One of the coolest features in the first two Android N previews was the fast app switching feature of the overview button. It was essentially like alt-tab on Windows, and it made it a breeze to cycle through recent apps. In the new developer preview, Google appears to have drastically scaled back this feature. You can only toggle between two apps now.
Android 5.1 made some major changes to the way recent apps are handled in Android. You can include Chrome tabs in the recent app list, and apps that are called up from another activity get their own card to keep things more consistent. However, Google also decided to never clear the list of recent app cards. It just goes on and on and on... it's kind of annoying. "Recently" from Chainfire fixes that, but you need root.
There are several different modes in Recently, but it's not a task killer. This app merely removes anything that has not been run in a certain amount of time from the recent app list.
In the last several versions of Android, it was possible to quickly access an app's info screen (in Settings) by popping open the recents menu and long-pressing the app in question. If this is an oft-used feature and you've already updated to Lollipop, then you probably noticed almost immediately that it's seemingly gone in 5.0. That's not actually the case - it's just hidden.
Starting with this release, you must first enable Developer Options (Settings > About device > tap the build number 7 times) before long-pressing a recent app entry will jump into that app's info screen. However, it's still not quite that simple.
While CyanogenMod is generally regarded as the biggest and best of the innumerable custom ROMs, some of the others tend to implement interesting additions to Android much sooner. The latest nightly builds of CM 11 (Android 4.4) have added something that's not exactly new, but should be very much appreciated by immigrants from other ROMs. Users can now long-press the physical or virtual Recents button to quickly open the last app "under" the current one. Observe:
GIF credit: Wesley J. Marcolino
It's a cool little touch akin to a quick tap of Alt-Tab in Windows. We're actually not sure which competing ROM implemented this first, but in a recent Reddit thread, users of Omni, Carbon, Paranoid Android, and others claim that it's been in their ROMs for a while.
We've known about Project Hera for quite a while, and at Google I/O today, it was confirmed by Google's Director of Product Management for Chrome, Avni Shah. Hera is a new way for the web and apps to interact with each other on Android via an API, allowing apps like Chrome and Docs to use multiple scrolling items in the Recents menu at one time. Combined with the visual overhaul in the L release, this may drastically change the way that users interact with content.
Note the separate Recents menu items for Chrome tabs (NYT) and apps in the new L Material Design interface.
One of the fundamental differences between Android and every other mobile operating system is the practically unrestricted capability to run services. Without this freedom we could not enjoy something as powerful as a homescreen widget or as straight-forward as a Twitter client with background updates. Aside from games and very simple utilities, it’s becoming increasingly rare to find an app that doesn’t run a service, at least for a short span of time. However, a bug has snuck into recent versions of Android and it can cripple background processing in some apps and widgets.
Note: There are some technical details ahead, some of which may only matter to developers.
There are a lot of apps like SwipePad, and no matter how many we cover, I keep coming back to the original. Loopr is the first app in a while that's tempted me away, thanks to both an impressive visual presentation and some thoughtful features. At its heart Loopr is a a quick app launcher/switcher with the usual side-swiping mechanism, this time launched as a semicircle of icons similar to Circle Launcher Widget.
You know how this goes: swipe your finger in from the left or right side of the screen, and your apps will pop up in an overlay.
A few months ago I wrote "Stock Android Isn't Perfect," an article where I turned my usual harsh UX critique on stock Android, instead of justpicking onTouchWiz and Sense all the time in my reviews. The article went over pretty well, and even got a few responses from Googlers! I didn't cover everything that was wrong with Android, though, and there have been a bunch of updates since the original article, so it's about time I wrote a sequel.
So we're officially making this a series now, and it'll serve two purposes: One, there's a new version of Android out, and more things to complain about; and two, to give credit where it's due, because, since I wrote that article, a lot of things have been fixed.
Update: Here's HTC's official statement regarding the update, which elaborates on the changes in greater detail:
As part of our ongoing commitment to ensure customers are receiving software updates that improve their user experience, we are pleased to announce our next upgrade for the HTC One X will be released on August 10th.
The primary update will include an upgrade to Android version 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich), in addition to an improved Sense experience which will: enable the ability to map menu function to the 'recent app' key (improving visual presentation in non ICS apps like Facebook); improve tab management in the browser with a dedicated tab switching button and enhance camera capabilities such as white balance and continuous autofocus.