As the Google I/O conference progresses, we keep hearing bits and pieces about Android’s next major build, Android N. One area that impresses us is the new multitasking features. The big picture is the new multi-window option that is launched quickly by long-tapping the recent menu, where the button will change from a square to two rectangles that represent the split screen. When the rectangles are present, you can choose which app to place there from your recent apps. We still do not know if any app you want can be used in the split-screen mode, or if there are only specific ones.
Google improved the task switcher by finally giving it a “Clear all” button that easily removes, or clears, all of the opened apps. Just to make sure that not too many apps populate and clutter the opened app area, Android N will automatically remove apps that you have not used for a while. Another new feature is “Quick Switch” that works by double-tapping the recent apps virtual button, and you will return to the last app you were using.
There is a new picture-in-a-picture mode. The only problem is that it only seems to work with Android TV. There are also more actionable notifications where you can choose to reply to a chat notification without having to switch to that app. If you would rather ignore the app, you can long-press a notification and a menu will pop-up that will allow you to ‘Show notifications silently’ or ‘Block all notifications’ or ‘Don’t silence or block.’
These are Google’s way of refining its Android OS. Many of these features are already included in the manufacturer’s User Interfaces (UI) they put over the top of pure Android. Samsung’s infamous TouchWiz had the dual windows for years, and a ‘close all’ button at the button of the open application window. These refinements in Android N will mean that Samsung, LG, and HTC will not have to include it in their UIs. Our hope is that someday, we can all run pure Google on our devices like the Nexus user does. Then there will be quick updates and less fragmentation.