Split-screen Multitasking and Picture-in-Picture [Diving into Android N]

by: Nirave GondhiaMarch 9, 2016

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One of the reasons that some users prefer an OEM Android experience is that stock Android does lack certain multitasking features that can be found on other devices, but with Android N, Google is seeking to rectify this. Diving into today’s Android N developer preview, we can see that Google has finally included native support for a multi-window mode in Android and there’s also a picture-in-picture mode, similar to the one found in Apple’s iOS 9.

Andy-Android-1 Android N developer preview is live – everything you need to know!15

Before you get too excited however, developers will need to add support for multi-window but once done, Android N will pick up the heavy lifting and you’ll be able to use two apps side-by-side. As part of the split screen feature, you’ll be able to adjust the size of the split as well and, although developers will be able to set a minimum size, it should mean you have a true multi-tasking experience.

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Quite interesting is how you activate split screen mode: just like the multi window feature on Samsung smartphones – like the new Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge – you can activate the split screen feature by tapping on the button on an app in the recent apps window (see below).


Split screen mode is a long overdue feature for Android and, by enabling it in Android N by default, Google is saving OEMs from having to do the heavy lifting in their own custom interfaces. However, whether this means the likes of Samsung and Huawei will adjust the ways their multi window features work to take advantage of Google’s new features – which will hopefully result in a lighter custom skin – remains to be seen.

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Android N also sees Google introduce a new picture-in-picture mode that essentially allows an app to float around the interface in an overlayed window. In its Android N overview, Google uses the example of the video player for the picture-in-picture mode but before you get too excited about the feature, the full picture-in-picture overview suggests this is limited to just Android TV.


However, Google does mention larger devices as well, hopefully meaning larger tablets will also be able to run the feature. Granted, this is a developer preview and we’re hopeful that Google will allow this to run on any device; given that Samsung have enabled this in the video player on their smartphones and Apple have done the same on the iPhone, there’s very little reason for Google to limit this to larger devices.

galaxy s7 vs lg g5 quick look aa-3Exclusive: Android N may drop the app drawer290

What do you think of the new multi-tasking features in Android N and are you going to install the developer preview? Let us know your views in the comments below guys and stay tuned for even more coverage on Google’s new OS.

  • Cowen K. Gittens

    Well from this review, there’s not much noticeable differences between Marshmallow and Android N…not so many improvements or anything too impressive.

    • Chad D

      Well the launcher didn’t change, so basically it looks the same. Settings is basically a brand new app with some added functionality. Lots of under the hood improvements too.

  • Somebody

    I hope this isn’t it… they (Google) initially made specific mention of two distinct display modes being added — split screen, **AND** multi-window. All I’m seeing here is split screen. Where is multi-window?

    Note: before anyone tries to say that split screen is a form of multi-window, while true, they distinguished between the two, meaning that there would be a second mode. Theory was that multi-window would be more like the traditional floating-windows mode.

    • Shield k1

      I enabled multi window on my tablet on marshmallow and it allowed 4 apps sharing the screen. Think may be this is what they.meant

  • Zijyfe Duufop

    couldn’t find a dessert that starts with N? How about we do it for you?

    I’ll start:

    Nutty Chews

    • saksham


    • Dylan K


  • Flynn Greenberg

    Been using it since this morning so far no problems

  • Zack Podany

    You can also activate split screen by holding the app switch button. I’m trying to figure out how to get the apps to switch sides. So far no luck.

    • I don’t think you can switch the topmost/leftmost app, it has to be the same one when you started the multi window feature. If you need to switch, you actually have to disable multi window (long press on Overview button) and start it again with the new app first.