A Tiny Glimpse on Android N’s Multi-Window Feature

With Google’s quiet announcement of Android N brings long-waited multi-windows feature for Android. Many considered Google’s implementation of multi-tasking is way superior to any other platforms, and that was true, and that is even more so.

Multi-window functionality, technically, is brought to the world by Apple with its original Macintosh launch, but the one who first brought the feature to mobile platform is Samsung. Samsung singlehandedly developed a multi-window multi-tasking feature for its Galaxy Note lineup in order to push sales, and the feature was later introduced to Galaxy Tab. Since TouchWiz is based on Android, many considered that this is the first sign that multi-tasking on Android is perfectly possible.

And it is, if Windows and iOS hadn’t already implemented this feature onto their tablets.

Let’s leave Windows alone. It’s not fair to bring a born-to-multi-task-by-opening-a-hell-lot-of-windows-on-multiple-screens beast to the table. iOS, for many years, was laughed at and continuously mocked for only having one window available to the user even on a 9.7 inch (giant, gorgeous, retinal-indistinguishable, according to Apple) screen. But with the introduction of iOS 9 (just before the launch of iPad Pro), Apple is finally supporting multi-window split-view on iPads (and surprisingly not claiming that they invented it).

Even Android ROM developers started to panic. Within a year, we saw the preview of Remix OS and Phoenix OS who swore to bring window-based Android to the desktop.

Let’s face it: Android is the perfect platform to implement multitasking besides Windows. Nearly every app that’s built for Android has the ability to scale perfectly among deferent screen sizes and densities. Dynamic ViewGroup and Density-independent Pixels are the class 101 of Android Training. The file system of Android is open to every app on it with the ability to even attach additional storage with either USB or MicroSD. And it was a shame for Google to continuously ignore this opportunity and potentially the growth of tablet market. Now that the tablet market is shrinking, Google started moving.

Let’s see how well it goes.

I downloaded the preview image of Android N, and created two virtual devices with one being a phone and the other one being a tablet. I then wrote a little app (which is available here on the Github) to test how much space a single portion is taking.

First, it’s simply not true that you can set the split handle anywhere you want on Android N like what Samsung did. By default (without app specifying the minimum metrics), apps taken into multi-window snaps into four sizes, these are the only four states you’ll get when doing multi-window:

And you might already notice that on split-view, the percentage numbers don’t add up to 100%. That’s because the split handle takes about 40px (varies among devices, obviously) of the screen real estate. Further, the app running on the lower half almost always has more leverage over the app running on the top. That’s probably because Android want’s you to feel that the app running on the top is more of less importance, like a video playing in the background, a WhatsApp thread, or some sheet you wanna constantly check out but not always looking at, while the lower half of the screen is what you’ll keep engaging. That’s understandable, since with the growth of smartphone screen sizes, the upper part is way less reachable than the lower part, thus making it reasonable to put something less important on the top.

And the horizontal view kind of supports this theory. The right portion almost always takes up more space.

On a tablet, though, the two panels are distributed evenly because chances are, you’re holding the tablet with your left hand and manipulating the content with the right hand and suddenly you get tired and wanna switch, or you have two kids who wanna share a tablet.

But if you rotate your device yet again, same thing happened as the lower part always takes little more space than the upper part. Although the size difference is almost indistinguishable (I mean, seriously), it is interesting to see that Google made such decision to make a device easier to use vertically.

Further, if the app on the lower half promoted the keyboard popup, it will be moved a little up to make room for the keyboard and to prevent being covered.



Digital Asshat


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