Android N free-form windows won’t be enabled for Nexus devices

JC Torres - Jun 27, 2016, 3:30am CDT
Android N free-form windows won’t be enabled for Nexus devices

Android users, developers, and OEMs should probably be used by now that new, almost experimental features that Google introduces in “Release A” don’t get polished until “Release A+1”. That was the case with Doze mode in Android 6.0 Marshmallow as well as the “hidden” split window API in the same release. Now it seems that it will be true as well for the free-form resizable windows of Android N. To be clear, the API will be there for app developers and OEMs to use and implement, but as far as Google’s Nexus and Pixel C devices are concerned, it’s going to be a no show.

Android N, whose name still has to be revealed, will supposedly finally bring official support for split screen and free-form windows. As the names clearly state, the former simply splits the screen between two apps or views. The latter, practically emulates the movable, resizable windows of desktop operating systems. While Google is indeed making good on both features, Nexus device owners won’t actually see one of them, unless they install a different Android ROM.

Google engineer Ian Lake revealed that free-form windows won’t be enabled for any Nexus device running Android N. The API is, however, public and can be used by developers. What for, you might ask? Because Google is giving OEMs the freedom to enable it for their own devices. Split screen, on the other hand, is good as gold on any Android N device.

Reading between the lines, it would seem that Google isn’t completely satisfied with the user interaction side of the feature. Although some OEMs like Samsung or ROM makers like Jide have implemented similar features, Google might not be convinced of the practical merits of freely resizable and movable windows. To some extent, that makes sense, since, for Google, Android is only officially on smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, TVs, and cars. None of those use cases are conducive for resizable windows. There are, however, those who are already bringing Android to desktops and laptops, where the traditional single-screen or even split screen convention of Android just isn’t enough.

Which is also why it is somewhat disappointing that even the Pixel C 2-in-1 tablet isn’t getting free-form windows either. It is probably the “Nexus” device that best benefits from the feature. It will at least get split screen, which does put it on par with, say, an iPad Pro, which is probably what matters more to Google at this stage.

SOURCE: +Android Developers


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