It looks like Google may plan to bring multi-window support to Android. This would let you see more than one app on the screen at the same time. For example you could watch a video while surfing the web.
Google hasn’t publicly said anything about the feature yet, but it turns out there’s experimental support for multi-window mode in the Google Android M Developer Preview that was released this week.
Enabling multi-window mode takes a little work.
First, you need to edit the build.prop of your device and change the user type from “userbuild” to “userdebug.” Then you can open the settings menu, got to the Developer Options section, scroll down to the bottom, and flip the toggle for multi-window mode.
Google will display a warning that lets you know the feature is experimental and that some apps may crash or fail to work properly.
Once you’ve enabled multi-window mode, you’ll see a new icon next to apps in the Recents menu. Next to the X button that you would tap to close an app is a screen position button. Tap it for any app and Android will ask if you want to run it full-screen, or at the top or bottom on a phone.
If you’re using a tablet, there are options to have windows show up in the left, right, or in a corner: because there’s support for viewing up to 4 apps at once.
A number of Android smartphone and tablet makers have already released devices that support multi-window mode, but up until now they’ve had to design their own system for doing that and tack it onto Android. This experimental feature suggests Google could bake it into future versions of Android, which means that it could be available for users of just about any device that runs Android M or later.
The fact that you need to jump through a few steps to even find multi-window mode in the Android M developer preview suggests that it may be a while before the feature launches.
Google plans to release Android M in the third quarter of 2015. The reason the company released an early preview build is to give developers a chance to create apps that tap into the new features of the operating system. Since multi-window mode isn’t available out-of-the-box, it suggests Google doesn’t really expect developers to make sure their apps are compatible at this point, which could mean that multi-window mode won’t launch with Android M this year. It might not be widely available until the next version of Android… if it’s ever released at all.
Meanwhile, Apple is said to be working on a similar feature for iPads.