Remix OS is a custom version of Android designed to make Google’s smartphone and tablet operating system feel more like a desktop and notebook OS. It features a taskbar, customized home screen and notification areas, and support for running multiple apps in windows that you can move around the screen.
The first version of Remix OS was based on Android 4.4 KitKat, and for a while it was available exclusively on the Remix Ultra tablet designed by the same company that develops the software.
In keeping with a promise to backers of a Kickstarter campaign earlier this year, Jide has also released a version of Remix OS that you can download and install on a Google Nexus 10 tablet. A Nexus 9 ROM is also in the works, but it’s not ready to go just yet.
What makes Remix OS special is that you can download and run just about any app from the Google Play Store, but you can choose to run apps in full-screen or “phone” modes. When you run apps in phone mode, you’ll see smaller windows that give you the smartphone-style user interface you’d see if you were using those apps on a pocket-sized device. But since tablets have larger screens than phones, you can fit multiple phone-mode apps on the screen at the same time and move them around. This lets you watch videos while surfing the web or working on documents, for instance.
Remix OS 1.5 doesn’t just move to a newer version of Android. It also includes a number of improvements, including:
- View notifications by swiping down from any portion of the screen.
- There’s support for running more apps in phone mode.
- The browser and email apps support copy, paste, and search.
- You can close apps pinned to the taskbar by dragging them from the taskbar when they’re running. If they’re not running, dragging them from the taskbar will unpin them.
There are also many bug fixes and improvements to the browser, email, and file manager apps.
I’ve dabbled with a beta version of Remix OS 1.5 and it honestly feels a lot like the previous version of the operating system: since Remix is heavily skinned and has a Windows Metro-inspired user interface rather than a Google Material-style design, the move from Android 4.4 to Android 5.0 on the Remix Ultra Tablet doesn’t feel like as big a jump as it did when I upgraded my Nexus 5 smartphone.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, since Remix OS was already a nice looking operating system. The move to Android 5.0 should bring some performance improvements and support for some apps that might not have worked on older versions of Android. But for the most part, the folks at Jide focused on offering improvements to their own user experience.