This fall Google will released the next version of its Android operating system, code-named Android M. There are plenty of new features including settings that give users more control over app permissions, automatic app data backups, improved support for external storage, and more.
Most of the new features are available for smartphones and tablets. But there are a few items that are only available for tablet users.
Split Screen Keyboard
On tablets, it is harder to stretch your thumbs across the keyboard screen for typing while holding the device. So, Google has added the option to enable a split-screen keyboard so you don’t have to stretch as far.
Go to the Settings app. Under the “Personal” section, tap Language & Input. From the “Keyboard & input methods” section, tap Google Keyboard to access available options. Then, select “Appearance & layouts.” Toggle Enable split keyboard function on.
Unfortunately, the split keyboard will always be on once enabled. It would be nice if Android had the option of using a gesture, like pinching out on the keyboard, to enable split screen, and then pinching in to revert to the traditional keyboard. Maybe someday.
Notification Tray Changes
Android M on tablets displays the the notification tray from the top bar anywhere you place your finger. It is most noticeable in landscape mode.
Place your finger anywhere at the top of the screen and the notification tray will drop down in that exact location instead of defaulting to the center of the screen.
Multi-window mode is not fully realized in Android M just yet. But if you take the steps to enable multi-window support, you’ll notice that tablet users get more options than smartphone users.
As noted in our previous coverage of the feature, users have to go through some fairly complicated steps in order to reveal the multi-window toggle switch in the developer options.
After editing the build.prop of the device and changing the user type from “userbuild” to “userdebug,” you can access the multi-window mode under the “Drawing” section of the developer options.
Once enabled, tap the recent apps button. You will see a square box next to each open app. Tap the box to access multi-window mode.
If you do this on a smartphone, you can run up to two apps in a split-screen view, with one app on top and another on bottom. Tablet users have four options, allowing them to see up to four apps, including side-by-side split screen and one of the four corners of the screen.
Multi-window mode is still in an early stage of development and has a lot of bugs. However, it is evidence that Google is working on multi-window mode, so the feature should be available by the time Android M is ready for public use.
The Android M developer preview is currently available for Nexus 5 and 6 smartphones, as well as the Nexus 9 tablet or a Google Nexus Player Android TV box.