Oh multitasking. That staple of computing that got thrown out the window with many modern smartphones. We got some rudimentary thing in its place – but even as multitasking on phone and tablets improves, its user-visible side remains cumbersome. Windows 8 has a neat implementation, and now it’s time Android follows in it footsteps.
So far, multitasking on mobile has been cumbersome to use. iOS is a joke with the row of icons representing recently used applications and the two-and-a-half Apple-approved background tasks. Windows Phone is pretty laughable too (‘resuming…’), and while Android is technically more advanced, and exposes its multitasking better through its intents system, actual application switching is still cumbersome and restrictive. WebOS had by far the best multitasking implementation of any mobile operating system, but battery life suffered for it because it was very unoptimised.
There have been efforts to improve Android and bring better multitasking, including multi-window, to users of the platform. Samsung has a rudimentary multi-window system, for instance, but it’s very restrictive and Samsung-applications-only. Paranoid Android aims to address this issue by bringing true multi-window multitasking to Android – in fact, to all Android applications. They’re showing how it works in a video, but warn the video is only “10%” of what they have in mind.
“You know multi-window is hard to get right. Cornerstone failed and was buggy. Cyanogen got their asses kicked by Google for merging it. Samsung wrote a half assed implementation that works with a hand full of s-apps and breaks the rest,” wrties Paranoid Android’s Paul Henschel, “It’s still tough and we don’t assume that we can cover everything, but it’s looking alright – no bad fallouts until now.”
I really want proper multitasking with multi-window on Android. The ability to run two applications side-by-side is something modern tablets are ideally suited for. Many applications have both a phone and a tablet user interface, and you could easily show two phone applications side-by-side on a tablet. Paranoid Android’s hack will hopefully achieve at least some of this, but of course, what we really need is an official implementation from Google.
What about Android 5.0, Google?
I dunno about the technical guts of how BB10 does it, but it works great for me. Swipe up from the bottom of any application anywhere during any state and it brings you to your multitasking screen with all your currently open apps. Couldn’t be simpler.
Multi tasking looks horrible no matter the implementation. The OS should be a multi-process, multi tasking system, with services and processes running concurrently, but a user only does one thing at one time. With Android (and iOS too, for that matter), we have a system where the running state of an app simply doesn’t matter.
Couple that with Android’s way of sharing data between applications, and the pagey-nature of apps, and the application stack, and “multi-tasking”, which is really code for “multiple windows on the screen at the same time”, really doesn’t matter. I think people are trying to replicate inefficient work practices on PCs with Android, especially since Android already has the tools to go between apps.
I want Android to get a “get data from” link between apps, and a “paste share” option. I’d also like several application stacks, and for them to be treated like stacks, with decent back button behaviour. That’s powerful multitasking.