On Android 11 today, you can use split screen to open two apps on your device at the same time. However, the process is a bit awkward and has not kept pace with new phone form factors. For Android 12, Google is working on a revamped version of the split screen called “App Pairs”.
To use two apps side by side on Android today, you need to open an app and then enable split screen for that app through Recents view. This hides most of the app while the rest of your phone opens to the Home screen so you can choose a second app. At this point, your first app is now effectively pinned to the top of the screen while the bottom side acts normally.
As phone screens got bigger and new categories of Androids like foldable phones and dual-screen phones arrived, Android’s built-in split-screen capabilities haven’t kept pace. To achieve this, companies like Samsung, LG, and Microsoft have designed their own alternative split-screen capabilities. For example, the Microsoft Surface Duo includes the idea of “app groups,” which are one-click shortcuts that open two specific apps, one on each screen.
According to information seen by 9to5GoogleGoogle is working on a complete overhaul of the split screen system in Android 12 with a new feature called “App Pairs”. Where the current split-screen system “pins” an app, Android 12’s app pairing system will bundle two apps into one “task”.
This means you will be able to choose any two of your recently opened apps to become a pair. Once paired, you should be able to easily switch to another unique app and then go back to the pair you created.
To illustrate the differences between Android’s current split screen functionality and our understanding of app pairs, we designed a model of how the functionality could Look. On the left, you’ll see how the recent apps view works with the split screen today, only allowing you to select a new app for the bottom of the screen. On the right, you’ll see our mockup, showing that the recent view treats the pair as a joint activity.
Just like with the split screen today, the Android 12 App Pairs system will offer a divider to let you adjust the amount of screen occupied by each app. This divider actually gains a bit more functionality, allowing you to quickly swap the positions of your two apps by double-tapping the divider.
If the name “App Pair” sounds familiar to you, it’s because a feature of the same name has been around on Samsung flagship phones for a few years now. On these Galaxy phones, app pairs are shortcuts to quickly open two apps in Samsung’s multi-window mode. It remains to be seen whether Android 12’s app pairs will also allow these kinds of easy-to-access shortcuts.
The first Android 11 developer preview arrived in mid-February of last year. Assuming Android 12 has a similar timeline, we might only be a few weeks away from seeing the app pairs in action. However, Android 12 will still be in development even months after the first preview and is therefore subject to change, which means app pairs may simply not be able to get started.
Dylan roussel contributed to this article
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