Android and Split Screen

Recently I have been noticing that sometimes when I unlock my Nokia 8 which runs Android Oreo, I see that the split screen mode has been enabled/triggered. At first I was extremely confused as the device was supposed to be locked in my pocket, but yet the apps at times (mainly Spotify) would go into split screen mode.

Looking through all the settings I could not find a way to disable this split screen mode. Again I find that odd and slightly confusing because the new picture in picture mode can be turned off. So why did Google not provide a means to disable the split screen mode for the apps?

While doing some more reading I managed to find how potentially I was triggering the split screen mode in my pocket. The app switching button if it is held for a short period of time triggers the split screen mode. The 9to5Google Android N quick-tips: How to activate split-screen multitasking mode outlines the same method that I have detailed above how to trigger the split screen mode, but they list two other methods.

Perhaps Google when they finalise Android P they will offer a way to disable the split screen mode. If someone does know of a way to disable split screen mode then please do let me know because the only pieces of information that I could find on the Internet are articles about how to ensure your app handles split screen mode.

Android Wear Are You?

Is it just me or has every smartwatch that doesn’t run watchOS become vaporwear? I feel like if you want to buy a smartwatch then you will most likely have to settle for the Apple Watch or a smartwatch that really isn’t “supported” by Google. By supported I mean that they are featured on the official Android Wear web page and will be getting continual OS updates from Google.

When the start of the current smartwatch craze occurred I really wanted a smartwatch too. It wasn’t for the style or visual appeal but the convenience of not having to actually have your smartphone in the same room as you to respond to a new message, or even check the time (like a standard watch). Right now I generally carry my smartphone with me and leave it on the table whichever room I am in. Recently I started to get the itch to get a smartwatch but when I saw what was on offer I was a little disappointed. There was nothing on the market that I could find that was easy for me to purchase or supported by Google. Living in Australia has not made getting a smartwatch very easy it would seem.

Going to the official Android Wear website and examining the different Android smartwatches that are available was flat out disappointing. Not only was the selection fairly poor but actually getting a hold of one of the smartwatches through the officially supported stores was near impossible. Starting with the LG Android Wear smartwatches, none appear to be available to purchase in Australia. I continually get routed to the US website and when I change to Australia and check for availability it shows “coming soon”, even though these smartwatches have been out for some time. The three other Android Wear smartwatches (Zenwatch 2, Huawei Watch and Moto 360 2) all are supposed to be available through the Harvey Norman store. But when you click the link to examine the item all you get is a “Page Not Found” page. Google appears to not have abandoned the Android Wear platform entirely either. Android Police appears to have obtained information about Android Wear smartwatches that will be getting Oreo updates and/or already have the latest version of Android (see here). But why are these smartwatches not displayed on the Android Wear webpage?

Microsoft is also out of the smartwatch market as of 2016. They stopped producing more Microsoft Band 2 devices and unfortunately had no plans to release a Microsoft Band 3 according to this article from The Verge. Unlike the traditional smartwatches the Microsoft Band was closer to a fitness band with its emphasis on health and fitness monitoring. With Cortana integration it was super appealing to me as that is my primary AI assistance, even on my Nokia 8 (running Android Oero), Cortana has replaced Google Now/Assistant. Maybe Microsoft will return back to the smartwatch market, but with them also pulling out of the smartphone hardware market I doubt it very much. If (and this is a big if) they release a Surface Phone or Surface Watch then I will most likely be picking them up. I have never had any major issues with any of the Surface products that I have purchased, even the Surface RT. But nothing Microsoft has said, shown, or even hinted at has indicated a new smartwatch from them.

Do I really need a smartwatch? Not really. Would it be a nice to have? Absolutely. I have a couple of really nice standard watches. Some have leather bands, some have metal bands. None are “smart” and none do anything more than show me the time and date. For now this will have to do. I will be taking a look at various online stores to see what I can get here in Australia, but right now the Android Wear future does not look as bright as it once was.

Nokia 8 and Android Oreo

HMD Global was touting that the 2017 branded Android Nokia mobile phones will be receiving Android OS and security patches extremely quickly, as of December they have delivered on this. They also said that the mobile phones will also be one of the first to receive Android Oreo, before the end of 2017 I might add. This is a mighty claim, many have tried and failed with many manufacturers like HTC and Samsung holding out on the Android updates due to software issues with their launchers and skins. The Nokia mobile phones run a stripped down and pure Android OS with no bloatware or skins; this should make the update process much quicker and smoother.

Last night I got a little notification that allowed me to download and install Android Oreo on my Nokia 8. There were rumours that this version of Android was in testing and would be ready sometime in December (no indication whether it would be at the start, at the end or somewhere in between). I applaud HMD Global in pushing out the update extremely quickly. HMD Global is only one part of the update puzzle however. Your mobile phone provider also has to ensure that the update still works on their network and does not completely render your mobile phone useless on their network.

Telstra has been notoriously slow with pushing these updates to consumer’s mobile phones (even if you bought the mobile phone outright and not through Telstra). You can go to their forums and support channels to see a number of posts with people complaining that Telstra is blocking mobile phone updates. This time Telstra has pushed the update out fast. Have they changed their tune and business practices regarding mobile phone updates? Perhaps, but it is too hard to tell. One Android update coming to your handset in a timely manner does not excuse or disregard the numerous other delayed or blocked updates.

After the update was installed I noticed really only a couple of differences compared to the previous version of Android; there are probably more but these are the ones that stood out to me straight away:

  1. Notifications Bar – now with white icons and the expanded notifications bar has a white background with dark icons.
  2. Battery Percentage Indicator – other launchers and skins already had this but now Android comes with this handy little feature right out of the box.
  3. Nightlight – another feature that required either a third party app like Twilight or a custom launcher. The ability to change the blue hue on your display based on the time of day now comes standard with Android Oreo.
  4. Picture in Picture –  some apps have the ability and option to now work in “Picture in Picture” mode. You can easily browse the Internet while having YouTube running in a small window. Personally I have disabled this feature.
  5. Settings Cleaned – the entire Settings app has been cleaned up and made streamlined. There is no more confusion or ambiguity of where a particular setting sits. Well done Google.

Under the hood I imagine Google has made some improvements regarding battery life, optimization of the Android OS and other little improvements to make the Android experience that little bit more fluid, consistent and uniform. I use the Microsoft Launcher so I cannot comment on the default Google/Android launcher and if there has been any changes to that, but it most likely also has been improved like previous versions. So if you have a Nokia 8 (or potentially any other Nokia 2017 mobile phone) and you are on the Telstra mobile network then see if your device has an update.

Enjoy your new version of Android Oreo 😀