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Android L Features: New Multi-tasking

Android’s current implementation of multitasking is serviceable, but hasn’t substantially changed since Honeycomb. With the Android L release, the team at Google has radically redesigned the Recents menu’s UI and framework to make switching between apps faster and easier. They’ve succeeded. 

The new interface is by far the biggest difference between multitasking in Android 4.4 and L. Accessed by tapping the square-shaped soft key, apps’ states are captured in stacked “cards,” rather than squares. Like the tab interface in Chrome for Android, the “deck” is scrollable, and each app can be swiped away or opened by a tap. Nowhere is Material Design more evident than in the new Recents: the cards have depth and shadows, and the titlebar at the top changes colors depending on the app’s theme.

Beyond the obvious, behind-the-scenes changes allow apps to tap into Recents and provide faster access to ongoing activities. At I/O, Google demonstrated individual Chrome tabs appearing within Recents rather than a single card for the entire app. It isn’t hard to imagine how the functionality might extend to other programs – we could see cards for Gmail drafts, Facebook timelines, Twitter pages, office documents, and music albums. The possibilities are virtually endless.

android l multitasking2

Recents sorely needed an overhaul, and Android L delivers that and then some. We’re excited to see how apps use the new framework to make jumping between tasks more efficient.

  • Guest

    They still need to add a Close All button. If I have 15 things open I have swipe each one off if I want to close all of them .

  • meh…im worried this would get to cluttered and cumbersome…like i gotta flip through 10 chrome tabs to get to a game i had opened or another app…seems like itll be overkill hope their a way to change this to make it just apps

  • Abdul Razzak

    Your timely Android Update is here. Yes, a good news for all those Android lovers who are waiting to use new Android operating system.


  • aholsteinson

    This is the one feature I am skeptical about when it comes to Android L. As it is currently implemented It seems that it will end up making app switching a chore. Displaying individual Chrome tabs (for example) not just from the smartphone but also from your computer and tablet if you have it, you can easily end up with 15 or 20 tabs in that view alongside the other applications you are currently using. Seems like it will have too much noise and will increase the time you spend switching between things.

  • Axed Salmon

    New recents? But iOS only recently got the old recents copied..

  • n11

    One huge feature that could be added to the task panel, press and hold a an app/card to enable splitscreen to use two apps at once.

  • Xious

    As much as I am liking most of the changes in Android L, what scares me is so much of it is cosmetic and graphic heavy. That usually means that unless you have a brand new, top-of-the-line phone, the UI is going to slow down and have stutters. I usually turn off most visual effects because when I’m doing something on my phone or my computer, I want to get it done. I don’t want to sit through a bunch of animation. I’m all about design but not necessarily at the expense of functionality. Hopefully Google has figured out how to not make the UI drag the phone down.

  • jab416171

    The best part of this is if you enter a second app from within a different app, the recents will show both apps as two separate entries. Previously, it would show the first app’s icon and name with the second app’s content, like this: https://www.dropbox.com/s/3xljgurg1c3cwe1/2014-07-01%2015.13.09.png
    I clicked on a link to twitter.com from a hangout.

  • trwb

    How am I suppose to see two cards at once if one is stacked way down the deck. I think multi-window or the current recents would be more useful.

  • sski66

    Definitely like this style, it’s like what the Chrome & HTC’s browsers do on mobile.

  • Tres Waters

    Now that almost all phones have 5″ screens, I believe there should be some kind of multi-window option like in touch-wiz but maybe cleaner

  • Luqmaan Mathee

    Haha I would disable Facebook timeline options.

  • bionicwaffle

    I love what they did in the back end with being able to handle separate documents, web pages, etc, from a single app but I’m not sure I like the stack. It will take some getting used to for me. Right now I like having an instant and clear view of four apps at a time in a simple scrolling list. I love the look of the stack but I’m just not convinced it’s as practical for jumping between apps quickly. I guess if it opens with a feathered view showing four or five app names (title bars) I would be sold. If it opens with just one big picture of your last app and a stack beneath it I’m not sure I’d like that as much.

    • miri

      Swipe to dismiss/clear session. No the system juggles processes on it’s own.

  • Joshua Rewerts

    I can see where this could be great, but also where this could go very badly wrong: advertisements, every Pocket article, etc.
    Also, is it swipe to clear from memory/close, or swipe to dismiss from the ‘recents’ view? Tab management in chrome could be nice, but usually I want to clear apps out of memory but have chrome come back with the tabs I left open previously.

    • bionicwaffle

      It would be nice if you could enable or disable that feature per app – I think.

  • JohnBRobinson

    the only 2 touchwiz features i want in stock android http://tr.im/5ntlz

  • Joe J

    Most of multi-tasking in android l is backwards. How is this an advancement when now it takes more than 1 click and quite few swipes to find an open app? The Lg G3 gives you a choice of seeing a choice of 9,4 or 2 apps with only 1 tap and includes a clear all



    the only 2 touchwiz features i want in stock android

    • Tony Spencer

      Definitely clear all! Maybe long press?

      • we should have an option of assigning what long press/double tapping/triple tapping does.

    • bionicwaffle

      I vote for MultiWindow.

  • David Caccavo

    seems a bit too busy. on the one hand, i like being able to shoot to web pages, on the other, i liked only have 7 or 8 apps to close

  • Jacktrades

    Looks good but.. I rarely close my browser’s tabs. They should implement some tap to view more, instead of having all that browser tabs show up on recents.

  • jnt

    None of this matters a whole lot as OEMs will continue to take small “features” like this and do what they want with them. Unless you’re a Nexus owner, which is the minority outside of this site, this will have little to no effect on you. I know Google has claimed they’re trying to take more control back from the OEMs, but I don’t see that happening beyond changes like Play Services. L in general seems like more of a design overhaul than anything else, which will have very very little effect on the general public’s perception of Android.

  • regkilla

    Copy of iOS Safari tabs.

    • JSo

      Which is a copy of chrome tabs isn’t it?

      • Dan Andersen

        you are correct. iOS 7 Safari blatantly ripped off the card tabs from Chrome.

        • Eric R.

          And HTC Sense 4 multitasking

  • nerds

    what happesn when you have 15 chrome tabs open? There should be a way to aggregate them in a case like this? Also, there should be a “swipe away all” button IMO.

    • JSo

      So far, chrome tabs dont get there own recents card yet. But I would hope they are all together somewhat. But who ever has 15 tabs open anyway? lol

      • ScoobySnack

        My wife has 30+ sometimes when I see her phone. She just doesn’t care to close them. I think that happens a lot. It just means more work to manage your tabs!

        • MasterEthan

          Well with this it will happen less as it’d be more obvious and easy to dismiss those tabs.

    • zarxic

      That’s my biggest worry. It would be nice if the Chrome Tabs or other activity cards were nested in the main app card. I think this way it would be less cluttered and still offer me quick access to those specific things in the app.

    • Daeshaun Griffiths

      between History, Bookmarks, and Recent Tabs, nobody should have 15 tabs open at once. But i’m going to somewhat agree and say they should limit it to the 5 most recent tabs.

      • Inquizitor

        On mobile most people end up with a plethora of tabs from opening links in other apps etc. It’s by no means a fringe case. This interface is horrible for that reason alone.

        • JSo

          Maybe its just my anal retentiveness, but I always close my tabs when I’m done with them or thrown into another tab. I hate having multiple tabs open if I am not using them. The same actually goes for the recents tabs for me.

        • MasterEthan

          This problem is because most don’t want to take the time or know that the tabs get left open. Having it in the Recents will actually make it more noticeable and allow them to close those tabs from the recents list instead. I think this solves the problem not increases it.

          • Inquizitor

            Good developers don’t blame the user, they shift the product to better serve the needs and behaviors of the user.

      • Danny Dodge

        I have 99 because I open stuff to read later and for the last month I haven’t had a moment to sit and read but don’t want to bookmark them!

        • MasterEthan

          Sounds like you need learn to bookmark or use an app to store them (share to app) for reading later.

          • Danny Dodge

            I’m just lazy with it

    • bionicwaffle

      I think a two finger swipe would be cool to swipe them all away.

  • Tee

    I’m sad to say that almost everything about this new Android L is really turning me off. Do I really need all of that cluttered mess just to task switch?

    It sucks. I’ve been a big Android fan for forever, and all of this is hugely disappointing. Even the onscreen keys look like sh!t and make no sense….

    • JSo

      You shouldn’t complain about a preview build. Everything we are seeing is subject to change.

      • Tee

        That’s true, but it isn’t look very promising at this point…

        • bjb1959

          As with everything in Android, you will be able to get Nova Launcher (or your favorite launcher) and choose to use a classic style recents. may even be in the system settings for all we know. but you always have the right to dislike anything new that you don’t agree with, lots of people don’t like change.

          • Tee

            I should be more optimistic about it and our what you say is true, but I’ve just been really put off by it all.

    • nerd

      you are in the minority.

      • Tee

        That could be so, bit I am only speaking for myself and not done else being it’s my opinion.

        You should try the same sometime 😉

        • Tee

          *and not anyone else

      • James

        Actually the reactions I’ve heard have been fairly split. If Tee’s in the minority, I don’t think it’s by much.

        Personally, I don’t mind most of the changes themselves, although I do have a problem the look and feel of Android being changed so frequently. It makes it hard for users to become connected to the OS, exacerbating problems of fragmentation and making it easier for people to emigrate from Android

        • JSo

          I like when they change stuff. It keeps me from getting bored with the OS.

    • justinmullet

      I agree with the onscreen keys. Close to Facebook’s phone soft keys, but uglier.

    • nexusplay

      What mess? It’s the same functionally, it just looks a lot more visually appealing. Look at your current task switching screen, you can only see three maybe four apps at first glance. This is the same and it’s beautiful, not to mention there are underlying changes that are the bigger focus here, such as the ability for apps to better represent themselves as activities.

      • Tee

        I only see 4 but can quickly scroll through and see many more in a very easily navigated and streamlined list.

        Will this new task switcher be as quick and easy to navigate? If it works like the tabs in Chrome it wouldn’t seem like it will be…

        • JSo

          It sounds like you haven’t used it yet. I think you need to use it first. It took some getting used to because of the new look but I think scrolling through them is nice and fluid.

          • Tee

            I haven’t. However, I am picking up a Nexus 5 tonight! No lie. I cracked the screen on my current device and am going to T-Mobile after work to get the Nexus, so I’ll be trying it out.

          • JSo

            Lucky you. What device are you coming from?

          • Tee

            A GPE S4. I really, really liked the device too. I just don’t have the money for another GPE device.

          • JSo

            Well you are in for a treat then. First Nexus device?

          • Tee

            Yup! I’m petty excited about it!

          • JSo

            Welcome to the Nexus family. You wont want to go back to any other device. lol

          • jnt

            It is indeed nice and fluid, but takes longer than something like Sense 6 or Kitkat where you can, in most circumstances tap twice and be done.

          • JSo

            But in KitKat, you still had to scroll if you had multiple apps open.

          • jnt

            I don’t have my Nexus 5 with me at the moment – can you tap on the header of a card to go to it in the multitasking view? Or does it bring it to the front of the “stack” first, then tap again to open it?

          • JSo

            Well if I am understanding you correctly, in recents view, tapping on the header of one opens the app. The next time you hit the recents button, that app is in the front. I don’t know if that answers your question.

          • jnt

            I think so. I was trying to figure out if it takes 3 total taps or 2 total taps to switch to an app that’s *not* in the front on the multitasking view, but is still in view without scrolling. Thanks for looking!

          • JSo

            Oh, yeah. If you look at the screen shot in the article, you can tap the app that is furthest in the back to open it. So in reality, there a at least 6 viewable and tappable recent apps

          • jnt

            There’s a factor here that I just realized, at least for me. On the new multitasking window, besides the front, it takes more brainpower to figure out where you’re going b/c you have to read the headings (until you scroll, which is an additional “step”). On the old version, it was very easy to visually see where you were (since that’s etched in your memory anyway) and just switch, rather than having to “figure out” if it’s the right window or not. I know, we’re talking milliseconds here, but I think that’s what might make it feel worse to some people. There are no visual cues if it’s not right at the front or maybe the second one, and most people switch using visual cues, not text… at least that’s my theory… 🙂

          • JSo

            Well if you need a visual, there is the app icon on the top left of each of the tabs

          • jnt

            Yeah I had that thought as well. I would imagine it’s just like anything else – you just have to get used to it.

      • Inquizitor

        “visually appealing” is subjective. Despite loving literally everything else that has been changed in Android L, I personally find the new Recents visually appalling. It’s lame eye candy, doesn’t fit into the new design schema, lacks most color because of all the gray window dressing, and seriously reduces the functionality of task switching in 4.0+ which had smaller, cleaner cards to switch between. This is a cluttered mess that only reveals 2 or three apps at a time and makes task switching take twice as long as it should.

        • miri

          With the theme of paper, cards and depth, the design of recents fits fine and that apps can have multiple entries in recents means there won’t be anymore mislabled entries and you can multi-task between features of an app. Also, the recents view will be able to pull the action bar color from Material designed apps.

      • Joe J

        My current recent tab shows 9 windows and with one swipe down scrolls all open apps. My nexus 5 android L recents tab takes multiple swipes to find the open app

      • MWD

        I love change. I’m all for it but in the current multi-tasking screen I can see 4 FULL screenshots of my running apps. This? Whatever is on top and parts of the others behind it thereby removing functionality imo. It’s like they’re hiding from me. I personally don’t like the tab switcher in Chrome either… I think the material design ui looks awesome though but I’m not a fan of this so far. Maybe I’ll change my mind once I get some hands on

    • I agree. I usually have a ton of tabs open in Chrome, I don’t really want to see them all in recents. As I understand, you’ll get multiples for other apps as well. All I need is one card for each running app.

      • Sean Patrick

        Exactly, it is totally unnecessary too. If I want to change tabs I can do so extremely quickly within the app itself.

    • Abhijeet Mishra

      Same here, not a fan of either the new recent apps or the notification drawer, though the latter is growing on me as I continue to use L on the Nexus 7. I’m hoping Google makes necessary changes by the final release, L looks a lot like a version focused on just improving the look of everything while not worrying about how it may mess up existing things.

      As for those buttons, yeah, it’s like the copied PlayStation’s buttons. I can understand some will like them, but IMO they’re too in your face and not very classy.

      • Tee

        I thought the same thing: PlayStation buttons lol

        The stroke is too thick. They stand out far too much for something that’s supposed to be minimalistic.

    • Dinsy Jones

      For what it’s worth, I completely agree. The new multitasking screen feels cluttered and confusing. The new onscreen icons are a bad joke, with the ego-tripped designer laughing his ass off after seeing how people can not only put up with it but praise it just because “he’s a professional designer, he knows what he’s doing”. It’s just ridiculous.

  • Daeshaun Griffiths

    By far the best android L feature. For sure going to change the way I use my devices.

  • flybass

    How is it useful for multitasking to see fewer open applications on the switching screen? Seems like they are just trying to stylistically copy apple and forgetting the old android userbase.

    • r0l

      I think they are looking at engagement stats and realized they need something better. Maybe it’s just me but I am amazed that very few people I know on android actually use the multitasking.

      • I’ve been on android for 3-4 years now and just started using my Recents and I love it. idk why i just started now though. Maybe Android L will push me to really start using it efficiently.

        side note: I think its because I’m on GS4 so you have to hold home button for Recents and that seems annoying to do. Switched roms and I have a navbar that I love so that may be why.

    • nexusplay

      You don’t see fewer applications, you see three here and three on current stock Android. Don’t bring Apple into this, they don’t even have multitasking that looks like this. This is also a preview version, there will be changes.

      • j

        4 on stock Android here.. old will be easier to use. we’ve had card style in chrome. stop trying to church it up.

        • nexusplay

          Four, one more, and that won’t make a difference. Stop trying to demonize change. Exactly, we’ve had card style in Chrome, it’s all about consistency.

          • j

            I’m saying the card style isn’t that great. easier to scroll and see what you’re looking for in the current style, IMO. that’s all.

          • M Singh

            Negative, seeing 4 is all you really need. Looking at and tapping vs looking for while swiping around through a range of tabs that are within apps and standalones is too much… Multitasking is a messy thing in itself. It doesn’t help to add to the clutter and make it messier.

          • Michael Herma

            I see what your saying here, seeing all the tabs you have open in chrome could be one big cluster f*ck if your like me and have upwards of 20 tabs open at once. But I would imagine they’ve taken that into account and streamline it to make it as simple and less confusing as possible. After all this is just a preview.

      • Inquizitor

        First, empirically you do see fewer applications, that’s just a fact. Second, Apple certainly can be brought into this. Even though this card UI was first (recently) introduced with Chrome for Android, it was copied by Apple and made much more high-profile by Safari in iOS 8 and iOS 8’s multitasking (which is very, very similar to this, though arguably more useful because it separates apps with a horizontal scroll). This Recents view would have been useful if, similar to Apple, they separated apps horizontally and then grouped multiple cards within their respective apps, which could be then scrollable depth-wise. This approach is more directly like webOS’ original card interface, and still seems like the best multitasking approach to me.

        • Sean Patrick

          I like what your saying, what would perfect the vision would be for the vertical arrangement to be maintained and horizontal aggregation of tabs within app. 🙂

        • ScoobySnack

          Concur! Horizontal tabs work WAY BETTER than scrolling through a vertical list. It’s hard enough scrolling through the list as it currently works. Too much movement required to see other running apps. I like the iOS implementation a lot.

          • Sean Patrick

            Horizontal=less screen space, how does that work out to being better able to see more?

    • thunderbird32

      If anything they’re copying WebOS. This is rather similar to it’s card based multi-tasking UI.

      • Sankyou

        Yes but is that a bad thing? Apple just did the same as well.

      • Nic

        You do know that Matias Duarte, the Director of Android at Google used to be the head of WebOS user interface at Palm, right?

        • thunderbird32

          Yes, I do. I was just pointing out that it was closer to WebOS than it is to iOS. Using the word copying was perhaps not the best word choice though. I can see that that could be interpreted incorrectly.

          • Nic

            Yes, it is closer to WebOS then iOS and I personally see nothing wrong with that. I already miss the L multitasking after switching back to kitkat. Also I feel like Apple copied HTC in the direct design of there mulititasking. But all in all they are all inspired by WebOS.

      • ratnok

        It looks NOTHING like WebOS. It looks exactly like the multitabs Chrome had since it was launched on Android. Why are people always trying to say something “copied” something else?

    • Abhijeet Mishra

      Yeah, I don’t like it for that fact either, only one app preview is properly visible with the new look. A few usability blunders in Android L in the name of good design, hoping things will change by final release.

      • alex

        It’s not good design if there are usability blunders. Design is more than how it looks, but how it works.

    • senor_heisenberg

      Except you don’t see less with the new multitasking; you see more. And how are they copying apple exactly? Stop being an idiot for a second and make an attempt at thinking rationally instead of defaulting to typical idiotic internet rage.

      • William Kister

        I know if anything it looks like a copy of Microsoft Windows from a desktop if it was to copy anything.

      • flybass

        i’m not sure if you realize the irony here..

    • William Kister

      Looks more like Windows on a desktop to me.

  • Hans solo

    DL income? must be nice!

  • JSo

    I’ve read a lot of mixed views on this but I like the new look. I wish it was like webOS where you could reorder and stack them.

  • T4rd

    Not sure I like this approach. I really like the Sense 6 multitasking with all apps visible at once and no swiping required to see/select previous apps you had open. In this area, it kinda seems that they backtracked, IMO.

    • M Singh

      Agreedi don’t see how its easier to navigate through apps if we see fewer of them at a time…just more swiping than needed.
      Same thing with the Settings interface, there are fewer settings per “page,” so more swiping to get where you need to.
      It’s a step backwards for me.
      Only thing I really like about L is the double swpie for quick settings 🙂

      • Daistaar

        “Only thing I really like about L is the double swpie for quick settings :)”

        Which was faster with a two-finger pull down.

        • JSo

          Yeah. Honestly, I never used the two finger pull down. Even though I knew it was there. I don’t usually use my phone with two hands anyway.

        • jnt

          This. Seems like a couple of the new “features” and design changes have made things slightly more difficult. But it’s early, so hopefully some of it will be improved.

  • Charles Gallagher

    I wish there was a way to close all of the windows at once instead of having to swipe one away at a time

    • One of my favourite Gravity Box mods!

      Should definitely be in stock

    • JSo

      Yeah. But to be fair, stock android never had that to begin with.

    • Eric R.

      Sense 6 and Touchwiz can do that

      • jnt


      • Tony Spencer

        Now I gotta go pee!

      • MH

        It’s been a feature of many skins and roms. It would be nice if it were baked into AOSP.

        • Michael Herma

          Agreed, one of my fav things on my Ascend P6.

    • Romdude

      There is on HTC ones.

    • LeeannaThomsonrap

      friend’s step-mother makes $77 hourly on the laptop . She has been out of
      work for five months but last month her payment was $14424 just working on
      the laptop for a few hours. see it here


    • Igor

      Why do you need that? I kill app in multi task menu only when it freezes, and it is always one app. How about you?

      • It’s nice when you no longer care about what you’ve done recently and you want to start a fresh list of recents.

    • feztheforeigner

      And LG

  • FrozenMANGO

    Looks really nice.