Android Q’s new ‘Bubbles’ feature | TECH(talk)


hi and welcome back to Tech Talk I’m Ken
Mingis executive editor Computerworld I’m here with junior Raphael computer
world’s contributing editor on all things Android
today’s topic is Android cue and bubbles and multitasking stick around ok so jr. thanks for being here you’ve
been writing lately about some of the things that Android cue has in store for
us this year and one of the things that you pointed out in a recent piece was
this idea of how how they’re trying to you know do more with multitasking on
devices multiple mobile devices and you spotted bubbles and I wanted to ask you
a little bit more about exactly what bubbles is and or does and how you think
that might help with multitasking on like you know your Android phone or
other devices yeah it’s a pretty interesting thing it came up in the
second Android cue beta which is a little weird too because usually the
second beta doesn’t do much it just kind of refines and polishes and cleans up
some of the rough edges but this year the second beta brought in that that
whole new feature so it’s something that most people who have used Android for a
while have probably seen in concept extorted around
I must have 2013 Facebook came out with a new chat interface that they called
chat heads where basically it’s a little circle bubble if you will this usually
shows up at the bottom of your screen to start you can tap it and then it’ll open
up you know your chat window and you can see what you’re the person you’re
talking to you can tap it again and it goes away and then you can just float it
around anywhere on your screen it’s kind of like easy ongoing access to that
conversation and then it took off from there some other apps one used wouldn’t
called link bubble that I talked about 2013-2014 was something I recommended a
lot back then it since got sold to the company that made brave browser it’s an
interesting they use it so yeah ok they used it as the basis for their first
Android app their first Android app loaded in bubbles like that it when you
open it say if you tap a link on like Twitter or something it would open in a
bubble and they eventually moved away from it went to a more standardized
interface but you said brave brave browser was based on bubbles there’s a
nice little or alliteration yeah good luck with that say that three times real
quick yeah yeah so we’ve kind of seen this pattern around for a while and now
sort of out of nowhere Android itself that the Google got interested in making
it part of the operating system so Q will bring it in and it’s the same basic
idea but it’ll be a standardized thing so any app can tap into it and use it in
a completely standard consistent user interface with you know kind of more
security and privacy built in as opposed to every developer creating their own
version that you don’t quite know necessarily how it’s working and any app
that has the right use for it can do it so I press I get up here and everything
but for something like a browser for something like a chat app notes could
even be email an idea that’s intriguing to me is you could be in the future say
you open up Gmail or whatever email app you use and if it implements it in this
way you could tap a button to compose a message instead of in the app in a
bubble interface and then you could open it right as you need to do what you need
to do then you can minimize it go back say look at the web look at a document
and then just have it right there it’s kind of a more seems to me like it could
be at least a more natural way to multitask on a phone as opposed to
something like split screen which we’ve seen on androids been on Android for a
while and even before was in Android itself Samsung and other companies
offered it in their own versions and it yeah it’s nice to have but on the phone
it’s always a little awkward and doesn’t quite feel natural to me at least and I
think a lot of folks feel the same way Google’s kind of de-emphasized it over
time so this could be a more mobile like way to multitask and get multiple things
done see multiple things on your screen at the same time yeah you know it’s
interesting because I was I was thinking about how this would sort of you know
what the parallel would be in iOS and the closest parallel I can I can think
of right now is 3d touch where if you’re in an app and an address
or a date or you know something comes up and you can you press and hold on the
screen and you get something that pops up that allows you to do something with
the information and it’s almost like it’s sort of a separate layer that sits
atop the different applications and it allows you to do functions from
different apps without actually having two apps which at the same time and you
know some people love 3d touch I’ll be honest with you I don’t use it if it
went away it would not be a problem I guess the way I multitask you know just
I probably tend to switch between apps but I can see how you know if that’s not
hasn’t been available in Android yet it might be a good feature but
it’s gonna require some some memory learning you know teaching people to use
these new features and realizing that they’re there I don’t know if if the
issue is that Apple and iOS just didn’t make it so obvious that people sort of
worked it into their workflow or I don’t know maybe I’m just an outlier any
thoughts yeah is that kind of do you find are you using bubbles do you find
you’re using it now that you found it in the beta well it’s not really relevant
yet just because it’s the framework is in place but and this is always a thing
I mean with any operating system both Android in particular we’ll have to see
how if and how developers really embrace it even Google’s own apps as of yet
don’t really do anything with it cuz it’s just so new they just came out with
the idea for it and of course we’re only in the second
beta as of right now so the question will really be how it gets implemented
and like you said how useful it ends up being in practice and especially for
users who don’t pay close attention to this stuff like we do you know if you’re
even going to notice it or encounter a tour or do it you said something
interest interesting to me the other day when we were talking about the subject
where you said that you had to stop and think about what you did for
multitasking on your iPhone because you don’t really think of things you do as
multitasking and I think that really hits home that if you have to think gosh
I would like to multitask should I use this system or that system that’s
probably not something any normal person is gonna do it just has to fit into your
workflow in a natural sensible way and then end up being something that you use
and that feels right and that’ll that’ll be the true test for this if it’s cool
on paper versus useful in the real world and I think it depends a lot on how
developers implement it and at what point they do right exactly and I think
that goes back to the point I was making about iOS in I remember when 3d touch
came out and you know the ability to long press on the screen and have
different features and functions pop up that sounds you know as if it would be
incredibly useful but in my day to day use and I’m not sure that I know many
people that are on iPhones that are using it I haven’t really you know I
mean as I watch people use their phones so I don’t know that it ever really
gathered up enough steam to make a dent and you know I’ve even seen some
discussions that Apple might at some point move away from it because it’s
it’s just it’s there I think certain people can use it for certain features
and and with nabs but I don’t think it’s gotten the
universal recognition that would make it a must-have for you know the next stop
next version of iOS or anything else down the road again could be me I could
be wrong I happen before but you know at least on my side but when you talk about
multitasking in general no we’re also talking about things like split screen
which I do use on my iPad continuously having two screens I’m having two apps
available on the screen at the same time it’s a larger screen it makes more sense
you can see different things you can move and copy and paste text things like
that I can’t imagine what split screen would be like on you know even my big
iPhone because if the screens just too small I don’t think that one I don’t
think that would really work very well for me yeah I think that’s exactly what
you were saying with 3d touch on the iPhone I think it’s been a similar thing
with split screen or when it it came along and of course like I said it had
been available on third-party Android implementations like from Samsung and LG
for a while but I mean it’s certainly when it came along on those companies
and then when it came to Android itself it was a really buzz worthy topic like
oh you can split your screen in half this is Apple doesn’t do this yet at
that point Apple wasn’t even doing it on the iPad I don’t think and it was one of
those things that just seemed like it should be transformational and
revolutionary but then the truth is and again just speaking from my personal
perspective you try it out once or twice and I never use split screen on my phone
I mean similarly on a tablet on a laptop size device if you’re using it with a
keyboard of course it makes a lot of sense but on a phone it just it never
comes up and in the previous Android version Android Pi Google took that from
being tied to one of the main system buttons where you could get to it really
easily by long pressing a button and just kind of buried it I remember after
PI came out a lot of people were asking me is that still there did they get rid
of it it’s still there but it’s just buried which it probably isn’t a good
indication that it was being used a lot or Google I mean Google can see metrics
of you know how people are using devices and presumably and I don’t think they
would have buried it if it were getting used a lot so yeah there’s a lot of
stuff that comes along that seems great but then it just doesn’t really quite
work out so well Android also has a picture-in-picture mode that is useful
but it’s really limited like if you’re viewing a YouTube video and then you go
back to your home screen it’ll shrink down to a little box in the corner this
same kind of thing for like if you’re doing a Google Maps Navigation so it’s
useful for that but it’s also just small-scale it’s not gonna work for
everything and other manufacturers like LG have tried to come up with their own
systems for having small floating apps I think they call it floating absolutely
Windows something like that but it’s not at the system level so you’re not going
to get a lot of people buying into it and you know creating apps that work for
that because they’re only gonna work on LG phones or whatever the case might be
so by building bubbles into Android hopefully if it if it ends up being as
useful as it seems like it could be developers will want to take the time to
support it because it’s gonna work on any Android phone you know once once
this version of Android gets kind of spread out in the world then it’ll work
on any Android phone regardless and who makes it which definitely is in the case
with those manufacturer specific attempts at doing things right obviously
I can see how that would make it much more broadly spread I guess you will you
would say is there any chance I’ll ask a dumb Android question because I’m an iOS
guy and I don’t know these things is there a chance that having this given
that this has shown up in the second beta is it possible it might get dropped
before final release or does the fact that it’s there means that it’s the
bubbles is definitely coming I mean it’s Google so anything’s always
possible I mean they you know the developer though right right but with
Google I mean they’ll launch a full-fledged service and promote it
heavily like it’s a future of the company and then drop it two years later
so you know you never really know but right now it’s it’s beyond the phase of
being one of these sometimes with these betas you’ll see like a little
experimental thing in the interface like they’re trying different things with
gestures and with each release it kind of changes a little and you can see
they’re experimenting or sometimes we’ll even find a couple of different
implementations if you tweak a setting this is definitely a system-level
feature it’s in the developer documentation that created a programming
interface for developers to use it would be pretty surprising if they backed away
from it at this point but I hate to say that is a certainty because you ever say
never with any of them yeah exactly but you know it’s definitely in there
they’ve created developer documentation they’re pushing people to start creating
apps to use it and build apps to use it I would say it’s a good chance we’ll
hear a lot more about it at Google i/o and and learn kind of where it’s going
and what more we can expect okay good all right well that gives me an idea
then probably coming soon to Android Android
Q will be bubbles junior I think that covers it for now
we’ll definitely want to come back to you later on and see how bubbles is
working out and obviously find out more about Android q after the the google
event but any last thoughts before I let you go on bubbles or have we popped all
the bubbles but I’m bummed yeah just remember to the Q even at with Google
i/o in May Q itself won’t come out till late summer early fall probably
September ish if we’re looking at at past years they’ve said officially the
third quarter of the year but you know late summer is kind of the window
they’ve been doing lately so even when we hear about it more most people won’t
see bubbles floating on their screen any time soon
and even when Q comes out it’s gonna be a while till most phones get it so we’re
really looking at a longer term is something that’s gonna potentially
become a trend in Android over the next couple of years but yeah don’t expect to
see it on your phone tomorrow or anything like that
okay so I’ll hold off on the tiny bubbles promotion on my that’s a Don Ho
reference look it up jr. thanks so much for the insights I really appreciate it
yeah thanks for having me okay thanks for watching Tech Talk if you want to
subscribe please do so leave some comments and questions in the comment
section for us for now that’s a wrap

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2 thoughts on “Android Q’s new ‘Bubbles’ feature | TECH(talk)

  1. I'm a little surprised that a lot of users didn't use the split screen feature. I personally always have used it since Nougat until they buried it in Pie which I didn't like. To me at least, it's one of those very important features that cannot disappear once I've gotten used to. I just miss the seamless experience of, for example, being on YouTube watching a video and long-tapping that square icon to launch the calculator split-screen mode for a quick calculation. No interruptions to my video; it just continues like it should; more time saved. On Pie, this is impossible. I have to swipe up on an app and tap the app icon just to access split screen, which defeats the purpose of split-screen multitasking since it has always been intended for a more seamless uninterrupted software experience.

    I hope that in the next version of Android, Google adds a quick split screen access feature. To me a great gesture for this would be a two-finger swipe up from the bottom. That's the most intuitive or at least simple way they could execute this. But I can only dream.

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