Free-form Windows on the 6P: Understandably Unintended, Extremely Buggy Mess [PICTURES]
You can indeed enable free-form windows on the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P, as the feature is not limited to tablets. But as of yet, the feature doesn’t seem to work properly on these smaller phones — neither by design nor technical execution.
We tried this on a Nexus 6P using an adb shell command method shared by a redditor, that does not require you to root your N-running device nor flash a file through a custom recovery. It did enable the feature, and it added a new button to each window in the multitasking menu, even changed the whole format: when you have floating windows, they are displayed separately.
Unfortunately, the freeform apps seem to be limited to a “freeform space” entered when accessing the multi-tasking menu, through its new format. Attempts to display the floating windows on top of a full-screen app resulted in all sorts of visual bugs. You can merge the windows with a side of the screen to split the view, albeit this was a tad buggy as well. Unlike Samsung’s floating windows, these aren’t the kind of windows you can summon on top of your apps to multi-task quickly and fluidly. Instead, these new windows get their own section in the multi-tasking menu and their own space to play in, which is better for tablets than for phones. Even with the 5.7 inch screen of the Nexus 6P, this system is not useful and is currently extremely limited on phones.
This is, of course, a very early look at a feature that was not enabled by default, and that we accessed through unintended means. It is likely much of it will change with the coming updates. Either way, this is more of a tablet feature, and even then, it doesn’t look quite as useful as other implementations. We will be providing a more thorough analysis of Android N’s multitasking, including this freeform system, in the coming days.
To enable the feature, simply input the following through adb (remember to enable USB Debugging on Android N):
adb shell settings put global enable_freeform_support 1
After that, simply reboot the phone (you can do this through adb) and the feature will be available to you. But as we said, we don’t recommend it on a phone, at least not in its current form.
UPDATE: Enabling free-form windows also broke various UI elements within apps, including the ability to visit comment sections in Relay for Reddit, as well as broken pop-up menus in various apps like YouTube. If you wish to turn off the feature, just issue the command again but replace ‘1’ with ‘0’.