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How Android L and Chrome Blur The Lines Between Web and App

Chrome in Android L

Google Chrome running on Android L (Image courtesy of  Keith Myers)

When is a website not just a website? When it’s running in Chrome on Android L, it seems.

You’d need to have been visiting relatives on an outer exoplanet to have missed news of Google releasing a developer preview of its next major release of Android, ‘L’, during last month’s Google I/O event.

Among the multitude of changes forming part of that preview is a change in the way that application activities are handled in ‘Recents’ (also know as the app/task switcher).

In a break with the past Android L no longer treats Google Chrome tabs as intrinsic to the browser activity. Instead, each individual tab is listed as a ‘card’ entry in Recents. Here, the new switcher feature – which includes big previews – blurs the lines between apps, documents and the web, focusing on the tasks we’re doing and less on what app we’re doing them in.

‘With multiple tabs open you won’t need to keep switching back to the whole browser to get at the tab you want.’

The change in handling is, Google says, designed to make life easier. With multiple tabs open you won’t need to keep switching back to the whole browser to get at the tab you want. Instead, you’ll simply tap on Recents and flick through until you find the one you need, or swipe it away to close it.

It’s one of several changes to app handling in Android L, most of which are far more expansive and encompassing that simply showing tabs as separate tasks.

It’s believed that one of the secret Chrome OS projects, Athena and Hera, will be able to extend the functionality of this further, with certain tasks being accessible/shared between Android and Chrome OS when both devices are in proximity.

Have you tried Android L preview yet? Or are you waiting for the final release in the fall? Let us know in the comments.

  • Jorge Deolarte

    Wating for release, was click from installing but read about some Bluetooth bugs. Will wait 4.4.4 is good for now with GEL xposed.

    • It’s incredibly hard to resist installing, but the bonus is the longer you can hold off the better the first impression will be.

      • MrMiketheripper

        Well since my only two devices are a Pantech Flex that won’t ever get updated past 4.1.2 and a Nexus 7 2012, I’d be fine with installing a dev preview since I don’t use bluetooth but you know how it’s kinda not on the 2012 yet.. lol

  • 6ame9o

    I use it as my daily driver and its been longer on my nexus 5 than KitKat. It has some real problems with and as WiFi hot spot. Can’t tell about the Bluetooth bugs since I don’t use Bluetooth. And there are some apps I can’t / couldn’t install or run. Google docs was one of those not installabe apps, but it got fixed in an update. Always when I start Google my business it crashes and I can’t use the emoticons in Fleksy because it crashes when I open them.
    I think the only reason why I still have it on my phone is that awesome battery time. I can get through a day easily.

  • Holding off for now since I have an HTC One M7

  • I’m using the L preview on my Nexus 4 (unofficial port, check it out in the XDA forums if you’re interested). So far, after 3 days of use I’ve found it to be surprisingly good. The OS feels very smooth, and very stable (considering its preview status). The only issues I’ve encountered have been visual issues in 3rd party apps (for example, the Facebook comment popup has a completely transparent background, making the comments pretty illegible).

  • Andrew

    LOL, Android L is adding what Firefox OS has got since the beginning.

    • Phil Oakley

      And? All OS’s take other features and implement them. If they didn’t there’d be competition.

  • Nils

    distro hopping goes mobile