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Android N's Freeform desktop mode won't be enabled on the Nexus 9 or on the Pixel C

Designing for Split-Screen Multi-Window (Android Development Patterns S3 Ep 1)
Android N’s Freeform Mode — which lets you run the mobile operating system in a manner that resembles Windows or a Mac — will strangely not be enabled in Nexus devices or the Pixel C.

In the current version of Android N, which is on Developer Preview 4, you’re able to split the screen between two apps — top and bottom on smartphones, and left and right on tablets like the Nexus 9 and the Pixel C. The code for a Freeform Mode was discovered earlier this year when Android N debuted in March, and it allows users to turn apps into floating windows — you can reshape apps, transition between a tablet and phone layout, maximize and close apps, and more.

Google confirmed its existence at its developer conference in May, but the feature is still disabled by default. Now, in a developer post explaining how to design an app around Multi-Window support, the search giant says the feature will not be enabled in Nexus devices. Manufacturers, on the other hand, will have the option to enable it for tablets.

“Keep in mind that no Nexus device is going to have freeform multi-window enabled for N, although manufacturers could enable it for their tablets if they want,” writes Android Developer Advocate Ian Lake in a Google+ post.

Google’s Nexus devices have long been the testing ground for most of Google’s features, seeing as they receive quick updates directly from Google. It makes sense the feature isn’t available on Nexus phones as windowed apps won’t be of much use on a small screen — but the Nexus 9 Android tablet could take advantage of it. Lake even clarified that the Pixel C, Google’s most recent tablet offering from the Pixel team, won’t be able to support Freeform Mode.

“Of course, split screen multi-window will work on those devices as well and is arguably much more useful than on phones,” he said.

The APIs are public and accessible, and while manufacturers can enable it for their devices, it’s unclear why Google is not activating Freeform Mode in the Nexus 9 and the Pixel C. We have reached out to Google for comment.

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