You Might Soon Find It Easier to Juggle Apps Between Android Devices

Finding unity in diversity

  • Google is previewing a toolkit for developers that’ll enable them to create smoother multi-device experiences.
  • Apps built with this toolkit will allow people to seamlessly switch from one Android device to another.
  • Google hopes to eventually extend this feature to non-Android devices as well.
Women using smartphones and tablets in living room

JGI / Jamie Grill / Getty Images

All your Android devices run the same apps, yet switching between them in the middle of a task takes some doing and isn't always possible.

To iron out the kinks, Google has launched a new software development kit (SDK) for developers that it says will help them create apps that connect and play nice with other instances running across your range of Android devices. Currently available as a developer preview, Google plans to eventually extend the toolkit to enable people to seamlessly continue using their apps on non-Android phones, tablets, TVs, cars, and other devices.

"For the average Android user, it might mean that more apps will support user-friendly multi-device experiences," Roy Solberg, Android Tech Lead at FotMob, told Lifewire over email. "In practice, apps can let [people] work with something on the phone, say prepare a food order, and then pick it up and continue the order on your laptop and then submit it. Another example would be to log into your streaming account on your phone and then have it magically log in on your TV without you having to type the login credentials or scan a QR code."

Google Does an Apple

Solberg tells us that while developers can theoretically already build similar multi-device experiences, though, in practice, it's rarely the case.

"The reason for that is that the overhead for making such features normally is too big," explained Solberg. "With Google now having this focus and making it easier to create cross-device features, I hope that we will start to see some really great user experiences."

Gaurav Chandra, CTO of LGBTQ+ social network As You Are, believes the toolkit is Google's attempt to emulate the experience available to Apple users via Handoff. 

Chandra argues that because of the close integration of Apple's hardware and software, people with iOS devices experience a much better multi-device experience than what is available in the fragmented Android ecosystem due to multiple device manufacturers having their own tweaked versions of Android.  

"Due to this problem, Android app developers have not been able to provide the same experience as Apple developers," Chandra told Lifewire over email. "With this new SDK, Google wants Android to compete with Apple Handoff."

Multi Device Experiences

One of the biggest takeaways with the new toolkit, as Chandra sees it, is its ability to enable devices to communicate with each other directly, providing a much smoother user experience without having to go over the internet.   

Jarle Antonsen, Team Lead and Senior Developer at Vivaldi working on mobile apps, is also looking forward to tinkering with the toolkit, stressing, however, that it is still early days since the SDK is currently only available as a developer preview.

"It looks like this is something we could use to improve our Sync functionality so that users are able to share data more efficiently between our mobile, automotive, and desktop browsers without going through the cloud," Antonsen told Lifewire over email.

Chandra is looking forward to the days when he'll be able to use his OnePlus smartphone to initiate a video call, then seamlessly continue it on his Samsung tablet without relying on a messy process.

Multi-tasking man doing many activities when he's in quarantine

FilippoBacci / Getty Images

Furthermore, the multi-device experience isn't limited to your own devices. Solberg points out that using this toolkit, developers can create experiences where people can more easily cooperate and interact with, for instance, their friends and family. 

In fact, one of the use cases Google describes in the documentation for the SDK is the ability for multiple users on separate devices to choose items from a menu when creating a group food order instead of passing the phone around the room. 

The toolkit currently only works with Android phones and tablets, though in its blog post, Google has stressed it eventually wants to extend it to support other Android devices, as well as non-Android operating systems.

"I hope developers [will also] think of [using this toolkit in] some creative ways to make social multiplayer games, where users can play with others within the same geographical area," said Solberg.

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