How to set up Android N's freeform window mode
The inclusion of a desktop-like window mode in Android N has led many to speculate that Google is preparing its mobile operating system to eventually compete with Windows and OS X on desktop computers.
Whether or not that happens someday is anybody's guess, but you can check out freeform window mode in Android N via the developer preview. A writer at Ars Technica recently published instructions on how to access it.
Ron Amadeo reports for Ars Technica:
If you managed to stumble into the Android N Preview via the super-easy "Beta Program" over-the-air update, these instructions probably aren't for you. If you want to enable the feature the hard way, you're going to get your hands dirty with some old-fashioned command line image flashing like in past Developer Previews.
Enabling freeform mode will also probably stop your device from being able to install future Android N over-the-air updates until you reset back to a stock system. You'll need the usual prerequisites of a device with an unlocked bootloader and Android N installed, plus a computer with fastboot and the Android SDK Tools.
Step one is to flash a custom recovery like the TeamWin Recovery Project (TWRP). Search for your device, download the appropriate image file, and put it in the same folder as your SDK tools. Reboot your device into fastboot mode by holding Power + Volume Down until you see the fastboot screen. Plug the phone into your computer, open a command line to your directory, and type "fastboot flash recovery [name of your TWRP image]". After the flash finishes, boot into recovery mode using the volume keys to scroll through the menus until you see "recovery." Next, confirm the choice by pressing Power.
Once you're inside your custom recovery, you'll need to mount the system partition as writable. In TWRP, press the "Mount" button and check the "System" box. Then comes the magic part: On your computer, open an ADB shell (open a command line, type "ADB Shell," and hit enter), then type the following and hit enter after each line:
sed -e "s/live_wallpaper/freeform_window_management/" android.software.live_wallpaper.xml >freeform.xml
Are Technica readers shared their thoughts about Android N's freeform window mode:
Hydrargyrum: "Early days yet, but this might be the first appearance of an OS that will actually challenge Windows for a serious share of the desktop/laptop OS market. Amazing.
By starting in the mobile space, Google has largely managed to overcome the single biggest obstacle to uptake of a new OS -- building a developer pool and application base.
One can only hope that the advent of resizable windows and "computer size" devices will cause app developers (especially Google!) to finally support large screens and tablets with proper UI design for their apps… I no longer have any Android devices myself, but competition is always good!"
MisterAlex: "RIP in peace, Chrome OS. :ɪ"
Mills00013: "It should be noted that the command listed on the article is two separate lines, not three."
Orange Crush: "Looks like they're moving towards another attempt at a phone-powered desktop mode. Things are going to get really interesting if they manage to pull it off this time."
Thomas Harte: "I think a windowing Android laptop would be a compelling product in the price range that Chromebooks currently occupy -- the amount of third-party support is a huge leap ahead. Famously now including Microsoft Office and Apple Music, but also games, development environments like AIDE, emulators, a whole bunch of things that are appealing to segments that ChromeOS doesn't quite cover."
Kinpin: "Regular users and organisations alike wouldn't move to using android as their primary desktop OS just because it's begining to look more like a desktop OS. If that was the case Ubuntu and other Linux distros would have made significant gains by now.
People use windows because that is where their apps and games are and this doesn't solve that."
Davmandave: "I think this would be a more apt competitor to Apple than it would Microsoft. With Android having an entrenched App Store that can port to new hardware with ease, you could deploy an Android OS to a laptop or convertible and maintain a very large developer and user base. Google could offer a user-friendly alternative to OS X at a much lower price point on a much higher range of hardware. This may actually be a threat to Apple's market share in desktop and laptop computers."
BradleyUffner: "This probably isn't designed for phones or tablets. It will probably only really be useful in a merged Android / Chrome Book OS scenario."
RamboIT: "No one has to throw away their Windows PC. However, people will be able to use a familiar OS on the desktop, that is not from Apple or MS, it this works out. Google has an opportunity here with Microsoft having seriously annoyed many people with the not-always-painless shove to Windows 10. As long as existing printers work, and apps or websites meet peoples needs, many will dive in. Others will follow if the experience is painless and affordable. "
Obarthelmy: "Competent support for a Desktop mode in Android cannot come soon enough. I'm running ragged w/ support request from techignoramuses that could just as well be using an Android desktop instead of Windows, and barely ever need any support, like with their Android tablet and phones."