Android N's Recent apps key has grown a bunch of awesome new features

The Recents key — the square you see in the bottom-right corner of most Android phones — is a staple of the OS, letting you see a card-deck of recently-used apps. In the Android N Developer Preview, along with the new split-screen view for phones and tablets, the Recents key becomes more useful than ever before, with brand new features making it easier to hop between apps.

For starters, the individual app previews are much larger than before, with more valuable screen realestate being turned over to the apps themselves, not the surrounding background. And when you're switching apps, you're now given a much larger preview of the second app in the deck (i.e. the one you were using before the current app.) It's not unlike the way Samsung has tweaked the Recents menu on the Galaxy S7 and other phones running Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

As usual, you can swipe through the deck and tap an app, but it's also possible to use the Recents key in a bunch of new ways for faster app-switching.

Android N task switcher

Android N task switcher

Android N task switcher

Here are some of the new tricks we've encountered so far:

  • From your home screen, double-tap the Recents key to jump to the last-used app.
  • With an app open, double-tap Recents to jump to the app you had open before.
  • Bring up the Recents menu, then keep tapping the Recents key to cycle through apps in the deck. When you stop, the selected app will go fullscreen.
  • With the Recents menu open, long-press the Recents key to switch to split-screen view. (You can also long-press and drag on an app preview.)
  • In split-screen mode, long-press the Recents key again to go fullscreen.

Naturally, as it's still in the developer preview stage, Android N could change considerably between now and the final release. Thing will likely look a bit different when the final code drops. Some of these features could go away, or new ones may be added.

Regardless, these are a few welcome changes to an important part of Android, and they should make it a lot easier for power users to quickly jump between tasks.

MORE: A closer look at split-screen on the Pixel C tablet

Alex Dobie
Executive Editor

Alex was with Android Central for over a decade, producing written and video content for the site, and served as global Executive Editor from 2016 to 2022.