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.

  • This is a huge Improvement although I really wish you could just long press recents to jump to last app
  • This is one of my favorite things about using a custom ROM. I use long press to go back to previous app all the time. Posted via the underrated M9
  • Or xposed's gravitybox. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I need to check this out Android Central App | S5 G900A kitkat root
  • Yeah, such an intuitive thing. Really annoying how OEMs don't use it or just burry it in the settings
  • Which ROM? Posted via the Android Central App
  • I'm on cyanogenmod and it's a feature. Think a lot of mods that allow custom reassignments of the nav bar buttons will allow it. Think it's a default on CM though Posted via the Android Central App
  • This looks awesome, can't wait! dreaming of electric sheep
  • Yep. Loved it on my OnePlus One. Alos have it on my current phone Honor 7. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Alex you also forgot swipe up from recents button to bring up split screen. This can be enabled in ui tuner. And it is awesome
  • Ooh I can't wait to see it 3 phones from now on Verizon. Posted via the Android Central App
  • That hurts more than you know... I'm thinking about ordering a 7 Edge today with the very distinct possibility that it will never see N. Posted via the Android Central App
  • That's exactly why I'd never get a Samsung device if I came back to Android. Nexus or nothing. 
  • Exactly!!! Though i must say that probably wont be how it is for me forever. Id be lying if i said the S7 edge wasnt tempting. Its the best smartphone hardware ever by some margin. But I'm a software guy and i gotta have my updates. its without a doubt the cleanest, best version of android there is. It trounces touchwiz and all the other Asian OEM skins. And if iOS users get timely updates then so should I. I love the Nexus line!!
  • Why not buy outright and unlocked from the manufacturer? Blackberry Priv
    Nvidia Shield "Portable"
    Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
  • How do you come up with this crap? The s5 is almost 2 years old and still getting updated. Posted via the Android Central App
  • ^^^this Posted via the Android Central App
  • And it still took too long, plus, the S5 support drop will be the next thing you read about when it comes to Samsung, their track record is super ****** beyond the next alphabet letter upgrade. I was a long time beta tester, user and supporter of Samsung phones from the Samsung Moment, all the way up to the Note 3. Hardware can be amazing from them, but their software, and the updates are lackluster, and fall way behind Nexus phones, and that includes the 2 Samsung Nexus units, where they screwed the hardware royally. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Verizon Note 4 here that JUST got 5.0.1 Posted via the Android Central App
  • Thank fricken goodness splitscreen is coming to AOSP.... A small loan of a broken G4
  • Isn't it already there? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Only on custom skins such as touchwiz and LGs own Posted via the Android Central App
  • Looks like they took a page from touch wiz. Hope it let's all apps support it. I love split screen multitasking by long pressing recent apps on my note 5. I watch youtube and txt all the time. S7 edge will make America great again!
  • There's a developer options toggle to force support all apps unlike in my S7E
  • I downloaded Android N and i love it. Multi window is awesome the notification are also awesome i love the new changed they made. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I'm curios what the minimum specs will be to run N. It's my understanding that split screen needs a lot of ram to run smoothly. Budget phones typically only have one gig and mid rangers are usually around 2, so somethings got to give (presumably). Hopefully it's not UX.
  • N is now the sweetest flavor of Android and it's good on my Nexus 6. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Would be nice to be able to see more, at least the app Icon, of the top of each Card. If i want to go back a couple of Apps it seems now i will have to Hammer away on the recents key
  • Will this hit nexus 7?? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Can you close all running apps with one press? Google Nexus 6P
  • No you can't.
  • Which is a shame. Hope they'll add it to the final version. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Hmm, makes me think a new Nexus may be coming earlier than expected. Here's to hoping for an HTC Nexus with front firing speakers!
  • Seeing how the newest HTC One that is coming out no longer has front facing speakers, I doubt that will happen. Posted via the Moto X Pure (2nd Gen.) running CM13 w/ Nova Prime & Xposed
  • Maybe... The HTC N9 has them, so I'm not giving up hope. :)
  • Plus Google has a say in the design, and the last 2 generations of Nexus phone have had front facing speakers. So it's totally possible this year's will too. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I need a Nexus so I can try this out. Its killing me that I can't go and flash this right now Posted via the Moto X Pure (2nd Gen.) running CM13 w/ Nova Prime & Xposed
  • All of this is great, i love it. Smart and useful changes, and done in a visually attractive way. Also, I noticed the search bar is gone now. This is good for 2 reasons: 1 i literally never used it from the app switcher. 2 it means you never have to see that god awful fisher price looking monstrosity again if you're using a custom launcher. Perfect. 10/10
  • Shop far I'm only super excited about the improved Doze 2.0 mode. Everything else is just decidedly meh as my brand new Galaxy S7 already has most N features already. I hope for more under-the-hood improvements that all phones can enjoy, not just applicable to Nexus and Motorola non-skinned phones.
  • You do realize that if those improvements come by default In AOSP, then they would most certainly be available on all "OEM" versions of android? Meaning LG, HTC, Sony, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc. will all have it by default (unless they disable it). So I don't think it is "just applicable to Nexus and Motorola non-skinned phones"
  • Is split screen a tablet only feature or will it work on phones too Posted via the Android Central App
  • It works on phones too. Posted via the Android Central App
  • For God's sake, can we please just get a "Close All" button already?!
  • When will we receive this update. Posted via the Android Central App
  • How long is a piece of string? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Finally something near webOS-card-switching (&full swipe) alike function:
    But stiil way to go Android...
  • Hey Guys, I have found interesting app... It allows to use Android N Recent app swap feature on previous versions of Android WITHOUT root. This application don't create floating buttons like other apps. It just uses your 'Recent Apps' key like in real Android N.
  • So horrible to use, 90% of the time I use the recents menu it's to swipe away/kill an app, and now my actual most recent app is hidden underneath my softkeys. It was NOT difficult in any way to choose the previous app in a heartbeat with the old menu design. Pointless irritating fiddling. Really going off Google.