Android Oreo allows developers to build apps that launch in a new Picture-in-Picture (PiP) mode. PIP is a special kind of multi-window mode that's most commonly used for video playback. You might have PIP on your television or through your cable box. It's been available for Android TV since the release of Android Nougat, but Oreo brings it to every device that runs Android 8 or higher.
Apps that support PIP will have a setting to disable it for people who don't want it.
Using PIP is easy, though apps have to be updated and use some new code for it to work properly. We used the Duo app running on Google Pixels that has been updated to Android Oreo as our example. In the app's settings, you'll see an entry for Picture-in-Picture, and you toggle it on or off. Make sure it's enabled.
When in a Duo call, hitting the home button sends the Duo app to the background but leaves a small picture window of the video chat opens on your home screen. You can switch to another app and it stays there, but some games and other apps that shut everything else down will kill Duo completely. Other apps should behave the same way, and switching focus through the app switcher should bring the PIP window to the front.
You can move the window anywhere on the screen and the other party sees no interruption. A couple of taps makes the window larger, and you can use the app switcher to go back to full screen. The PIP window uses your phone's accelerometer so it can display in landscape or portrait, depending on how you've rotated your phone. Overall, it's really simple and works great!
PIP mode isn't automatic. Developers have some work to do.
Developers will have to do some work here. For starters, they have to make sure their app doesn't stop the video stream when the "paused" event is sent. This is different than what happens when you hit a pause button, it's about how apps run in the background.
Developers will also have to tell their app how to behave when it's put in PIP mode and make sure support for the new activity is added. While not too difficult, these changes mean we'll have to depend on developers who want to add the feature. Adoption of Oreo will be slow so that might not happen for a while.
We'll be on the lookout for apps that use Picture-in-Picture, and we hope you will be, too! As you come across them, be sure to give a shout-out in the comments below.