Software

How to manage Picture-in-picture mode on Android

Oreo brings Android Picture-in-picture mode. Jack Wallen lists the current crop of supporting apps and shows you how to manage the feature.

piphero.jpg
Image: Jack Wallen

With Android Oreo came a host of new features—some hardly noticeable, while others were serious game changers. One particular feature that belongs in the latter category is the Picture-in-picture (PiP) mode. The feature does exactly what you might expect—allows you to view a video, while working on another app. For example, you can watch a Youtube video while reading email or working on a spreadsheet. The implications for business users are pretty obvious (can you say, video call while explaining the contents of a spreadsheet?).

The Android developers assumed there might be users who'd want to have some semblance of control over the feature. To that end, they added the ability to enable or disable any and all apps that support the feature. Say you want to view Duo videos in PiP mode, but not videos found in Chrome (for example, advertisements or news videos). Thanks to Settings tool, you can manage what apps can be allowed to draw video over your screen. The apps that are available to enable or disable will depend on what is installed. The current list of apps that support PiP mode is short. Hopefully it will grow over time. At the moment, the list is:

  • Netflix
  • VLC
  • Youtube/Youtube Red (only Youtube Red is fully supported)
  • Google Maps
  • Google Play Movies and TV
  • Telegram
  • Pocket Casts
  • Duo
  • WhatsApp
  • Chrome (PiP is only supported when videos in full-screen mode)
  • Facebook

Not all app support is created equal. Some apps fully support PiP mode (Youtube Red and VLC), whereas some apps won't allow you to exit without losing the Picture-in-picture window. Support is building for the feature—give it time and all supported apps should be able to take full advantage of the feature.

If you have one or more of the above apps installed (you will, as some apps are installed by default), let's take a look at how you enable or disable their ability to use PiP mode.

Enabling or disabling apps

This is the only control you have over the Picture-in-picture mode for apps—enable or disable. What's good about this is you can enable them as needed. Or you can disable them all, and only enable the apps required to get your work done.

To enable or disable apps for Picture-in-picture mode, open the Settings app. Once Settings is open, tap the search button and start typing Picture-in-picture. You should immediately see the entry for Picture-in-picture (Figure A). Tap that entry to open the settings window.

Figure A

Figure A

Searching for Picture-in-picture from within Settings.

In the resulting window, locate Picture-in-picture and tap the listing. At this point, you will find yourself in the Picture-in-picture settings window (Figure B).

Figure B

Figure B

The Picture-in-picture settings window.

To enable or disable PiP for an app, tap the app entry and then tap the On/Off slider until it is in the required position (Figure C).

Figure C

Figure C

Chrome browser with Picture-in-picture disabled.

That's all there is to it. You can disable or enable any of the supported apps as you need them.

A few notes on usage

As I mentioned previously, there are some quirks to using PiP with certain apps. For example, when viewing a video in Chrome, the video must be in full screen mode before PiP can work. You will also notice that VLC is not included in the Picture-in-picture settings—that's because PiP is managed completely in-app. If you attempt to view a Youtube video in PiP mode, you'll be able to do so, but only within the Youtube app itself—unless you subscribe to Youtube Red (at which point, videos will continue playing in PiP mode, even if you leave the Youtube app).

More coming

Picture-in-picture support is slowing building. We should see more apps to feature PiP coming soon, as developers begin leveraging this game-changing feature. As I mentioned, your milage may vary on how much support each app has for Picture-in-picture mode.

Also see

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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