Should all Android tablets have mini apps for more desktop-like multitasking?

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| Published: August 15, 2011

(Click picture for a larger depiction)

Everyday it seems I find another use for my tablets. I tend to use the Galaxy Tab as my day planner, a portal for reading local and national news, keeping up with my Google Reader and even playing a game from time to time. And after a long day of working behind a computer, I prefer to keep my tablet on hand if I need to hop on the web for a minute to check something, look up a recipe or even keeping up with the social side of things. In short, I almost always have a tablet nearby to take care of some business or another, and I can generally get the job done. But there are some obvious areas where tablets still fall short, especially in the multitasking department.

I'm not going to lie, when I first saw images of the new QNX interface and caught wind of a webOS tablet, I instantly set my sights on either the PlayBook or TouchPad. Since their launch, however, I've felt compelled to pass on both due to bugs, lackluster app selection and – with the PlayBook – screen size. The two platforms excel at multitasking are easily the most intuitive of the mobile OSes. But for software built around multitasking, they still fall short. So much more can be done to utilize the extra display real estate on a larger tablet.

When I use my computer, I always keep several windows open. While I always like my browser to fill the display, I still prefer some windows to take up less space. This can somewhat be mimicked on the Galaxy Tab now, thanks to the TouchWiz UX update that hit on the 5th. I have found myself constantly using the Mini Apps Tray, launching Pen memo and Calculator over the Browser or loading up the Calendar while chatting in Gtalk. Samsung has also optimized other portions of the OS to open inside other applications like viewing a contact's full information from within the Gtalk app (as pictured above).

That said, I often find myself wishing there was more of a selection of mini apps. A Music player, Calendar, Task manager, World Clock, Pen memo and Calculator only go so far. This, of course, has made my mind wander and question why no one else has done this yet … with existing applications.

Think about it. When you install an Android application that has been optimized for both smartphones and tablets, the framework for both types of devices is included. Take Plume for example. When it is installed on a smartphone, the application shows one column at a time and you must swipe left and right to pan between the columns. On a tablet, however, the same application recognizes the larger display at a much higher resolution and displays accordingly. Instead of one column showing and wasting a good 7-inches of display space, all three columns appear. This same method of "tablet optimization" can be found in the native Gmail application, Gtalk, and a plethora of other Android apps. (It even appears on iOS with the iPad.)

I can't be the only person that's had this idea. It seems like the natural progression that Google should take with the Android platform. Something obviously needs to be done. The dedicated soft Task Switcher button is okay, but a bit clunk and slow. Rather than using the card method like webOS and QNX or dividing up the display space with Cornerstone, you can run simultaneous applications on top of one another. Samsung definitely had the right idea, I'll give them that. But I will never need a mini world clock. I would much rather have my own definable mini apps at my disposal. Seeing as we now know it's possible, let's just hope Google recognizes the potential and runs with it.

What do you think, folks? Have you used the TouchWiz Mini App Tray? Do you like it, or is it a waste of time? Seeing as the interface is already embedded within the app, should Google adopt the mini app idea?

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