Android 8.0 Oreo Feature Focus: Picture-in-Picture

Posted on September 23, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 20 Comments

Android 8.0 Oreo Feature Focus: Picture-in-Picture

Android 8.0 Oreo supports picture-in-picture (PIP), so you can do two things at once. Assuming, that is, that you can find an app that supports this functionality.

This chicken-and-the-egg problem will be familiar to those who wish to take advantage of the similar Compact Overlay feature that debuted in Windows 10 version 1703. So far, only a few in-box apps, like Movies & TV and Skype, support it.

These things take time, of course. And the first step is just adding the capability to the platform. Which Google has now done with Android.

I don’t have a complete list of which apps support PIP on Android, but Google Chrome, Google Duo, Google Maps, Google Play Movies & TV, and YouTube are among them. (That latter app, unfortunately, requires a paid YouTube Red subscription to work in PIP.) The commonality here is that most of these apps can play video, exactly the type of content one might want to use PIP. (The exception is Google Maps.)

You can see which apps support PIP by navigating to Settings > Apps & notifications > Advanced > Special app access > Picture-in-picture. This interface lets you disable PIP on an app-by-app basis since it can be annoying if you’re not expecting it or don’t wish to use it.

Frustratingly, how you use PIP varies from app-to-app. Google Chrome, for example, will only utilize PIP for video, and it will only do so when that video is playing full-screen. And, in a further wrinkle, you—obviously, in retrospect—cannot play YouTube-based videos via Chrome in PIP unless you’re paying for YouTube Red.

But once you’ve met all the requirements, it works as expected: Play the video in full-screen, press your Home button, and you return to the home screen as expected, but with that video still playing in a floating PIP window.

You can do a number of things with this window: Drag it to a new position on-screen, close it, access basic playback controls, and return the video to normal full-screen mode. You can also run another app, of course: That app will run under the PIP window so you can do two things at once. (Also, if you select the PIP window, it will increase in size briefly, presumably to make it easier to drag around.)

You can also drag the PIP window down to the bottom edge of the screen to dismiss it. This doesn’t “close” the video per se, meaning that you can still access it from the notification shade if you’d like.

I assume Google Play Movies & TV and YouTube work similarly, but I wasn’t able to get the former to work and I don’t pay for YouTube Red.

With Google Maps, PIP will work once you start navigating to a location. So when you start navigating and press Home, that PIP window will appear over the home screen and over any apps you subsequently run. And, yes, voice navigation feature works in PIP too.

Unlike with video playback windows, however, Google Maps doesn’t provide any special controls. You can move the PIP window around, select it to return Google Maps to a full-screen view, or swipe it off the bottom of the screen to dismiss it. If you do dismiss it, Google Maps will continue to navigate, and you can access your directions from the notification shade or by returning to the app.

Basically, PIP works as expected with the exception of Google Play Movies & TV. Hopefully, that will be updated soon. And we’ll see some healthy third-party app support for this feature in the near future too.


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Comments (20)

20 responses to “Android 8.0 Oreo Feature Focus: Picture-in-Picture”

  1. jimchamplin

    Looks nice! I always thought PiP would work just fine on a phone. Google Maps is a perfect use!

  2. Jorge Garcia

    Since Microsoft insists on staying in the consumer battle...they need to bring back Windows Mobile, seriously. But not for phones. They should tweak it to make work on tablets and even desktops. Sure, it would lack apps but maybe over time they could get the developers to come back. I am not describing Windows RT, I'm describing Windows Mobile, where there is no such thing as a desktop (only a home screen), no such thing as double-click, and things like drag-and-drop are there, but very limited.

  3. Mike Dowsett

    Ironic that the much maligned Samsung Touchwiz has had this function for many years, and what's more it works with any app, resize it, move it around etc

  4. dcdevito

    This is a clear example of Android gaining more strength where it is at its strongest: power user features, and distancing itself from iOS.

  5. skane2600

    With the spaciousness of a typical smartphone display, it seems like a great idea. /s

    • Chris_Kez

      In reply to skane2600:

      Come on now, no need for sarcasm. This is a nice addition, and depending on the particular apps it could be a nice option for when you want to give a little more room to the primary app than what you would get in split-screen view (see image below for comparison showing Chrome video over Fenix in PiP (left) and Split-screen (right)). For keeping an eye on a video or map track, it's not really any less glance-able than most Android widgets or a medium-size Live Tile on a Windows Phone.

      Is it's usefulness somewhat circumscribed at the moment? Sure, but it may be a first step towards more robust windowing options in Android. It may also be more useful eventually in Chrome OS (or Android tablets? someday?) where you have Android apps running on larger screens.

  6. mmurfin87

    Seems disappointing next to Samsung MultiWindow

  7. rameshthanikodi

    "cannot play YouTube-based videos via Chrome in PIP unless you’re paying for YouTube Red"

    what a total DICK move.

    • Bill Russell

      In reply to FalseAgent:

      Subscribing is worth it - for the same price as spotify, you get youtube red and all its advantages along with Play Music, although the app blows but its about the music. The youtube and youtube music apps are good however.

    • Chris_Kez

      In reply to FalseAgent:

      Will You-Tube based videos work okay in Split-screen mode or does that require YT Red as well?

    • Jorge Garcia

      In reply to FalseAgent:

      It's a D move for sure, but if you think about it, who the heck would ever pay for music ever again if you could just go youtube, search for the songs you want, make a playlist and the toss the youtube app into the background while it's playing.

      • rameshthanikodi

        In reply to JG1170:

        Youtube is not a real music service. There are ads, and music videos are often a slightly different mix from the original. And if you're an audiophile, it's sort of an open secret that most youtube uploads have crappy sound quality while still consuming more data than a high-quality audio stream. It blows my mind how people still rely on youtube for all their music needs. They would be better off with Spotify, even the free version. You can't really curate a music library on youtube. I know lots of people do it, but it's haphazard. 

        Also, I believe this Youtube Red feature was originally background audio pre-Android 8, and I understand Google wanting people to pay for that, because you're ignoring the ads and everyone understands that background audio is really suited for music, but with Android 8, they're extending it to PIP. I think that is complete rubbish, because it's not the same thing, we're not talking about background audio. With PIP you're actually still watching the video, complete with monetized ads. It shouldn't be a Youtube Red feature. Screw them.

    • rob4jen

      YouTube Red (or Google Play Music) is required for YouTube background play. This is just an extension of that.
      In reply to FalseAgent:

      • rameshthanikodi

        In reply to rob4jen:

        No it isn't. That's just for the app. I'm talking about the browser and the youtube mobile site. Unless i'm mistaken, it looks like they have made use of their market position of the Chrome web browser and retroactively exclude youtube's site from using PIP video while web video anywhere else in the browser has PIP. Youtube in Safari (both iOS and OSX) have PIP, no reason why Google isn't allowing it in Android/Chrome except to be dicks. No one wants Youtube Red.

  8. Michael Rivers

    It's really useful with Maps. I change podcasts and music a lot, and having the map in the corner is nice. I hope Waze adds this soon.