Smartphones and tablets would be much more useful if they allowed us to multitask the way desktop and laptop computers do.
When I'm watching video, for instance, I have to pause it to read an email or text that comes in. When I'm composing a message to make plans, I have to leave the app to check the weather forecast. For the most part, I'm not able to do more than one thing at a time on a single screen.
That's starting to change with Android devices, though. Windows tablets do let you run multiple apps side by side, but Windows phones do not. The iPhone and iPad don't, either.
In this installment of A Closer Look, I assess some of the Android devices that offer limited multitasking. These approaches aren't as smooth as what I'm used to on Mac and Windows personal computers, but they are a start.
Samsung offers Multi-Window, which lets you see multiple apps running side by side on the screen. You're typically limited to two, though Samsung's 12.2-inch Pro tablets let you do as many as four. There's a slider you can use to control how much screen space each app takes.
Multi-Window works with only selected apps, though. You can use Samsung's Video or Google's Play Movies & TV app as one of the selections, but not Hulu or Netflix. Even so, the choices have gotten better since Samsung first made this feature available in 2012.
As much as I like this concept, I've rarely used it on my two-year-old Galaxy S III. It takes me longer to figure out which apps are supported than to simply grab another device and get what I need there.
Owners of Samsung's Note smartphones and tablets also get a second way to multitask. It's called Pen Window and gets activated when you use the stylus that comes with the device. You simply use the pen to draw a box in the screen. The box floats over the main app on the screen, and apps open inside the box. You can have several apps open at once, and you can temporarily set an app aside by minimizing it into a small dot.
Again, this only works with selected apps.
LG's G3 PHONE:
LG's latest smartphone, the G3, has a Dual Window feature. Just hold the back button and choose two apps to open side by side.