Android 9 was released more than 7 months ago, and despite its ploddingly slow pace of adoption, an increasing number of devices have rolled out support for the operating system.
This operating system has become ubiquitous across major flagship devices such as Huawei’s P Series and Samsung’s Galaxy S and Note lineups, although these manufacturers run their own EMUI and One UI interfaces over the core OS.
However, some devices from manufacturers like Nokia provide a version of the Android 9 operating system which is closer to the stock Google variety, and subsequently receive OS updates faster than their competitors.
Android 9 offers a number of improvements compared to the previous-generation operating system, from gesture controls to improved battery life.
However, there are also more hidden features which might not be spotted easily by everyday users, and these can make a big difference to productivity and security.
Some of these features are refined functions carried over from previous iterations of Android, while others are completely new and exclusive to Android 9.
Below are five of the best hidden features in Android 9.
Split Screen and PIP
While it is perhaps the least secret feature on this list, many Android smartphone users may not realise that Android 9 includes native support for split screen apps.
This allows users to multitask by running two apps simultaneously in the foreground of the operating system.
Activating this feature has also been improved since it was first introduced in Android 8, and users can now toggle split screen by tapping app icons in the navigation screen.
While not all applications support split screen functionality, many popular apps are able to be used in this configuration – including YouTube, WhatsApp, Google Chrome, and Gmail.
Android 9 also includes picture-in-picture support for certain applications, allowing you to continue watching or interacting with an app after minimising it.
This can be enabled on a per-app basis in your smartphone’s App Settings menu.
Applications which support picture-in-picture functionality include Google Maps, YouTube, and Netflix.
A new option introduced in Android 9 is the ability to “pin” windows to prevent navigating to other apps or the home screen.
This is extremely useful when passing your phone to a friend or a colleague to show them something while keeping the rest of your data secure.
This feature is controlled differently depending on which device you are using, but on standard Android 9 systems it can be turned on via the Security settings menu.
Once enabled, users can open an app they want to pin and press the square navigation button to enter the Recent Apps view.
From here, they can simply tap on the app’s icon to pin the window, removing the ability to navigate away from that application.
Unpinning an app can be done by holding the Back and Home button together, after which your device will be instantly locked and the app will be unpinned.
Like previous versions of Android, Android 9 devices include a hidden Developer Options menu which can be enabled through the Software Information screen.
It should be noted that the Developer Options menu contains settings which could cause some issues with your device if you are not careful.
Developer Options can be enabled by navigating to the About Phone section of your Settings app and finding the “Build Number” specification.
Tapping incessantly on this text will result in a pop-up which states that you are a number of taps away from being a developer.
Continuing to tap on the Build Number text will enable the Developer Options menu within the Settings app.
Within this menu, users can find everything from an overview of running processes and an OEM unlocking toggle, to Night Mode settings and the options to show taps and pointer locations.
Fast app switching
This feature has been available in multiple previous versions of Android, although many users still do not realise it exists.
When switching between two apps, you do not need to open the Recents pane and select the other app individually.
Instead, you can simply double-tap the square navigation key to quickly switch back to the last app that was open on your device.
This allows you to quickly and easily switch between a pair of apps without the need to continually select which app you would like to switch to.
If you are using gesture navigation in Android 9, you can quickly swipe the pill button to the side to achieve the same result.
Android 9 includes a special “Lockdown Mode” as an added security feature.
This functionality is disabled by default, but it can be enabled by navigating to the Lock Screen menu in your device settings.
Lockdown Mode adds the ability to quickly disable all biometric authentication, requiring a passcode to unlock the device.
Once enabled in Android 9, Lockdown Mode can be activated by simply holding the power button and selecting the Lockdown option.
It should be noted that this option is only available once the feature has been enabled from your device’s settings menu.