Multitasking in iOS 9

Multitasking in iOS 9

iOS 9 released on 16th September 2015 came up with several new exciting features. One of these features is the support for multitasking that enables the use of two apps simultaneously side by side. This feature is however limited to a few versions of iPad.

There are three different ways to multitask in iOS 9 available on various iPad models:

  • Slide Over: View of a secondary app slides in from the right, overlaying the current app, invoked by the user.
  • Split View: Displays two apps side by side, allowing the user to view, resize and interact with both of them simultaneously.
  • Picture in Picture: Displays a video playing in a moveable, resizable floating view.


Slide Over

Swiping left from right edge of iPad opens up a panel consisting of apps that support multitasking. Select an app, and it will open up in slide over view. To open another app, swipe down from the top of this panel to get the list of apps again.

Slide over is not a complete multitasking experience as the user cannot interact with both apps at the same time, the slide over app comes in the front overlaying the fullscreen app. In this mode the fullscreen app is called the primary app and the selected slide over app is called the secondary app.

Slide over is available on iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, iPad Air, iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 3, iPad Mini 4.


Split View

Pulling the slide over view divider further to the left will activate the split view on iPad Pro, iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 4. This will display the two apps side by side splitting the screen in two, enabling the user to interact independently with both the apps simultaneously. The dividing bar can be dragged to resize the views of the two apps.

In Split view, the left side app (in a left-to-right language version of iOS) is called the primary and the right side app is called the secondary app.


Picture in Picture

Picture in Picture allows the user to watch a video or participate in Facetime video calls while using other apps.

To activate this mode on Facetime call or while watching a video, press the picture in picture button on the video control panel as depicted below.

This will minimize the video to a small floating window, which can be moved around and resized. Press Home button to go to the apps drawer and open up any other app. Use any app along with watching video or carry on with Facetime call.

This feature is available on iPad Pro, iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad mini 2,3 and 4.


Adding Multitasking Support to App

Apple provides a very easy way to add multitasking capability to any app. Any new app created with Xcode 7 or above has support for multi tasking.

In order to add multitasking support to existing app made on older iOS version, these configuration steps need to be followed:

  • Build the app with iOS 9 SDK i.e. set the Base SDK to the latest iOS.
  • Support all orientations (portrait, upside down, landscape left, landscape right) in the project’s Info.plist file, in the “Supported interface orientation (iPad)” section
  • Provide Launch.storyboard file (instead of a .png image file used in earlier versions of iOS) as described here.

By doing above steps, the app will start appearing in the list of apps with multitasking support.

NOTE: If you don’t want your app to support multitasking Split View and Slide Over, explicitly add UIRequiresFullScreen key to your Xcode project’s Info.plist file with the Boolean YES. This can be done from the property list editor or in the General> Deployment info area in the target editor.


Updating Interface

Supporting multitasking is easier part, more challenging part is to make your app adapt to different split screen sizes. For this, autolayout and size classes come into action. These two technologies together can make the app adapt to different screen sizes dynamically as the user controls the size by rotating the iPad or dragging the divider while using Split View screen.

Ipad has regular size class in both landscape and portrait mode. However with the introduction of split view, this changes significantly as depicted in the following.

In Slide Over and Split View both the primary and secondary apps run in the foreground. However only the primary app:

  • Owns the status bar
  • Can participate in Picture in Picture automatic invocation
  • Can take up more than half the screen i.e. two third of the screen in landscape orientation allowing it to use the Regular horizontal size class with Split View. The secondary app can take at most half the screen in landscape and can only use Compact horizontal size class.
  • Is eligible to work with second physical screen.

To learn more about multitasking in iOS 9 watch the WWDC 2015 video Getting Started with Multitasking on iOS 9.
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