Seemingly out of the blue, Google on Wednesday released a developer preview of Android N, the company’s next major update to Android. We still don’t know what the final name will be—Android Nutella?—or even when it’ll be available in its final form. We do, however, know many of the big features Google is working on.
Note: This is early developer software and not meant to be used as a daily driver, so if you decide to run Android N on your main device, know that there could be issues. If you do decide to take Android N for a spin, you can sign up for the beta program, which will update your device over-the-air. Yes, similar to what Apple offers with iOS.
We already did a Top 5 post for some of our favorites features found in Android N, so check that out if you haven’t. Here we’ll talk about what it’s like using these new additions, and what you can expect going forward. Google typically talks about big software updates at Google I/O, which isn’t until May, so we’re getting a pretty big head start this year. I wonder what else Google will talk about when the event rolls around?
Probably Android N’s biggest feature, one people have been begging Google to add, is multi-window support. Similar to what’s available in iOS, Android N now enables two apps to run side by side, which is perfect for devices such as the Pixel C; but don’t worry, it runs on phones, too. The execution is a little wonky right now but that’s to be expected.
When you’re in the multi-tasking screen, simply press and hold on the top of an app, and snap it to the side you want. Snap another app and you’ve got true multi-window support. To be fair, this has been available on Samsung devices for ages now. In fact, we actually prefer Samsung’s implementation at the moment, but, again, this is early days for Android N.
Next, Google has tweaked Android’s notification shade, which we learned about in an earlier leak. Cards now look different, spanning the entire screen and emphasizing hero images and avatars for a more visual look. You’ll also notice that notifications are bundled; email, for example, can be bundled under a Gmail notification, which can then be expanded. You can also reply directly thanks to inline replies, making it easier to quickly respond to email and messages.
Quick settings also appear when the notification shade is pulled down, similar to what you might find in Samsung’s Android skin. We have mixed feelings about this one here in the office; some of us like it, some of us don’t. I think it’s a nice addition, and doesn’t look too obtrusive. Of course, you can always access the entire quick settings pane, which still exists with another pull-down.
The quick settings panel is a little different this year, however. It’s now paginated, which means the ones you don’t use often are still a swipe away. And if you’re unhappy with the quick settings that are on the first page, you can always drag and drop them to your liking.
Speaking of settings, Night Mode has once again reared its head though it’s unclear if Google will actually stick it in the consumer release. We saw the feature in previews of Android Marshmallow last year but Google ultimately decided not to include it in the final release. There are some other great features that can be tweaked right from the System UI Tuner. For example, you can set what icons show up in the status bar, allowing users to make it look as crowded or bare as they want. Thumbs up to that feature.
Overall, the first Android N preview runs well for being so early in development. Of course, you can’t expect this to be your daily OS but it’s still nice to see what Google has planned for Android users in the future. Of course, if you want to ensure you get the update as soon as possible, you need to own a Nexus device.
There are many, many other features, which Google highlighted at its Android Developers portal. Things like Data Saver mode, number-blocking, the ability to record and playback content from Android TV, accessibility enhancements, Doze improvements, and call screening. We’ll continue to dig through the preview and report back with anything of importance. There’s a lot to mull over and you can see it all in action in the video above.