With the almost spontaneous announcement of Android N Developer Preview, Google has taken everyone by surprise. The preview gives us a fair idea of what Android 7.0 would eventually feel like when it officially arrives later this year. Yes, there may be a handful of features in developer reviews that may not make it to final release, but still there’s a lot to be excited about. The preview being dropped in an entire month and a half ahead of Google’s annual I/O developer conference indicates that big things are being worked upon, even though they aren’t entirely apparent in the beginning. There are a number of things going into this major release. Device factory images, open-source code drops, new APIs for the developers and minute features for small subset of devices. There’s definitely a lot to take in there. Read on to have explained it all.
What is Android N and when will it be released?
With every major release of Android, there is a nickname and a version number. After KitKat, Lollipop and Marshmallow, “N” is next alphabet and with respect to version number, Android 7.x can be a pretty good guess. However, we do have a fair idea for when we can actually see Android N being released. We can expect a total of five preview builds in all, with the last public release to come in third quarter of 2016, which lines up with all the previous releases that have taken place between October and December.
From the looks of it, Android N is a lot of change. Bringing down this major Android release to just a single acronym would justify the word APIs, short for Application Program Interface that allows apps to do everything. There are tons of new things coming up in Android N, and following are the anticipated features that we have gotten a taste of thus far.
This is one big thing that almost everyone has been waiting for, multiple window support meaning that two apps can run side-by-side on a single display. Compatible apps can open up together in Android N and they can get resized with the help of one movable slider. Text can be dragged and dropped between the split screen windows and by dragging the slider you can go full screen. Developers may set some minimum size for the app windows; however users are going to have an almost similar multitasking experience of what is already there on most OEM devices. Also there is a picture-in-picture feature for Android TV which works just similar to the minimized video feature in YouTube.
Enhanced doze mode:
This new feature of Marshmallow that has already become everyone’s favorite has also been improvised in Android N. There will now be a two tier system, where the first one operates when your screen is off for quite some time, irrespective of whether your phone has been stationary or not. The second layer works in a manner that when your device has been lying still, it enters into a deep hibernating mode, deferring network and any other activities until a widely spaced out maintenance windows and then slipping to sleep once again.
Freeform window mode:
Since it’s not officially part of developer preview, it may not arrive until another six months. This feature would allow multiple apps to be launched at the same time, resized and moved around the screen, howsoever you like. Also drag and drop of text is supported in this mode.
New settings menu:
Android N will be delivering a restructured settings menu which includes changes like addition of suggestions drop-down section and removal of individual section dividers, the best feature being that you can see the basic details of every section in main settings menu. It’s obviously a time saving idea and should have been launched much before. Notifications and sounds have also been given their dedicated sections, unlike Marshmallow.
Change display size:
Android N allows changing the display size of your devices, as and when desired. Slide the slider in Display size settings to modify the size of your screen content.
Faster app optimization:
Talking of Lolipop and KitKat, in its first boot, the Android Runtime optimizes all applications using Ahead of Time compilation. But things have changed in Android N again. Rather than during the first boot, applications are now compiled Just In Time when you launch them for the first time and stored in memory to aid faster launch the next time.
Dark mode returns:
The dark mode was removed from Android M preview builds and since then, everyone has been waiting eagerly to see its return. The wait has been worth though, since not only there is a dark system theme, but there have been addition of some new cool features also such as tint control for controlling the blue light amount in your display. Night mode may be automatically enabled during the day as well as there is one automatic brightness reduction option also.
Place emergency info upon your lock screen. This new setting allows you to place a link to all your emergency info like your name, address, blood type, allergies and any other essential info that might be required in case you are in an accident or unable to communicate.
How to install the Android N developer preview?
For devices including Nexus 6P, Nexus 6, Nexus Player, Nexus 9, Nexus 5X and Pixel C, the Android N developer preview is available to download in the form of factory images. Take a full back up of your smartphone if you are planning on installing since there may be bugs at this stage. However before proceeding with the installation of the developer preview, users may be warned that this operating system version isn’t yet ready as a daily driver for consumers and it is primarily meant for only the developers.
Ensure that you have the latest Android Studio preview installed on your system. This program runs on your system helping to connect your Android device through Micro USB cable and then flash the new build on your device. Download the right factory image for your device, extract them and save it on your computer. Connect your Android device to your computer and start it in fastboot mode. Navigate to unzipped system image directory and execute “flash-all.bat” This will unzip image files and then install all the necessary boot loader, operating system and baseband firmware. This may take some time along with several reboots. After its done, you will have Android N developer preview installed on your device.
Which phones would be compatible with Android N?
You should be in luck if you have got a recent flagship phone. Most tablet and phone makes may try and push the new software to devices less than two years old, though it may be a long wait. Sony, LG, HTC and Samsung are usually fast at getting the updates, and so is Motorola. Other manufacturers may take a little while for release though. All manufactures will take time to tweak the updates. For the latest software, you can go for a Nexus device, since the newest version would be pushed to it first. Currently, Nexus owners are also able to test Developer Preview.