Google unveils early, surprise preview of Android N

If you’ve been following Android N-related news over the last, little while, you’d have been forgiven for thinking that Google would only begin publicly talking about Android N in May, when it holds its I/O developer conference. Android N is the company’s codename for its Android mobile operating system’s upcoming release.

In a completely surprise move, however, Google preempted this expectation by throwing the development world a curveball. The company just announced the Android N Developer Preview months before anyone expected it to. Sweetening this news is the revelation that Google will also make this preview available as an over-the-air update.

There’s a method behind this madness: Google is interested in getting more feedback from developers earlier in the development process. In addition, it wants to ensure that Android N’s final release makes it into device manufacturers’ hands by this summer. This ambitious timetable necessitated this surprise announcement, according to Hiroshi Lockheimer, who is the company’s VP for Android, Chromecase and Chrome OS.

At the moment, there are five preview releases planned, with the final one dropping sometime in Q3 of this year. It’s vital to note that this preview will be continually updated as the months go by. Google wants to incorporate additional features over time, yet this preview is meant to spotlight just a few of the standout features of Android N.

Better notifications are one of those. In Android N, developers will note that direct reply notifications will enable them to let their users respond to incoming notifications directly from the notifications shade. If they want, developers may bundle same-app notifications, as well.

Another huge change is split-screen view, which is a first for Android. The apps that support this new feature are going to be able to work side-by-side with other apps on smartphones and tablets. Developers are permitted to establish the minimum allowable dimensions for apps. For the longest time, users have been clamoring for multi-windows support, so it’s gratifying to finally see Google acquiesce to these requests.

Even picture-in-picture is addressed in this preview. Video apps should be able to play in the corner on Android TV.

Then, there’s Doze, the feature Google recently introduced that lets devices go into a deep-slumber mode if a device has been stationary for a certain period of time. With Android N, Google takes this idea further still by letting Doze save more battery power when users turn off their screens.

Designers and developers who can’t wait to try this new preview release can try their luck with it when Google lets them sign up for its over-the-air update. That should happen fairly soon. Here’s the catch: They have to own a Nexus device.

The preview release is available only for Nexus 9, Nexus Player, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6, Nexus 6P and Pixel C devices.

Eager developers have to remember that this release will showcase only a few features, with more features to be added in subsequent releases as the months go by.

Marc’s a copywriter who covers design news for Web Designer Depot. Find out more about him at marcschenkercopywriter.com. More articles by Marc Schenker
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