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Start your downloads: Google launches its Android N developer preview

Florence Ion | March 10, 2016
The build is less complete and released earlier than in the past, all in an effort to help developers and device makers get updates out sooner.

If you’re a diehard Android fan, the leaks and rumors making the rounds about what’s in the next version of Android can be serious torture.

Fortunately for you, you won’t have to endure any of that much longer. Today, Google announced that it’s seeding the Android N developer preview much earlier than it usually does—it’s so early, it’s practically alpha. Or, as David Burke, Vice President of Android Engineering at Google joked, “Parts of the engine are still on the floor.” Proceed at your own risk.

In the past, Google has typically waited until hours after the Google I/O keynote to release the first version of a new preview build of Android. This year, it’s launching it before anyone has even secured their badges for the annual conference. “The reason we’re doing this is kind of two-fold, for two different audiences,” explained Burke. “For app developers, we just want to get it to them early so that we have time to incorporate their feedback.

And for device makers, the idea is that we’re making source code available much earlier…to work in parallel, so that they have a shot to get new devices on the shelf.” Hopefully this means we’ll see faster software updates for Android’s device partners. There’s nothing worse than waiting for the latest version of Android six months after its release.

Along with the developer preview, Google has also provided a glimpse at some of the new features inside Android N. Here’s some of what to expect.

Multi-window support

Google kept its promise and Multi-window support is officially a part of Android N for both smartphones and tablets. We’ve only got a screenshot so far, but it looks as though the feature works somewhat similarly to the way that Samsung’s TouchWiz interface implements it. Developers can also drop in a bit of code to specify the screen’s minimum allowed dimensions, so that you can’t make the window too small and distort the original app interface.

Better notifications

Android N lets developers pipe in a bit of code that groups together notifications from the same app so that you’re not constantly faced with a cluttered notifications shade. “Over half of notifications are messaging notifications, so what we wanted to do is optimize for that use case,” said Burke. Google also gave developers of messaging applications the ability to utilize the same direct reply functionality recently added to Hangouts. The feature allows you to reply to a message from within the Notification shade so that you’re not constantly switching between applications.

Speaking of which, if you do happen to leave the application you were in to type out a lengthy reply in another one, Android N lets you double-tap the Recents button to return the app you were in previously. “It’s one of these simple things that just changed my life,” said Burke. “Let’s just say you’re in Facebook or something and you press Home, but you wanted to jump back into Facebook, you don’t have to go hunt for the icon.”

 

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