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Android N at Google I/O: No new features announced, so Google turned to name-calling

Ian Paul | May 19, 2016
The "N" can stand for NiceBerries, but only if you want it to.

Google was so busy creating a WhatsApp rival and a chatbot on steroids that it didn’t have any new Android N features to share with us during Wednesday morning’s Google I/O keynote. Instead, the company decided to introduce the first “beta-quality” build of the new mobile operating system. Plus, Google wants your input on what Android N should be named when it rolls out later this summer.

“Often the hardest part of creating an Android release is coming up with the name,” said Android engineering chief Dave Burke during the keynote. “And I have no idea why, but this year the ‘N’ dessert name is proving trickier than all of the others.”

Instead of racking their brains, or looking for another corporate partner, Google wants to crowdsource this year’s Android title. If you think you’ve got a good one, head over to and submit your idea.

In addition to naming the release, anyone with a Nexus 5X, 6, 6P, 9, or Pixel C can visit to join up to get the latest beta build of Android N as an over-the-air update. Be warned, however, that beta builds tend to be unstable. Even though Google says this build of Android N is fairly stable, remember that it’s still a beta—and you may regret installing it on your primary phone.

The Big Stuff

While nothing particularly new showed up during the Android N introduction at Google I/O, the company did spend some time highlighting the OS. This year’s Android release is all about three main categories: performance, security, and productivity.

We’ve already seen the productivity features in earlier developer previews, but here’s what Google is most excited about: Android N is going to change the way the “recents” button (the square) works to help make using your device more efficient. Instead of showing you what feels like an endless stream of recently used apps, Google will cut it down to around seven. Burke says the company’s research discovered that’s about as far back as most users are willing to go.

The “recents” button also has a new feature called Quick Switch. When you double-tap that square, Android will automatically switch back to the previously used app. This will allow you to move between apps rapidly, like when you’re consulting your calendar while on a phone call.

Google also showed off its split-screen window feature for phones and tablets, and the picture-in-picture mode for Android TV. There was also a brief look at the new notifications functionality that lets you reply to messages inside the notifications window shade.


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