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Android N: What's new in the developer preview, what's still to come

Derek Walter | March 18, 2016
There’s a lot to like in the first developer preview, and plenty more still to come.

Android N is the smartphone equivalent of a Russian nesting doll. Google has built in a lot of interdependent features in the preview version of its next major operating system update. Changes to notifications, a new split-screen multitasking feature, and other tweaks build on one another and show how the operation system may grow to be more fluid and useful.

There’s plenty to find, and given that this is just the first developer release, there’s still time for more to show up, particularly with so many rumors roaming around about the app drawer going away or deeper support for virtual reality. Here are the marquee features and how they factor in to Google’s evolving vision for Android.

Google lays out the roadmap

Google says there will be five preview updates before the final release. You can track them at the Program Overview site, which says you can expect about four to six weeks between updates. A final release is planned for the third quarter of the year, though we can expect to hear a lot more about other changes and update plans at Google I/O in May.

It’s very easy to get Android N: you just have to go to the Android N beta site and sign up with an eligible device (Nexus 6P, 5X, 6, 9, Pixel C, or Nexus Player).

It’s preview software, so know what you’re getting into: Apps frequently crash, the network connection dies, and Android Pay doesn’t work. Don’t put it on your daily driver unless you’re ready for some major headaches.

If you do install the Android N preview and decide it isn’t for you, all you have to do is head back to Google’s beta hub and un-enroll your device. You’ll then get an update that sends you back to the safety of Marshmallow. Just know that you’ll be starting over from scratch with a fresh install.

Smarter Settings

One standout feature that should have big benefits are changes to the Quick Settings and Notification Center.  

With N, swiping down reveals five quick options available with a single tap.

Yes, no need to swipe down with two fingers or swipe and tap just to turn off the Wi-Fi, launch the flashlight, or enable Do Not Disturb mode. Then if you swipe to the right and touch Edit, you can change up the placement of the buttons and add in extra commands like Hotspot, Invert colors, and Data Saver. 

You also may have noticed there’s a native Night mode, which kills off the blue light that is detrimental to sleep. You can adjust the light configuration in the System UI Tuner

The Settings also have been made over, with a very useful slide-out menu and additional information available at-a-glance for the different settings.

 

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