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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.

In general it’s easier to get around as there aren’t as many horizontal bars that divide up the content. The organization through the slide-out menu also makes it easier to find what you need, though Google has also kept the search option that’s launched from the magnifying glass icon.

Subtle, but welcome, Notifications changes

The Notifications got a very welcome redesign that at first glance may seem like they’ve been blended together compared to the old configuration. But when you look more closely you’ll see there’s some reorganization and a different use of icons and colored font. 

Android N better groups notifications together with a smoother animation and more details in each notification. Some Google apps are already taking advantage of all the options (such as the Play Store and Hangouts), though it may be a long while before this capability shows up with other apps. 

You can also swipe gently to the left or right on a notification to bring up a menu that will change the frequency of such notifications.

It’s a good move for more user control. That’s the overall theme, and there’s bound to be more as Android N gets additional fixes and features.

Some efficiency tweaks to speed up multitasking

Your productivity is about to get a big boost with split-screen mode. Yes, no more envy at Samsung Galaxy owners who have had this feature for years. It’s super simple to use: just hold down the Overview button (the square one) and scroll through the available apps. Of course, not all of them support this feature yet. You’ll just get kicked back to the first app if you try to add in another that isn’t supported.

But try it with Gmail and Chrome if you want to experience the newness.

You’re also able to customize this behavior: the System UI Tuner lets you enable a swipe-up gesture to launch into split screen if you’d rather do that than hold down the button.

Here’s another that’s a huge life-changer: double-tapping the Recents button now takes you directly into the last app you were using. This sounds like no big deal, but I have to tell you it dramatically changed the way I used my phone. Clearly when most people hop to another app, it’s to go back and forth between the two apps they were most recently using. 

Multitasking in general is a little smoother. When you first launch this you’ll see nearly a full preview of the last app you used while the current one sinks to the bottom of the screen.

The scrolling feels faster and you have more visibility of previous apps. However, the Google search menu is gone. This could be a temporary change, as it’s hard to imagine Google taking away any chance for you to hop into a Google search.

 

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