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Hands on: What's new and noteworthy with Android N

JR Raphael | May 27, 2016
A detailed look at the most meaningful changes coming to Android via this year's yet-to-be-named N release.

Alternatively, you can fire up multi-window mode by tapping the Overview key once from anywhere in the system -- then touching and holding any card in your recently used apps list and dragging it onto the top part of the screen. You can even arrange two Chrome tabs together, if you want.

If you're anything like me, multi-window mode isn't something you'll use all the time -- but it is something that can come in handy once in a while, like when you want to glance at an email while editing a document or send a text message while continuing to watch a video on YouTube.

Fast app switching

Something I've been enjoying even more than multi-window mode is the new fast app-switching feature available in Android N. You can think of it as Alt-Tab for Android: When you want to jump back and forth between two apps in a snap, you just double-tap the Overview key -- and almost instantly, Android zaps you back to the last app you had open.

It makes for a much more efficient way of hopping between processes. Once you get used to it, you'll wonder how you ever got along before.

An improved Overview

For times when hopping alone won't suffice, you'll still want to use Android's full Overview interface -- and with the N release, that part of the platform gets some much-needed polish.

03 android n overview
Android N offers a new command to clear away all the cards in the Overview list and start fresh. 

As of the most recent preview, Android N limits the number of items in the Overview list, so that you see only cards from the last seven apps you've had open. That's a huge improvement from the previous mess of a setup, where dozens upon dozens of cards would stack up and make the function more overwhelming than useful.

In addition to the inherently decluttered view, Android N offers a new command to clear away all the cards in the Overview list and start fresh. All in all, it's a much improved user experience that makes getting around Android even easier.

Better notifications

Android's notifications are getting better thanks to a refined interface introduced in Android N. Multiple alerts from a single app are now bundled together into a single expandable card -- so if, for instance, you received three new messages in Gmail, you'll see a single card in your notification panel with an overview of that info. Tapping the card will then fan it out into individual mini-cards with more detailed info on each message, and tapping any one of those mini-cards will expand it and allow you to perform message-specific actions like archiving.


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