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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.

04 android n notifications
Left: The initial "bundled" view of multiple notifications from a single app. Right: The fully expanded view with detailed message info and actions. 

Android N also makes it possible to reply to a notification right from the notification panel -- something certain apps allowed via workarounds in the past but that can now be accomplished far more easily and consistently. With Hangouts, for example, tapping the Reply button within a notification causes the notification to expand downward and a text window to appear inside it. You can then type your response and send it without ever switching apps or stopping whatever else you were doing -- a cleverly implemented convenience that quickly becomes invaluable.

More satisfying Quick Settings

Speaking of accomplishing things without interruptions, Android's Quick Settings feature gets some significant new polish with the N release.

First of all, a scaled-down version of your Quick Settings now appears when you first pull down the notification panel -- a major improvement from previous versions of Android, which utilized nearly the same amount of space to display only the time, date and a few function-free icons. With Android N, that area holds six functional shortcuts for tasks like toggling your device's Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or do-not-disturb mode.

05 android n quick settings
Left: The scaled-down version of Quick Settings. Right: The fully expanded panel.

When you swipe down on the panel a second time (or swipe down once with two fingers, if you prefer), it expands to show a series of tiles that give you access to a broader and more versatile range of commonly used functions. These tiles allow you to perform more intricate actions -- like connecting to a specific Wi-Fi network or viewing detailed battery usage info -- without ever exiting the Quick Settings pull-down.

The tiles are now customizable, too: You can add and remove items and place them in any order you like. And whichever tiles you place into the first five spots appear in the scaled-down version of Quick Settings described above -- an extremely useful bit of personalization potential.

Spruced up system settings

Android's full system settings also get a fresh coat of paint in Android N. It's nothing transformational, but you'll notice some subtle improvements -- such as a new Suggestions section at the top that tries to predict what you're looking for and make it easy to find, or the fact that the main settings screen now shows extra nuggets of info under each primary option (like your current ringer volume level under the Sound heading, for instance, or how much of your device's storage is available under Storage).


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