Android is one of the most-loved operating systems worldwide and I know that I don’t need to tell you that. There are over 1.4 billion Android users worldwide. Now that’s a lot!
Although it is one of the most used mobile operating systems out there, it doesn’t mean all’s well. The ubiquity of Android means that it is pretty accountable to all the people that it serves, so it constantly needs to bring out new features to be the best it can.
Oh, and it also needs to bring around those security features every once in a while. So, it’s a pretty big deal.
Android updates are always a tad bit hyped and it certainly lives up to it. Why would it not?
It’s the next generation of software that powers our devices allowing us to do much, much more.
This time around, it’s time for Android N, and is all set to be unveiled at Google’s I/O conference 2016. So, what do we know about Android N so far?
Well, Google likes to release developer previews of that version for select devices, and we’re pretty sure that most of the good stuff found in that firmware are set to be used in the final version.
So far, 2 developer previews have been released for the Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6, Pixel C, Nexus Player and the Nexus 9. So, if you have one of these devices, you’ll probably receive the update over the air if you’re signed up for the Android Beta program.
If you’re not signed up, you can always download the ROM manually and flash it on your device.
One thing that is not so significant but always keeps Android fans on their toes about the next big thing is..
What’s in a name, anyway?
Well, for Android’s next update, it doesn’t actually mean much.
You see, since its debut in 2007, almost a decade ago, Android has been released with different names, alphabetically. All the way from Alpha to Marshmallow, Google has stuck with names that are popular desserts which makes it kinda easier to know where the names are based from. So, it’s kind of interesting to predict what the next name will be.
This year’s Android letter is N, so, it wasn’t long before fans all over the internet started churning out every possibility of what the N could stand for all the way from Nougat to Nutella to Nerds.
Most people are hinting towards Nutella, and that still seems to be the popular option among consumers. So, expect Android Nutella soon, but, as always, no promises.
So, what’s new?
As mentioned previously, we’ve had 2 developer previews, and the most recent one gives a really clear picture of what Android can possibly offer this time around.
This seems to be the biggest and most prominent feature of Android N yet, and one that users have been craving for a really long time: split-screen support.
This grants you the ability to run 2 applications at the same time. Google kinda wanted to integrate this feature long back in Android Marshmallow, since this feature was present in the Android M developer previews.
However, Google seems to have perfected it, and we’ll probably be seeing this in action in the final preview. But still, keep your fingers crossed.
Some OEM skins already have this feature, so it’s up to Google to integrate this feature for all their devices.
However, most application developers have to optimize their applications to effectively use this feature.
This does not count as one single feature, but as an all round improvement of Android’s notification system. First off, the notification panel that we’ve all grown to love, has been resigned.
All of the elements in the notification panel are now flush with it, and are distinct too. There is also a button that pulls down the rest of the panel, which is a nice addition.
But, the most interesting feature of the redesigned notification panel (for me, at least), is the ability to take action on the notifications without leaving any application that you’re currently using.
What I mean is that you can respond to texts, emails, and do a lot more directly from the panel itself, which is a sweet addition.
Also, the notifications now have a stack design, which saves a bit more of that precious display real estate. Plus, it looks cool as well.
You also have the ability to assign each application a degree of importance, so the more important notifications are preceded by the less important ones. There are various levels of importance, starting from blocked and min. importance, which goes all the way to high and urgent importance.
However, to access these settings, you have to enable system tuner UI from developer settings. Albeit, this is only done in the developer preview, We can all hope this becomes easier in the final release.
You all know Doze, right?
That super cool feature in Android Marshmallow that allowed you to save a ton of battery life?
Well, it just became better.
Essentially, Doze just cuts down on everything it can once it detects that the screen is off and there is no movement. It does this by utilizing the smartphone’s gyroscope.
However, that was how Doze worked in Marshmallow, and it only kicked in once your smartphone detected no movement. But, this all changes in Android N.
Google says that this time around, Doze will kick in whenever your screen turns off. However, we still don’t know if this will hinder application usability or not. But, it’ll still save a lot of that battery life.
3D touch/Force Touch was first introduced in the iPhone 6S. However, it was present since the Mate S from Huawei.
Basically, it is just technology which is integrated into the display panel of the smartphone that allows it to detect changes in pressure. In iOS, you can use it for a variety of different functions. You can get more options for your applications by force touching it right on your homescreen, which saves a lot of time in the long run.
This functionality will also be coming to Android N to the devices which support the hardware, obviously.
Better settings menu
And finally, Android N will also feature a better setting menu. This really improves upon functionality in the settings menu, at the least.
The settings menu is a culmination of various menus, so it can pose quite a hindrance. However, this all changes with Android N.
In Android, an element present in various applications is the hamburger menu button, which is essentially the 3 dots you see for more options.
This button has also been integrated into the settings application, which allows you to jump through different menus far more quickly than before.
This feature is quite convenient, and also is less time consuming.
So, when’s Android N coming our way?
Well, the developer preview is already here. But, when is Android N’s final version coming.
Google tends to always announce its next big Android update at the annual Google I/O conference. This time, it’s on the 18th of May. So expect the big unveiling then.
As for the release date, it’ll probably be coming around the time the Nexus smartphones are released, which means, early September to October.
Other manufactures will get their hands on Android N around 6 months later.
So, to answer the titular question, we know quite a lot about Android N already, and it has managed to nail all the small elements while effectively adding the big features, and that makes all the difference.