Android N: release date, news and rumors
Update: Someone has been searching through the Android N source code and has found a hint toward the Android Beta program opening up to other devices not made by Google. It may mean you get the latest software on your Samsung, Sony, LG, HTC or other OEM made device even sooner.
Android N is Google’s phone and tablet operating system update that’s been so thoroughly refined, the company is now more than halfway through the English alphabet.
The shocker is that the company isn’t announcing Android N at its Google IO 2016 conference in May. The reason behind this is it gives developers more time to tinker with the update, according to Google.
That’s fantastic news for anyone who is brave enough to update their phone, tablet or streaming box with the unfinished build. We did just that to tell the rest of you what’s inside.
Cut to the chaseWhat is it? The next version of Google’s mobile OS, Android NWhen is it out? Announced this month, but likely won’t launch until October*What will it cost? Free
*when – and if – you get it depends on what phone/tablet you own though
True multitasking support is finally arriving as expected, and it’s deservedly the highlight of Android N. You’re going to be able to open up two apps at once on your Nexus phone or tablet.
It’s a popular feature Samsung and LG phones have incorporated into their Android skins years ago, so it’s nice (and about time) Google is including the same functionality in its own software.
Working in two apps at once and being able to resize the windows on-the-fly is joined by the ability to view videos in a picture-in-picture mode. YouTube isn’t a waste of time if I’m also working, right?
Multi-window support could increase enterprise interest in Android tablets and the Pixel C. It’s a bet that Apple recently made when it launched a similar split-screen and picture-in-picture feature for iOS 9.
Direct Reply Notifications
You won’t have to navigate away from your current window (or, now, windows) just to answer an incoming message. You can just reply within the notification that appears at the top of the screen.
It worked well enough for the iPhone and iPad when the same idea made its debut with iOS 8 under the name Quick Reply. But Apple’s approach to messages worked strictly with its iMessage app.
Google is opening up Direct Reply Notifications beyond Hangouts, and that could mean popular apps like WhatsApp could take advantage of this convenient inline messaging feature.
New quick settings menu
Google is adding a new quick settings menu to the notifications shade you pull down from the top. It’s a lot like the one Samsung, LG and every other Android manufacturer seems to use.
Sure, Google stock Android software has had switches for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Airplane mode and so forth, but it required pulling the notifications bar down a second time to reveal the quick settings menu.
Now the quick settings toggles are here as soon as you gesture downward once to see notifications. The best news is that all of the buttons small and unobstructive. It leaves room for notifications to flourish.
Longtime Nexus users will also be happy to hear that the quick settings switches can be sorted to your liking, much like they can on other Android phones. You won’t need the System UI Tuner to meddle.
For example, I often use MiFi more than Airplane Mode, so Mobile Hotspot icon get promoted to be one of the five icons along the top of the initial quick settings on my Nexus 6P.
That little airplane icon is still there for my takeoff and landings needs, but it got the bump to the second swipe menu. Sorting is finally up to you, which is really what Android is all about.
Google’s not done with the way Android N changes notifications. It also announced that notification cards will be grouped together if they’re from the same app.
All messages from a specific messaging app, for example, are bundled together in the notification shade. These grouped alerts can then be expanded into individual notifications using a two-finger gesture or tapping the all-new expansion button.
This is basically the opposite of what Apple did in the jump from iOS 8 to iOS 9, switching from grouping them by app to lining them up chronologically. We’ll see which method works best this autumn.
Doze Mode 2.0
One of the (literal) sleeper hits of Android Marshmallow has been Doze Mode, Google’s crafty way of saving battery life whenever your device is stationary. It’s amounts to a deep standby mode.
Android N is going to step up the company’s energy-saving software techniques by expanding Doze Mode so that it thoroughly limits background tasks whenever the screen is turned off.
That’s ideal for throwing a phone in your pocket or your tablet in a backpack, and then retrieving it the next day or next week without having to recharge it right away. Your “I can’t even” face when you pick up your dead Nexus phone the next morning will be a thing of the past.
The Android N name
History has taught us that Android N is going to be named after a delicious treat, but Google hasn’t told us which one it is yet. It usually doesn’t confirm the full name until later in the year.
For now, we’re testing out the Developer Preview on a first-letter basis. It’s very informal. We also don’t exactly know if it’ll be Android 7.0 or not either. It’s currently unclear. Let’s not forget Google’s dabble with the number four with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, 4.1/2/3 Jelly Bean and 4.4 KitKat.
What will Google name Android N?Android N release date
The official Android N launch date is likely several months away, however, we fully expect to see a new Developer Preview and additional features when Google IO 2016 happens in May.
Google’s annual conference takes place May 18-20, 2016. But then there tends to be several months in between the IO announcement and when the new version of Android actually rolls out.
That means you probably won’t be able to download the final version before October – and even then it’s likely that only Nexus-branded phones and tablets will be able to install it that month.
What phones will get Android N?
If you’ve got a recent flagship phone, you should be in luck. Most phone and tablet makers try and push the software to phones and tablets that are less than two years old, but it may be quite a wait.
Samsung, Sony, LG and HTC are usually quite fast at getting the update to your phone, as is Motorola. Some other manufacturers can take a little while to release it though.
Each manufacturer can take time to tweak the updates. Take Android Marshmallow for example, some phones still don’t have the update, even though it’s been out for five month… five very long months, as February was 29 days long since it’s not a leap year.
If you want the latest software, it’s best to get a Nexus device, as the newest version of Android will always be pushed to that first. Newer Nexus owners are currently able to test out Developer Preview 1.
Google has stressed that the features involved in this alpha version of Android N are only the beginning. Expect to see more front-facing features at Google IO in May.
How we think Google should name Android NAndroid N: what we want to see
As we’re feeling generous, here at techradar we got together to think of what we’d like to see the new software do. Here’s everything we would like to see come to Google’s OS in Android N.
1. No more bloatware
Google has recently announced a change within the Android rule book. It means phone makers don’t have to include all the G branded apps as standard. Google Play Games, Google Play Books, Google+ and Google Newsstand now don’t need to be included on every phone you use.
Android N would be the perfect time to drop a few of the other less useful apps that Google doesn’t need to force on its owners. Do we all need Google Play Music waiting for us?
2. Faster updates
This is a hard one for Google, but when you look at how Android 6.0 Marshmallow has struggled to get onto phones it would be a worthwhile step. Google needs to streamline the process of getting the latest software onto Android devices.
How it does that, we’re not all that clear – but there must be a way it can make the process slightly simpler for OEM’s to take the latest software and squeeze it onto devices.
3. Real multi-tasking
This is one we’ve heard word of from Google already – but there’s no guarantee from the company that it’ll be launching on the next version of the software.
We’d like to see it come through as soon as possible though as putting this onto the Google Pixel C and upcoming tablets will make productivity tasks a lot easier.
4. Battery improvements
Android 6.0 Marshmallow had a big focus on improving the battery life of your phone with Doze, but the work isn’t done yet. We’d like to see that continue onto the next version of the software.
Google should be working on battery life until it gets to a standard where we can use our phones without having to worry about them dying after a day. Improvements to how the software runs should help the battery life and we’d love to see that come again in Android N.
5. Android Pay improvements
Android Pay is here now, but it’s not the best it can be yet. It’s not all over the world and we’d like to see Android N push the software to new markets. If you could use your phone to pay anywhere around the world, that’d be great.
Plus throwing in all your loyalty cards in a similar way to Apple’s Wallet would be a great step so we can really leave everything else at home.
6. Battery percentage
Surprisingly, you still can’t show off your battery percentage in the notification bar when using stock Android. If you’re able to do so on your phone, it’s just because the manufacturer has seen fit to add it in.
Pretty much all of them have now as well, so we’d like to see Android actually take on the feature itself. And this would be simple for Google to do.
7. A solid name
We want the sweet stuff – Android N needs a good name to make us excited every time it pops up in the over-the-air update box. Seeing something like Android Nutella pop up instead of the boring Android N title is always a good giggle.