We’re not sure whether Google likes to keep people on their toes or just doesn’t care for sticking to the plan! But either way, the important thing is rather than waiting for Google I/O 2016, which we expected to reveal the Android N Developer Preview during its usual summer spot, Google has gone ahead and unwrapped said dev build on March 9.
The firm’s VP of Engineering, Dave Burke, wrote in a blog post that the released build was “still in active development” and a “work in progress” likely hinting that much is still subject to change and this is nowhere near the final product – don’t expect it to be too polished, in other words. Allegedly, however, the choice to release the build early was to allow Google to have a longer period of developer feedback, potentially allowing it to be “incorporated” during the development.
Meanwhile, Google’s senior VP of Android, Chromecast and Chrome OS, Hiroshi Lockheimer, said in a separate post that Google will “hand off” the final Android N build to OEMs during the summer, just following Google I/O 2016, which begins May 22 – on the whole it’s looking like Google’s whole process has been rolled forward a few months over previous years.
Google also revealed the Android Beta Program, which allows you to sign up to receive pre-release builds pushed over-the-air to a compatible device. In case you were wondering, that includes the Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6, Nexus 9, Nexus Player, and Pixel C (no Nexus 5 or Nexus 4?). This is currently intended for developers, but Google says it will enable a consumer-facing beta program nearer to the full launch – but with that said you can still get involved in the beta in a couple of ways. We’ll explain how further on in this article.
And what’s new in Android N? Well here’s some of the choicest morsels from Google’s reveal so far…
Users can now open two apps on the screen at once.
- On phones and tablets running Android N, users can run two apps side-by-side or one-above-the-other in splitscreen mode. Users can resize the apps by dragging the divider between them.
- On Android TV devices, apps can put themselves in picture-in-picture mode, allowing them to continue showing content while the user browses or interacts with other apps. See below for more information.
Google has redesigned notifications to make them easier and faster to use. Some of the changes include:
- Template updates: Updated notification templates to put a new emphasis on hero image and avatar. Developers will be able to take advantage of the new templates with minimal adjustments in their code.
- Bundled notifications: The system can group messages together, for example by message topic, and display the group. A user can take actions, such as Dismiss or Archive, on them in place. If you’ve implemented notifications for Android Wear, you’ll already be familiar with this model. with this model.
- Direct reply: For real-time communication apps, the Android system supports inline replies so that users can quickly respond to an SMS or text message directly within the notification interface.
- Custom views: Two new APIs enable you to leverage system decorations, such as notification headers and actions, when using custom views in notifications.
Quick Settings Tiles
Google has updated the Quick Settings Tiles, there’s now more room for extra tiles, which users can access across a paginated display area by swiping left or right. It has also given users control over which tiles appear and where they are displayed — users can add or move tiles just by dragging and dropping them.
With Android N there is a new Data Saver mode, designed to “reduce cellular data use by apps, whether roaming, near the end of the billing cycle, or on a small prepaid data pack.”
“Data Saver gives users control over how apps use cellular data and lets developers provide more efficient service when Data Saver is on.”
“When a user enables Data Saver in Settings and the device is on a metered network, the system blocks background data usage and signals apps to use less data in the foreground wherever possible — such as by limiting bit rate for streaming.”
Optimisations: Project Svelte
Previously we had “Doze” and “Project Butter”, and now there’s “Project Svelte”. Svelte is an “ongoing effort to minimize RAM use by system and apps across the range of Android devices in the ecosystem.” It is, essentially, a big push to optimise Android’s running efficiency even further.
“In Android N, Project Svelte is focused on optimizing the way apps run in the background.”
“Background processing is an essential part of most apps. When handled right, it can make your user experience amazing — immediate, fast, and context-aware. When not handled right, background processing can needlessly consume RAM (and battery) and affect system performance for other apps.”
Doze arrived in Android Marshmallow to improve battery performance by actively tweaking how much processor power and connctivity capabilities apps could access when a phone is idle. Android N will build on Doze to make it even better.
“Now in Android N, Doze takes a step further and saves battery while on the go. Any time the screen is off for a period of time and the device is unplugged, Doze applies a subset of the familiar CPU and network restrictions to apps. This means users can save battery even when carrying their devices in their pockets.”
“A short time after the screen turns off while the device is on battery, Doze restricts network access and defers jobs and syncs. During brief maintenance windows, applications are allowed network access and any of their deferred jobs/syncs are executed. Turning the screen on or plugging in the device brings the device out of Doze.”
How To Get Android N Beta On Your Device
Note that joining the Android N Beta as a non-developer user is NOT recommended; it’s not a stable build, it will have bugs, and you could potentially put your data, device and files at risk. If you insist on forging ahead it is strongly recommended you make a backup of your phone’s contents. You do all this at your own risk and KYM is not responsible if you lose data, get hacked, brick your phone, or bring about the Apocolypse.
All good? Ok, continue if you wish.
Option 1: Sign-Up For The Android N Beta
You can head to Google’s Android N Beta page here and sign in with your Google account, you’ll only be able to sign-up for the Android N Beta if you have a compatible device associated with your Google account. This method means you will download the update over-the-air and new updates will be pushed to your device, and when the beta finishes you’ll get the public build.
- Once at this page, select “Enroll Device”, then choose your device.
- Agree to the Terms & Conditions and click “Join Beta”
- You should then receive a prompt on your device for a System Update. You can also try going to Settings>About Phone>System Updates to check manually.
Option 2: Flash Android N Beta Factory Image To Your Device
- Install the latest version of Android Studio Preview on your computer, this includes ADB and Fastboot
- Download the correct factory image for your device here.
- Go to Settings>Developer options and tick “USB debugging”.
- Extract and save the factory image on your computer
- Connect your Android device to your computer via USB.
- Start the Android device in Fastboot mode. At this point you may need to boot Fastboot via the ADB program. Make sure your Android device is switched on, then on your computer execute the command “adb reboot bootloader”.
- Locate the unzipped factory image.
- Execute the command “flash-all.bat”, and allow the phone to do its thing, it will install all the necessary software and may reboot itself several times during the process. It may take some time – DO NOT interfere with anything or attempt to power off or reboot during this time.