With few more months to go for the Google I/O conference where the Android N would be officially announced, Google decided to sweeten up the morning for Android lovers. They’ve released the Android N’s Developer preview (and if you’re wondering what the “N” stands for, well we are too and may have to wait until Google I/O). Before you get too excited, the developer preview is available for the following devices only – Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Pixel C, Nexus 9, Nexus Player, and the General Mobile 4G. Yes, no donuts for Nexus 5 sadly.
And if you own one or more of these devices, head over to the official instructions from Google to try it out. But be warned there could be few things acting up and if you’re using the phone as a primary device you may want to tread with caution. And in the meanwhile, having tasted the Android N ourselves for a bit now, here are some cool new features that you can look forward too. Many of these have already been on many custom skins like Touchwiz but it’s good to see some really meaningful ones making their way to stock Android.
1. Enhanced Notifications View and Management
Google brought in some cool changes to the notifications menu and they seemed to have taken it to the next level, bringing in the notion of “productivity” in getting through the tasks much faster. Logical bundling of messages is what you will see that can be expanded and collapsed. Providing the ability to drag them to a desired level based on the level of information you want to see is really handy. It saves one from the need to tap on the message, get into that particular app and then head over for subsequent options. This is very appreciable in case of emails. And we are told that the “Reply” option will bring up a pop up for you to type in a message or reply and shoot it right from there! Many custom ROMs have these options but on a stock Android, this feels more snappy.
2. Paginated Toggles Menu
While Android Lollipop introduced a refreshed toggle menu, it had its own limitations where the custom ROMs did a good job – allowing the user to add more options in there or rearrange them. Android N now brings a paginated toggle menu that allows for a horizontal swipe and lists more options. We have seen similar swipe options in MIUI where user can scroll vertically to handle more options and it’s a good see something similar coming up here. While on the toggle menu, it is now a two-step operation – a single swipe will bring up a “Quick options” menu with around 5 options while an additional swipe down will list the first page of options. This is very reminiscent of Touchwiz’s behavior.
3. Improved Doze
The Doze feature on Marshmallow used to kick up when your phone was lying on a surface, sitting idle. However this did not work if your phone was idle but placed in your bag or pocket. The Doze on Android N will now work during the latter scenarios as well, few moments after the phone is not used regardless of where you’re placed it. In terms of the restrictions around network and app restrictions, the rules will remain the same as in the previous Doze. This enhancement should see some appreciable improvement in battery life, for sure.
4. Data Saver
This feature will be particularly helpful for those who are on prepaid / pay-on-the-go connections for data. The Data Saver is a dedicated switch when turned on will restrict the apps from using data connection and also prevent pulling in embedded images and videos on web pages. One can also cherry pick the apps that may be allowed to use the data connection even when this switch is turned on. We have seen a similar features in the Android Marshmallow where the apps are listed and options can be enabled, but this option will be a dedicated one.
5. Multi Windows – finally!
With Google’s Nexus range having tablets and big phones like the 6P, the screen sizes were never leveraged for multitasking, and this was much frowned upon. Finally Google brings in the split window options. All you need to do is long tap on the apps button (square one on the Nexus phones) and the current app will go to the top while a list of apps running in the background show up for you to select one. Also, just like we’ve seen on Samsung and LG phones, the windows can be resized. As for the tablets, the multi-windows show up side by side while in the landscape mode. This is easily one of the best features that Android N will be offering to the users.
6. Telephony enhanced
Being able to block calls was never easy on stock Android and many other things around telephony. Most of us generally went for third party apps for this like the Truecaller or the custom ROMs handled it. Android N will now bring in features to reject the calls and not log them at all, so you don’t see those spammers numbers listed on your call log when you’re trying to look for a number you want to dial on.
7. Enhanced Settings menu
How many times have you found yourself lost in a navigational nightmare when you’re finding your way in the settings menu, going back and forth multiple times? Android N now brings a hamburger menu tapping on which will show up the key sections within the settings menu, reducing the number of taps by a huge margin! Swipe from left, iOS style and you can get where you want to, much much faster. Also, upfront, the settings menu shows vital statistics on memory battery life, networks and so on which is again very useful.
There are many other tiny features that make their way to Android N but it will be some time till we see them make an impact and much of these are working in the background which the users won’t notice. For instance, there is the famous Project Svelte that brings in tons of optimizations to reduce the usage of RAM in an aim to ensure smoother UI experience. This will be useful for all those entry level phones that have lesser RAMs. Android N has enhanced support for Java, moving into OpenJDK. This will delight the developer community as it will make way for making use of more Java 8 features and its libraries, with fewer worries around backword compatibility. Android N also has OTA support and hence once you’ve enrolled for the preview program you can assure yourself of receiving constant updates.
Android Marshmallow did not bring any radical changes to the UI, but had some good features like Doze that helped improve the device performance. But users would want to “see” the changes and that is what Android N will do with tons of changes around the UI paradigm. We sure cannot wait to ride more, as suspense is killing on what the N stands for. At the moment it’s N = NUTs for us!