Android N is Official – Here’s Everything You Need to Know!

android-n

Today, Google really surprised everyone with the very first build of Android N, the upcoming version of the mobile OS which is set to be the proceeder of Marshmallow. The build is exclusive to developers currently and will be available through the Android Beta program soon.

For now, if you want to try out the next version of Android, you need to manually flash the build to your Nexus 6, 5X, 6P, Player, 9, or Pixel C. Here’s all the links you’ll need to download the appropriate files:

And for reference, here’s Google instructions on how to flash the system image to your device:

Flashing Instructions

To flash a device using one of the system images below (or one of your own), you need the latest fastboot tool. You can get it from one of the sources below.

Once you have the fastboot tool, add it to your PATH environment variable (the flash-all script below must be able to find it). Also be certain that you’ve set up USB access for your device, as described in the Using Hardware Devicesguide.

Caution: Flashing a new system image deletes all user data. Be certain to first backup any personal data such as photos.

To flash a system image:

  1. Download the appropriate system image for your device below, then unzip it to a safe directory.
  2. Connect your device to your computer over USB.
  3. Start the device in fastboot mode with one of the following methods:
    • Using the adb tool: With the device powered on, execute:
      adb reboot bootloader
    • Using a key combo: Turn the device off, then turn it on and immediately hold down the relevant key combination for your device. For example, to put a Nexus 5 (“hammerhead”) into fastboot mode, press and hold Volume Up + Volume Down + Power as the device begins booting up.
  4. If necessary, unlock the device’s bootloader by running:
    fastboot flashing unlock

    or, for older devices, running:

    fastboot oem unlock

    The target device will show you a confirmation screen. (This erases all data on the target device.)

  5. Open a terminal and navigate to the unzipped system image directory.
  6. Execute the flash-all script. This script installs the necessary bootloader, baseband firmware(s), and operating system.

Once the script finishes, your device reboots. You should now lock the bootloader for security:

  1. Start the device in fastboot mode again, as described above.
  2. Execute:
    fastboot flashing lock

    or, for older devices, running:

    fastboot oem lock

Locking bootloader will wipe the data on some devices. After locking the bootloader, if you want to flash the device again, you must run fastboot oem unlock again, which will wipe the data.

Once all of that is done, you’re ready to test Android N!

Of course, this preview does come with it’s own repercussions, and it wouldn’t be the same without them. Here they are:

General advisories

This Developer Preview release is for app developers only and is designed for use in compatibility testing and early development only. Please be aware of these general notes about the release:

  • This release has various stability and performance issues on all devices that make it not suitable for daily use on phone or tablet, especially for non-developers.
  • Performance and responsiveness are known to be slow in some areas and may become slower over prolonged use.
  • Battery life may be regressed in this release for screen-on and screen-off use cases.
  • Some apps may not function normally on Developer Preview 1. This includes Google’s apps as well as other apps.
  • This early build is not Compatibility Test Suite (CTS) approved. Apps that depend on CTS approved builds (Android Pay for example) won’t work.
  • This preview release supports the following devices: Nexus 5X, Nexus 6, Nexus 6P, Nexus 9, Nexus Player, and Pixel C.

Since I don’t have access to a Nexus device, I’ll be resourcing all of my information and screenshots from Google as well as 9to5Google as I find them to be reliable.

Let’s begin discussing the new features found in Android N so far!


Multi-Window Support

mw-splitscreen

Source: Google

Google said a while back that split screen multitasking would be coming in a future update for Android, and boy did they deliver! Today’s build of Android N features Multi-Windows support (which is what Google is calling the feature) which allows users to open two separate apps in two different windows either side-by-side or one-above-the-other. And as you can see from the picture above, you can do so on a phone. Of course tablets are also supported, which will bring with it desire that Android N is what the Pixel C needs to make it an actual multitasking beast it wants to be.

According to 9to5Google, Android N also has Picture-in-Picture, but since no apps are working right now and is limited to Android TV, there technically isn’t any evidence that feature even exists, so I’m not gonna be talking about that today.

unspecified

Source: 9to5Google


New Notification Shade

Remember that rumor that recently came out stating Android N would have a different notification panel? Well, it was right. It was really right.

Here’s what Google had to say about the updated appearance and functionality of the notification shade and everything that’s new:

Notification enhancements


In Android N we’ve redesigned notifications to make them easier and faster to use. Some of the changes include:

  • Template updates: We’re updating 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.
unspecified-1

Source: 9to5Google

Some other improvements to the notification shade include a new animation when swiping down to access your most frequently used quick toggles alongside an “Edit” button to rearrange the icons shown. For reference, the top 5 toggles in the shade will appear after one swipe down from the top of your screen.


Doze Improvements and Enhancements

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.


Settings Improvements

unspecified-8

Source: 9to5Google

There are a ton of new features and improvements in the Settings app for Android N. Let’s start with that new hamburger menu, which was rumored to be a feature in the next version of the mobile OS a while ago and looks to have come true. This means that when a user is within a certain setting, they can either swipe in from the left or tap the Menu button in the top left hand corner to access a menu which lists all the different settings options normally found on the main screen in the app.

unspecified-7

Source: 9to5Google

Also, when opening the Settings app, right at the main screen you’ll find Suggestions which is used to remind you to do things like set a password for your lock screen or change your wallpaper to customize your device. You can tap a 3-dot drop down to hide these suggestions, and you can hide the suggestions section as a whole as well. You’ll also notice that the top of the app lets you know about settings you might want to disable such as Do Not Disturb.

night-mode

Source: 9to5Google

In addition to the new ways of navigation throughout the Settings app, Google has also decided to give users some new options in the app such as the return of Night Mode. I say the return of Night Mode because in one of the first builds of Android Marshmallow (back when it was known as Android M) the feature was present, but was then ditched in a later update. Now, the feature is back and better than ever.

Once you head into the Night mode pane in the System UI Tuner settings, you’ll see a plethora of options. Enabling the feature will immediately change the tint of the screen system-wide, much like the Twilight app or F.lux.

You can change a lot of settings from the Night mode menu including “Turn on automatically” (which, as its name suggests, will switch your device to Night mode depending on the time of day), but other options are under the “When Night mode is on” header. Here you’ll find options for “Use dark theme for Android OS,” “Adjust tint,” and “Adjust brightness”.

There’s also a new setting called “Data Saver” that’ll keep your data usage down. This way, you don’t have to worry about that unexpected extra $10 fee because you went over your monthly limit. This feature will block background data usage, but also notifies apps that are using data in the foreground to keep things to a minimum. The ConnectivityManager API can now be used by apps to see if the Data Saver feature is enabled, and Google has also added the ability to granularly control which apps should and shouldn’t be affected by the feature.

I can already tell users will immediately appreciate this feature as this is kind of something you never think you need, but when you have it, you can’t live without it.


All-New Wallpaper

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What would a new version of Android be without an all-new wallpaper? This one comes preinstalled with every update to Android N, and it looks pretty nice. I immediately downloaded it and put it up on my Moto E (2015) to celebrate the release of the first Android N build, and it looks pretty solid if I do say so myself.

Screenshot_2016-03-09-15-58-37

If you wanna get the wallpaper for your device, you can download via one of the links below, depending on the size you want.


 

Additional screenshots of Android N taken via a Nexus 6 (Source: 9to5Google)


So when will Android N become available? Well, probably not until Fall for the public, however the head of Android ,Hiroshi Lockheimer, has revealed in a post on Medium today that the next version of Google’s mobile operating system will be available to OEMs this summer, which could mean any time between June 21st to September 21st. And while Lockheimer only makes mention of a “final N release to device makers this summer,” it’s unknown if that’s when the final version will also be released to Nexus devices. And as far as the name…well… they’re “nut telling” us yet.

N, as in: so early, it’s Not Named yet 😉

Ten years ago, mobile development was tough: the industry was quite nascent and the desktop was still the center of computing. With a host of mobile platforms, we had a closet full of more than 200 phones: J2ME, Symbian S60 and UIQ variants, Windows Mobile… each SDK and toolset completely different such that we were building our apps pretty much device by device.

That’s why Android made so much sense: a belief that aligning around a common, open-source platform would drive innovation across the mobile industry. Android was built by developers for developers, and was created out of the wild idea that we could minimize some of the biggest pain points for building for mobile, while enhancing choice for consumers.

When Android first launched, there was only one device: the HTC G1. That meant one device maker, one chipmaker and one carrier.

Fast forward to today, with 400 OEMs, 500 carriers and millions of developers coming together to create experiences for over 1.4 billion Android users around the world. That growth has meant we’ve expanded the ways we’ve worked together with the mosaic of partners building for Android, from the launch of the first Android device with just three partners to last year’s developer preview of Marshmallow, when millions of developers took part.

As we look to the next release of Android, N, you’ll notice a few big changes aimed at you as developers: it’s earlier than ever, it’s easier to try and we’re expanding the ways for you to give us feedback. We want to hear from you and iterate on the platform with you — that’s what makes Android stronger.

The earliest preview yet.

Last year, we took a hard look at our 2016 plans, with an eye towards building a timeline that gives everyone the opportunity to make the next release of Android stronger. By releasing the first preview and asking for your feedback now (in March!), we’ll be able to act on that feedback while still being able to hand off the final N release to device makers this summer, so they can get their hands on the latest version of Android earlier than ever. Plus, you’ll be able to use this additional time to support all of the new goodies in N in your apps.

An easier way to try the preview.

We’re also making it even easier to get your hands on these previews through a new program called the Android Beta Program. Starting later today, you can update your Android device [Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Nexus 9, and Pixel C devices] via an OTA; we’ll deliver the latest developer previews right to your phone. Check back later today for the link to get started. (You can read more about the APIs and features in this first preview here, and can also download this preview here).

Android has always been a platform designed for everyone, built on choice and made stronger by the voices of billions of people around the world. By making it easier for you to try out the developer previews, and giving all of us more time to tweak and iterate, we hope to create a stronger platform that’s fine tuned for you and the billions of people that use Android everyday.

So, the burning question that’s on everyone’s mind: what will the N release be named? We’re nut tellin’ you yet.


Are you looking forward to using Android N? Have you flashed the update to your Nexus device yet? Let us know what you think about the next generation of Android in the comments or with a tweet to @mbeddedmaximum!

 

 

 




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