Android N Update: Google’s New Features & Tweaks

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With the release of Android Marshmallow around the globe, Google Android 7.0 also known as Android N is set for official preview sometime in 2016. This is in line with Google’s tradition of releasing new version of Android operating system every year. But what will the Android N name be, what is the Android N release date, what will the features be like and when will you get it?

Google’s Android versions are always names after sweet treats and alphabetically. It started with Android Alpha and Android Beta then sweet trends: Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean, KitKat, Lollipop, Marshmallow and now the Android N?.

Android 7.0 might not even be version Android N operating system considering how Google’s dabble with the number four with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, 4.1/2/3 Jelly Bean and 4.4 KitKat.

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Responding to why there has not been an Android version named after an Indian desert, Google CEO Sundar Pichai while speaking to students recent at a college in Delhi said Google is considering holding a poll to allow users to decide the official name of Android N and that he would ask his mother for suggestions. He also pointed that an online poll might make it a reality.

Google is also asking Android fans for name ideas, which you’ve probably already seen on Facebook or Twitter. I have a few ideas of my own, but none are suitable for publishing here. One thing I hope Google does not do is name it after Kim and Kayne’s baby, which in case you didn’t know, is called North West. Guess neither of them has been to Stoke on Trent.

Android N release date: When is Android 7.0 coming out?

Android N will get its first unveiling at Google I/O 2016 – its annual developer conference, which has now started and it be from 18 to 20 May 2016. This is expected going by its history – Android Marshmallow was unveiled at Google IO 2015 at the end of May last year. This will be followed by monthly updates until the final version.

Nexus devices gets the first taste of Android N experience followed by other manufacturers and devices in the six or so months to follow.

If you’ve got a recent flagship phone, you should be in luck. Most manufacturers try to push the software to phones and tablets that are less than two years old, but it may be quite a wait.

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 nearly three whole months now.

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.

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N has been out in a developer beta for a few months now, available as an over-the-air update if you wanted to check it out. But Google wasn’t exactly promising that it would be stable enough to use day-to-day — this was just for testing.

Now, N is apparently far enough along that Google thinks it’s ready for more people to try it out. This third beta release came out May 18th. If you want to opt in, you’ll be able to do so at Android’s website.

Android N news and rumors: Multi-window mode

In terms of actual new features in Android N it’s a bit too early to tell, especially given that most Android users are still waiting for the Marshmallow upgrade. However, with the release of Pixel C recently, it was confirmed that split-screen multitasking support is coming to Android N. “We’re working hard on a range of enhancements for Android in this form factor,” he said.

Consumer hardware director at Google, Andrew Bowers, added: “We’re working on lots of things right now for N that, of course, we wish we had, you know, yesterday. But we’d spoil the surprise of N if we shared all of them. Split screen is in the works!”

You can already get multi-window mode in Android Marshmallow, but it’s very much a work in progress.

Android N Notification Panel

An early version of Android N has shown up on Android Police showing off a few changes. Firstly, the notification shade (or pane) – That’s the part you pull down to see who has been messaging you and so on – displays full-width notifications, separated by an extremely thin line. The notifications now also display which app generated each, come with three lines of text rather than just two, and app icons have been significantly shrunk in response. The result is more space for a greater amount of information.

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Android N notifications shades preview

The current (left) and Android N notifications shades. / © Rubiztech

Android N Quick Settings

Secondly, the Quick Settings also see some adjustments. Above the notification shade, the icons are now larger, taking center stage, making them more accessible, and falling into line with what most manufacturers do with their own UIs.

When fully expanded, the Quick Settings panel, like the notifications shade, is full width. The expandable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi buttons have been removed, and an edit button has been added, suggesting an expansion to how customizable the menu is. Two dots at the bottom of the panel suggest pagination has been added, allowing less-frequently used settings to be relegated to a second page, a feature which is hidden in the System Tuner UI in Marshmallow, but it looks like it’s coming as a full feature in Android N.

Android N Quick Settings panel.

The current (left) and Android N Quick Settings panel. / © Rubiztech

Thirdly, the system settings will be getting a new look. This is a common place for Android to make changes, not only to the options presented, but how they are arranged and where features are grouped together.

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Again, a mock-up from Android Police shows an elevated level of detail coming out of the settings menu. Although the arrangement looks mostly the same – aside from the removal of the grey dividing bars.

Android N System settings

Android N System settings. Credit: Android Police

This would, potentially, mean you can see what’s happening without having to click-through on each item.

One other conspicuous element spotted is a notification bar revealing that the handset is in do not disturb mode, although we can’t really see that’s essential as it’s currently reflected in the status bar anyway.

It should be noted that things may change before the actual release though, and the screenshots above are made by Android Police as they didn’t have access to official screenshots.

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“3D Touch” Coming to Android N?

According to a report out of China, specifically from an alleged insider tipster commenting on the HTC-made Nexus 2016 handset, Android N will have built-in support for pressure sensitive touch displays similar to the iPhone 6s 3D Touch display.

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If you’re not familiar, the 3D Touch aboard the iPhone 6s can detect different types of pressure input and allow them to perform different functions on the phone, for example, a harder press can bring up a different menu from a quicker, lighter tap.

It seems, at least according to the tipster, that Google wants HTC to put this display tech aboard the next Nexus phone, but is also going as far as hard wiring it into the next Android build, meaning that just as with biometric security and battery saving features inside Android M, it’ll be a feature other manufacturers building Android phones can tap into.

Google Prepping “Nexus VR” Headset 

The launch of Android N at this year’s Google I/O expo could be sweetened with the release of a more advanced version of Google Cardboard, the Big G’s first attempt at a cheap, VR headset. And by more advanced, we mean something similar to Oculus Rift or Sony’s PlayStation VR — so, an all in one unit capable of linking up with any Android phone.

The news comes from The FT, which claims Google is working on a VR product similar to Samsung’s Gear VR headset. The device would be made of plastic apparently and support all types of Android phones, unlike Samsung’s. It will also feature “better sensors” and “lenses,” though the connected phone will deliver “most of its processing power.”

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Keyboard themes!

Okay, so this might not be the biggest deal in the world, but there are now a ton of themes for the stock Google keyboard. You can choose various colors, add or remove the borders between keys, and even set a photo as a backdrop. It’s honestly kind of neat.

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New emoji

Google is updating its set of emoji for Android N, giving its quirky blobs a more uniform appearance. The company is also proposing that the Unicode Consortium adopt 13 new emoji to better represent professional women in the universal character set.

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Folders

Folders have been completely redesigned. They look a lot smarter on the home screen and also give a better indication of what’s contained inside them, especially if you limit the number of applications you put in there to four.

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Google Camera App

This isn’t technically an Android N exclusive, as it is now freely available inside the Google Play store. Google has made a few visual design changes to the layout and moved a few of the buttons and/or features around. The slow-motion button, for example, is now available from a slide-in menu which you access on the camera app’s main screen.

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You can now also capture images while filming video; again, not a new feature by any stretch of the imagination, but a useful one nevertheless.

Performance

Google claims performance increases in various directions with just about every version of Android, and this one’s no different. N is adopting a new graphics API called Vulkan, which is also starting to see use in PC gaming and should help deliver more efficient visual performance on phones and tablets.

Android N also has a new JIT compiler, which Google says will improve battery life and result in apps that can be 50 percent smaller while installing 75 percent faster.

All in all it should be a very exciting expo. But for most people it will be Android N that is the star of the show. Here’s everything you can expect to see inside the next Android OS.

What are your experience with Marshmallow? What would you like to see in Android N? What do you think the Android N name will be? Let us know in the comments.

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