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Android N Update: New Features & Aviailable For Google's BIG 2016 Update


The next version of Android -- Android N -- is now available as a developer preview. Here's everything you need to know

Google seems to like naming its Android OSes after candy (Android L was “Lollipop” Android M was “Marshmallow”) so what could Android N possible stand for? Many have suggested Nougat or Nectar, even Naan Bread (which, while it has sweet varieties, isn’t likely).
However, Google might not limit N to generics. After all, Android 4.0 was called Kit Kat (a Nestle brand). I’m really hoping they go down the brand name route for Android N. Top of my list is Nutella, but if they want to get really crazy NutRageous would be the best name ever. And what if they did another brand crossover with Nestle? Each subsequent point release of Android 7.x could be code named “Nestle Crunch,” “Nestle Butterfingers”, “Nestle BabyRuth.”
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.
The possibilities are endless really.
Google has had MASSIVE success with its Android N beta programme thus far. Post Google I/O 2016, the Big G pushed out yet another update, the cleanest yet. And now it is back with another preview build aimed squarely at those looking to install Android N on their daily drivers.
Google has put in a lot of man hours on Android N so far and the result of this latest build is the net result of all that work; the build is stable and designed for use on daily drivers. This means you can download and install Android N right now and, all being well, it should perform and function just like a gold-standard release.
In order to access and download Android N, simply go to Google’s Landing Page. Once downloaded and up and running, you can also deregister your device as well -- great, if things aren’t quite as rosy as you thought. Below are the current supported devices:
  • Nexus 6 
  • Nexus 9
  • Nexus 5X 
  • Nexus 6P
  • Nexus Player
  • Pixel C 
  • General Mobile 4G (Android One)

Google I/O 2016 Reveals New Android N Features

Google I/O has kicked off as of May 18 and so far Google hasn't given Android N its confectionary name yet, but has commented that the response to the developer preview has been "overwhelming". Google has detailed the update's "late summer" release date as well as a few of other features it is now prepared to reveal. One of the BIG features Google was keen to reveal on day one is related to the platform's performance, with the big G saying it has improved this on two fronts; runtime and graphics.
Google also let slip that it is now building its own chipsets. Called the Tensor Processing Unit, the chipset is what’s powering The Big G’s Assistant AI platform. This is kind of a big deal because it puts Google in direct competition with the likes of NVIDIA, Qualcomm and Intel. Whether these chipsets will come to mobiles in the future remains to be seen, but starting to build your own SoC isn’t exactly cheap, nor is it an endeavour one takes on for just a single product.
Perhaps this is why Google only mentioned it in passing; maybe it didn’t want to upset its long-standing chip-making partners. Qualcomm invests billions in R&D every year and is involved in a fiercely competitive space with the likes of Samsung, Intel and NVIDIA. The addition to Google likely wouldn’t be seen as welcome news given the company’s financial size and influence.
The graphics and runtime side of things is down to the new Vulkan API, essentially offering an extensive series of optimisation tweaks so that devs can squeeze better graphics out of current and forthcoming hardware AND it'll run more efficiently too thanks to a new graphics compiler that is claimed to be 75% speedier than the previous architecture. Google also says these tweaks will mean applications will be smaller in terms of storage space than before, so you'll get more apps into your device!
The Vulkan API is also cross-platform and scalable, while the benefts are obivous to mobile, an Nvidia demo showcased the API running the new Doom game on a desktop machine.
Always a focal point of Android is the multitasking, and Google has tweaked things a little further for the new build - the multitasking hub will now show you only the last seven apps you've used rather than every single one, plus there's now a "clear all" option. As detailed previously, Android N features split-screen multitasking with application windows. We don't yet know the details for phones, but tablets will allow you to have two applications dividing the display in half, or run a smaller window in the corner of a larger full-screen application, say a YouTube video in the corner of your web browser, for example. Messages in your notifications menu will now allow a quick-reply option.
An of course VR is a BIG deal this year. Google announced its VR scheme called "Daydream" and Android will be involved with its own VR mode, and Google is providing OEMs with a required spec sheet if they want to be able to run Daydream - the "Daydream Ready" spec.

Android N: Release date

While the name might be harder to guess, the first preview of Android N is easier to surmise. The next Android OS will almost certainly be previewed at this year’s Google I/O, which takes place from May 18-20 2016. Google will also almost certainly release a developer preview that day.
As for a public release date, expect to be downloading it for certain phones come October. There’s a few reasons for this. First, Marshmallow appeared during the same timeframe last fall. Second, an OS update spurs sales of new devices—important for the holiday shopping season. Third, Apple will be releasing iOS 10 around the same time (probably in September), which will mean Android devices will need some new features to tout.

Android N: Which phones will be the first to get it?

Of course, just because Android N gets a public release in October doesn’t mean all phones will have access to it right away. It’s almost certain that Google will release a new Nexus flagship phone around the time that will ship with Android N preinstalled. Older Nexus phones should get an Android N downloadable update shortly after that. As for other major flagship phones from the likes of Samsung, LG, and HTC? Expect an Android N update for some of those devices before Christmas, with virtually all of them getting the new OS by early 2017.

Android N: Will it merge with Chrome OS?

Probably not. An Android/Chrome OS merger will instead probably happen the next year with Android O. For those of you who don’t know about this, back in October the Wall Street Journal revealed that Google is set to merge the two operating systems by 2017. As the WSJ reported: “Alphabet Inc. ’s Google plans to fold its Chrome operating system for personal computers into its Android mobile operating system, according to people familiar with the matter, a sign of the growing dominance of mobile computing. Google engineers have been working for roughly two years to combine the operating systems and have made progress recently, two of the people said. The company plans to unveil its new, single operating system in 2017, but expects to show off an early version next year, one of the people said.”
No one knows what a merged Android/Chrome OS will look like, but it will probably retain the look and feel of Android, while also being capable as being run as a full desktop OS on PCs. However, don’t expect that ability in Android N.

Android N Developer Preview: New Features & Tweaks

Android N is now available as a preview to developers, as well as those with compatible Nexus and Sony handsets. We’ve had a play around with the software on our Nexus. This isn’t the final software, however, and there will likely be a bunch of new features in the final build that didn’t make it into the developer preview — you want SOME surprises, after all.
So what’s new inside this developer preview? Quite a bit as it goes.

Folders

Folders have been completely redesigned. They look a lot smarter on the homescreen 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.

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.
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.

Launcher Shortcuts

Android N will feature baked-in support for 3D Touch-like display technology, whereby you hard-press on an application icon for sub-menus and quick actions within it. This feature is already present on some Android phones in a proprietary implementation. Hardwired into Android’s source code though means all of Google’s hardware partners can implement in on their hardware, bringing support for all third party applications in time, not just bloatware ones placed on the phone by the manufacturer.
Nevertheless, ahead of this Google has made some other changes to Android N’s launcher — changes that ALL Android N handsets will experience. Inside the Android N preview you can assign shortcuts to applications, so, in messaging, for instance, you could assign “compose message” as one of the shortcuts in order to save you actually going into the app to compose a message.

Multi-Window Support

Like Samsung handsets before it, Android N will FINALLY support multi-window applications. Google has taken its time introducing this feature to Android. This is likely down to the fact that such a feature only really works on phones with displays of a certain size; it’d be pointless on a 4in phone, for instance.
Google’s implementation is very smooth as well; it works like a charm, even in this developer preview. Operating this new feature is easy as pie as well: hold the Overview (square button) to activate Multi-window mode with the primary app you want to have open. The screen splits in half and the other half displays a rotating carousel of recent apps. You then select the secondary app you want to use, which fills the remaining half of the screen.
Or — from the homescreen: tap the overview button to bring up the recent apps carousel as usual, then, tap and drag one of the cards over to the edge of the screen to put it into Multi-window mode. Simples.

Notifications & Quick Toggles

Google’s constantly tweaking and refining Android’s notifications menu — and always in a positive, forward-looking manner. This trend continues inside Android N, but it also applies to Quick Toggles as well now as the Big G has added in support to edit what settings appear in this secondary menu, so you can add in bespoke toggles for things like Hotspot, Data Saving or display settings.

With notifications in Android N, Google has made it so similar notifications can be bundled together — messages, for instance. These bundled notifications can be expanded with a two-finger swipe. The notifications themselves are richer also, with more details available at a glance — all good things.
Plus the ability to reply to messages and IM via notifications menu appears to have gone system wide and now includes support for ALL messaging and IM applications — WhatsApp included. How it works is simple too: reply option appears below the notification and tapping it turns it into a text field. That’s literally it.
Below is EVERYTHING else you need to know about Android N. 

Sony Xperia Z3 Gets Android N Developer Preview Update

Sony has now followed Google's example in making the Android N Developer Preview available on one of its handsets, specifically the Xperia Z3. Google already made the update available for the Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus 9, Pixel C and Nexus Player, but now the Xperia Z3 is also getting in on the action. Xperia Z3 units designated as D6603 or D6653 models can now gain quick and easy access to all the in-development features, including split-screen applications, advanced Doze battery saving capabilities, and an enhanced interface. You can check the model number by going to Settings>About Phone, although to be brutally honest if you didn't at least know that already you probably shouldn't be flashing your smartphone and installing an incomplete developer preview! This is all at your own risk, as usual!
Bear in mind this will be Google's vanilla flavour of Android so the Xperia launcher interface will disappear (not that this is a bad thing, in our view). Here's the word straight from Sony on how to install the update:
  • Connect your compatible Z3 device to a computer with a USB cable.
  • Xperia Companion will open automatically
  • Make sure you have Xperia Companion version 1.1.24 or later. If not, download the latest version from here.
  • Hold down the ALT key on your computer and click on Software repair on the home screen, then follow the guide.
  • You’ll be asked to disconnect and turn off your device, then to reconnect whilst holding down the volume down key to start the software flashing.
  • You can return to factory settings at any time by connecting back to Xperia Companion and following the Software repair


Android N To Natively Support Pressure Sensitive "3D Touch"?
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.
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 hardwiring 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.”
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.

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