Does the N stand for Nutella, as Google SVP for Android Hiroshi Lockheimer hinted on Medium? We’re not sure. But the Android N Developer Preview, which Google unexpectedly dropped on us earlier this week, is getting positive reviews for a few of its new features. Here are some things to know about Android N:
- The early drop date has a purpose. Rather than waiting for May’s I/O developer conference to reveal Android N, Google wanted to gather developer feedback now so it can deliver the final version to device makers by summer. That gives developers time to start playing with the OS now, and will likely mean a more advanced discussion of N at I/O.
- It’s fast, according to those who have previewed it. “Everything is zipping around the screen much faster than we’re used to,” writes The Verge’s Dieter Bohn after installing the preview on a Nexus P.
It supports multitasking within and between apps. There’s both a split-screen mode and a picture-within-a-picture mode for Android TV devices, and the elegance of the user interface is earning favorable comparisons to iOS. You can also enable drag-and-drop so users can drop content into your app. This feature should be especially useful on tablets.
Notifications got a redesign. They can now be grouped together by topic as in Android Wear. Users can also direct-reply to messages from the notification window.
There’s better support for Java 8. Java 8 language features that will be available on N include default and static methods, streams, and functional interfaces.
You can sign up for the over-the-air updates. Register for the Android Beta program at google.com/android/beta and you’ll get updates on your device every four to six weeks until the official release later this summer. You’ll need a Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Nexus 9, or Pixel C. (Google is offering developers a $150 discount on the Pixel C.)
There’s a lot more information about the new features in Android N here.