What Developers Are Finding in Google's Android N Preview

 
 
By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2016-03-11
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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    What Developers Are Finding in Google's Android N Preview
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    What Developers Are Finding in Google's Android N Preview

    Google is giving developers an early look at its next Android release, Android N. Here's why it's already generating considerable interest among developers.
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    Multiwindow Multitasking Is a Big New Feature
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    Multiwindow Multitasking Is a Big New Feature

    Arguably Android N's most anticipated feature is its multiwindow multitasking. The feature allows users to simultaneously view two apps on-screen and interact with them as they wish. While the feature will likely work best on tablets, since they have more screen real estate, Google says it'll also be available on smartphones. It'll even work in portrait mode, stacking one app on top of another.
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    Google Refreshes the Interface
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    Google Refreshes the Interface

    Google has refreshed the interface in Android N to simplify it and make it easier to get around settings and other features. The refresh isn't major, but developers have already said that Android N makes them more productive as they flip around apps.
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    The Experience Will Be the Same Across Devices
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    The Experience Will Be the Same Across Devices

    Google will offer the same software experience, regardless of the device a customer uses. In some cases, platforms will feature design tweaks to accommodate a tablet's larger display, but as of this writing, Google has decided that the more similar it can make the operating system feel across all devices, the better.
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    Notifications Are Now More Useful
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    Notifications Are Now More Useful

    Notifications have received a major upgrade in Android N. For example, Android N now supports direct reply, which allows users to reply to incoming messages without ever leaving the notifications prompt. In addition, Google has added more information into each notification in a bid to make them more useful and reduce tapping around the operating system to find content. Image 4: Please use this image:
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    Some Improvements to Battery-Saving Doze
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    Some Improvements to Battery-Saving Doze

    Android's Doze feature, which saves battery life whenever a device is stationary, has been improved, the company said. In Android N, Google has tacked on a feature to Doze that ensures battery life is saved when the screen is turned off. Doze is a popular Android feature, and it's getting better in Android N.
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    Google Hints at Broader Device Support
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    Google Hints at Broader Device Support

    Google hinted that Android N may deliver broader device support. The company says it's been working on the so-called "Project Svelte," an initiative aimed at reducing Android's memory usage. Google says that the feature could allow Android to "run on a much broader range of devices" and make Android N "more efficient."
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    Google Cutting Down on Data Usage
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    Google Cutting Down on Data Usage

    Google is again taking aim at data usage in Android N. The company's developer page has confirmed that the new operating system works with Data Saver, which allows users to block background data usage and tells running apps to "use less data in the foreground whenever possible." That said, Data Saver comes with a whitelisting feature, so users can turn on full data usage for certain apps they don't want to slow down.
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    There Are Improvements to Device Security
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    There Are Improvements to Device Security

    Given the security and privacy environment, it's perhaps no surprise that Android N will come with some enhancements to security. For one, it runs in what Google calls "Direct Boot" mode when the device is on but not unlocked. While in that mode, apps can't run unless specifically allowed, and content is kept in encrypted storage.
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    So Far Android N Doesn't Add Up to a Major Upgrade
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    So Far Android N Doesn't Add Up to a Major Upgrade

    Unlike Marshmallow, which was a sizable leap over Lollipop and is just starting to get off the ground with around 2 percent Android ecosystem market share, Android N, at least right now, appears to be an iterative update, not a major one. While it does have some nice new features, including multiwindow multitasking, it is designed to build upon the solid features found in Google's last operating system.
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    Of Course, Google May Disclose More at I/O Developers Conference
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    Of Course, Google May Disclose More at I/O Developers Conference

    That said, Google typically holds back certain Android features for its I/O press event, and there is reason to believe it'll do the same this year. It's also worth noting that this is an "alpha" release with many bugs and half-working features, so over time, Android N will only gain more functions. Whether those features will actually be major improvements or simple upgrades, however, remains to be seen.
 

Mobile device makers and users are just starting to adopt Google's latest Android release, Marshmallow. But that isn't stopping Google from giving developers an early preview of the next edition of its mobile operating system, Android N. On March 9, Google announced its developer preview of Android N, the follow-on to Marshmallow. Google officials said they wanted developers to get an early look at the new edition so they could start working with some of its new features, including multiwindow support and improved notifications. Although Google hasn't hinted at its future plans, history suggests the company will unveil all Android N features at the Google I/O developers conference in May. The operating system likely won't launch until the fall, when Google unveils its latest Nexus mobile devices. But developers have already shared some insight into N, saying that it's an improvement over Marshmallow and could be a strong contender to whatever Apple has planned in iOS 10. This slide show covers what we've heard about Android N so far as it's generating considerable interest among developers already.

 
 
 
 
 
Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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