Yesterday Google surprised a number of people by launching the developer beta of the next release of Android, which is codenamed Android N. Normally the beta version of Android comes to developers during Google I/O in May, but in a way it makes sense for Google to release it to developers a few months earlier so they can receive feedback and discuss common questions and concerns during the event.

The early release isn't the only change with this new beta version of Android. In the past I've often complained about Google's poor handling of developer betas. They've always been too monolithic for my liking, with only two or three betas being released to developers before the final version. There was also the problem with installation. While I am not averse to using the Unix shell, there is no reason that a developer should have to use adb via the command line to install a developer beta of Android. It should be done via an update directly from the device, or by some software tool with a proper graphical interface that can be run on your computer. It didn't help that the update packages often failed to work which required you to decompress it and flash each file one by one.

With Android N, Google has recognized and resolved these problems by providing a simple way for developers to opt in to the program via a web interface. Once you opt in, your device almost instantly receives a notification prompting you to install an over the air (OTA) update which will install the Android N beta. This is much more user friendly, and it has the added bonus of making it easier for users to opt in which gives Google more usage and diagnostic data to work with. Because the OTA isn't just making changes to the existing OS it is quite large, with it being just under 1GB on the Pixel C and Nexus 6, and 1.1GB on the Nexus 5X.

In this article I'll just be taking a look at some of the most notable features of Android N, including Multi-Window mode, changes to notifications, and improvements to energy and memory optimizations.

Multi-Window Support
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  • raptormissle - Thursday, March 10, 2016 - link

    The Samsung hack/implementation only worked with a relatively small number of apps - the majority being the ones you never used like Samsung apps.
  • Brandon Chester - Thursday, March 10, 2016 - link

    All that is is a link that takes you to the app to reply. This is an in line reply field.
  • Le Geek - Thursday, March 10, 2016 - link

    No, I was also talking about an in line field. In fact the reply field on my phone looks quite similar (if not exactly the same) to the screenshot posted in the article. Again, I am not sure whether this feature existed on stock android. But it sure is present on Zen Ui in lollipop.
  • Brandon Chester - Thursday, March 10, 2016 - link

    It didn't exist in that form in Google's Android. Hangouts is one exception where it opened that kind of ugly looking overlay for a moment, but apps like Skype just took you to the app where they now allow you to just type your response right in the notification itself.
  • Le Geek - Thursday, March 10, 2016 - link

    Okay, I get your point. Thanks.
  • Le Geek - Thursday, March 10, 2016 - link

    Here is a screenshot to back my claims.
  • Brandon Chester - Thursday, March 10, 2016 - link

    Is that Hangouts? I only ask because Hangouts actually has had that for a while in general, but it's not in line because it closes the notification drawer and opens an overlay. I actually have a similar screenshot on page three.
  • Le Geek - Thursday, March 10, 2016 - link

    Yes, that is hangouts. I actually saw that screenshot on the 3rd page and mistook it for the "new" in line reply feature being talked about in the article. I guess that's what happens when you try to go through an article in a hurry. My apologies.
  • Drumsticks - Thursday, March 10, 2016 - link

    I like what they've done with Android N. The notification shade replies are pretty useful, having an API that will let a developer make easy replies instead of having each individual app have their own is a good idea and should help spur its adoption. I'm looking forward to the beta being good enough to run daily!
  • BenSkywalker - Thursday, March 10, 2016 - link

    Outside of some developer flags and the new power saving elements, everything "new" you brought up has been in Android for years. Multi window baked into the base OS is nice, but that option has been around for a long time. Working with apps directly from the notification window- again- been around for years now. Battery icon not displaying a percentage- change it- I have an Android 1.5 device kicking around here that has numerical representation.

    I think AT should really just decide if they want to cover only iOS devices all the time, or if they actually want to continue with their Android articles. People seem to think your iOS coverage is great, your Android coverage is abhorrent to be as kind as possible.

    You come across like much a Windows user who does every single task in Windows, and then tries to provide useful information on a new build of Linux.

    "If I were to make any recommendations for Google, it would be to make it a bit more obvious to the user that you can hold down the multitasking button inside an app to instantly get into split view mode."

    That's how we've been accessing all levels of Android multi tasking for more then half a decade now, but Google should change that.....? I could nit pick this article to death, you don't like Android, that's fine. You should find someone who does to handle these types of articles.

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