Many folks have been expecting Google to give the first peek at Android N later this year at Google I/O, but apparently Google didn’t feel like waiting until then to do it.
The first Android N Developer Preview is now live, complete with new features for you to try out. Perhaps the most notable is a new split-view mode that’ll let you run two apps side-by-side. The feature works on both tablets and phones, and looking at screenshots provided by Google, it looks like you’ll be able to resize the apps with a black bar that separates them. Also included is a picture-in-picture mode, a feature that Apple recently added to iOS.
Also included in the Android N Developer Preview is a refreshed notifications shade. Just as predicted in previous leaks, the notifications now span the entire width of the screen. Quick replies are supported from these notifications, too. Up at the top of the notification shade, there are quick toggles for things like Wi-Fi, Cellular, and Flashlight, and as before, you can view more toggles by pulling down again to access the Quick Settings menu. Another new notification shade addition is support for bundled notifications, which will let you view and act on multiple alerts from a single app in the notification bar rather than having to jump into the app itself to deal with them individually.
Rounding out the tweaks included with this first Android N Developer Preview, there’s an improved version of Doze mode that Google says will save battery power whenever your device’s screen turns off.
The first Android N Developer Preview is available today for the Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6, General Mobile 4G (an Android One phone), Pixel C, Nexus 9, and Nexus Player. The factory images are available right here. If you're a developer and don't have one of those devices, Google is offering 25 percent off a Pixel C to help devs get their apps ready for Android N.
Google’s Hiroshi Lockheimer says that the final Android N release will be delivered to device makers this summer, but we’ll see updates to this Developer Preview between now and then. Google says that developers will be able to use the new Android Beta Program to install the N preview onto their devices and easily get updates over the air. Oh, and as for Android N's name, Lockheimer says that Google’s “nut tellin’” us yet.
It’s kind of crazy to see Google spring the first Android N Developer Preview on us today, but hey, we’re not going to complain about getting this beta release two months earlier than expected. As for what’s included, the split-screen mode should please a lot of folks. Not only will it make Android tablets much more viable as productivity machines, but it’ll let more people enjoy the split-view mode that Samsung users have been enjoying for some time now. The refreshed notification shade looks nice, too, giving alerts a more modern look at adding quick toggles that are similar to the switches that Samsung, LG, and others have been adding to their custom Android UIs for a while now.
It’s worth mentioning again that this is an early preview of Android N, and so it’s very possible that features will change in future releases. That’s the whole point of these developer previews. If you’ve got a compatible device and want to preview what Google has planned for Android N right now, you can grab the factory images here and get to installing. Just keep in mind that these builds are meant for developers to test their apps on and not for use as daily drivers, so don’t be surprised if you run into some wonkiness while using the Android N Developer Preview.