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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  • Brandon Chester - Thursday, March 10, 2016 - link

    Swiping down from the top of the display to past the middle with two separate fingers is not very useful when you're holding the phone in one hand. Reply
  • serendip - Thursday, March 10, 2016 - link

    Having used an iPad and a Windows 10 tablet with the split screen mode, I'm not convinced that it's useful on tablets smaller than 10". You end up getting squeezed layouts for both apps. It's better to have a single fullscreen app that shows data properly, even with the mental context switch needed when switching apps.

    I would prefer small applets that pop over the current app, like a quick chat window or a calendar view. That saves time instead of having to fire up another app.

    Maybe Google should map a button to go back to the previous app, like Alt-Tab. I have this custom config on my phablet with CM12 and it feels almost as fast as multitasking on a desktop OS.
    Reply
  • Gobbmeister - Friday, March 11, 2016 - link

    Doesn't double tapping the overview button switch to the previous app like Alt-Tab in Windows? Reply
  • serendip - Thursday, March 10, 2016 - link

    Horses for courses. I hate my Android tablet with a passion because Google hasn't done much to use all that screen real estate. My Windows 10 tablet is fast, has good battery life and runs desktop Windows programs - but the quality and number of Modern touch apps is seriously lacking. I use it mainly as a tiny laptop when I travel.

    My Android phablet is still my go-to device for 90% of my daily computing. I don't want splits screens on a small 5.5" screen but I do want a fast way of switching apps.
    Reply
  • jospoortvliet - Friday, March 11, 2016 - link

    I can't speak for the WiFi API but removal of the API to notify of photos taken is pretty stupid. Say you use ownCloud and have it set to upload pictures you take to your server (almost everybody wants this - dropbox and Google Drive offer similar functionality). Now on Apple iOS there is no notification for this so apps have to use tricks like listening to GPS events instead and then check for new pictures - often checking while nothing is new, wasting power. On android there was no need to waste power: only upload what is new when you get notified. Why in $DEITY's name does Google think removal of this API will SAVE power? Reply
  • jospoortvliet - Friday, March 11, 2016 - link

    I can't speak for the WiFi API but removal of the API to notify of photos taken is pretty stupid. Say you use ownCloud and have it set to upload pictures you take to your server (almost everybody wants this - dropbox and Google Drive offer similar functionality). Now on Apple iOS there is no notification for this so apps have to use tricks like listening to GPS events instead and then check for new pictures - often checking while nothing is new, wasting power. On android there was no need to waste power: only upload what is new when you get notified. Why in $DEITY's name does Google think removal of this API will SAVE power? Reply
  • tuxRoller - Friday, March 11, 2016 - link

    Another big change they made is to include a jit along with the aot. The jit is used almost exclusively for gathering profile data during app usage so the aot can use pgo during downtimes. This is apparently something that is continually happening with an eye on two optimizations: execution efficiency and memory size. Reply
  • UtilityMax - Saturday, March 12, 2016 - link

    The interest in tablets is so low because for most people, a tablet is their third device at best, after a notebook and a smartphone. Tablet is lousy for productivity work because with no keyboard, or with tiny keyboard, it's clumsy to work on. Yet, it's big enough that you won't carry it in your pocket all the time, like you can the smartphone. Even with better multitasking, I find it hard to believe that being able to split a small 8-10 inch screen into separate app areas will really find a killer application.

    For me, the number one tablet uses are web browsing, reading, or being a portable tv/streaming screen. And for those, the current apps seem to work pretty well (my favorites are adblock browser, uverse, netflix, and the MX Player).
    Reply
  • Alexvrb - Tuesday, March 15, 2016 - link

    I don't think the scenario you're describing applies to everyone. But if you fall into such a category, why not use a 2-in-1 that covers both tablet and notebook usage? Reply
  • Badelhas - Tuesday, March 15, 2016 - link

    I am very interested in Doze mode when the screen is off but not stationary but I guess I wont be seeing any of that on my aging but still great HTC M8... Reply

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