Android N: First look & hands-on
The Android N beta program has been open to to the public for a couple of hours as of writing this, and after an excruciatingly slow ~800MB OTA download following my immediate opt-in I've got the first development build running on my Nexus 6.
It feels immediately as though something's changed on first boot, with a lockscreen that's visibly different. The notifications catch the eye straight away.
Gone are the adequately spaced cards in favour of a new, tighter, simpler design. In addition similar notifications are grouped together, expanding on a quick tap near the arrow beside the notification time. Once expanded they look like this:
The screenshot above also sheds a little light on the new notification shade. As can be seen there are now quick shortcuts along the top (which can be edited) which on a second swipe down then opens the full selection of settings as it did in Marshmallow.
The lockscreen is fixed in portrait orientation, as is the Google Now launcher the device unlocks into. While on the subject of launchers, Android N so far retains the oh-so-Androidy application drawer!
Opening settings reveals a similar but slightly different layout. There's a new "Suggestions" area at the very top which offers shortcuts to things like screen lock and wallpaper. It's an interesting idea, though one I fear may be somewhat redundant to all but brand new users to Android (after all, users of the over 1 billion devices in the wild would have already figured most of it out by now).
Additionally there's now more information immediately available while scrolling through settings. It's nice to see information like how much data has been used at a glance rather than having to tap into it first. If you do tap into one them though, Android N now has a menu to jump between various settings:
I also noticed Android Pay is the default Tap & Pay option, though this may be already the case in countries where Android Pay is supported.
Android N debuts a change in the way multitasking is handled in Android. Tapping and holding the recents key will allow for two apps to be selected to run in split screen. It works surprisingly well.
In the above screenshot Settings is in the left window and in the right is recent applications. Additionally - and I discovered this accidentally - tapping the recents key repeatedly will now cycle through the list rather than opening and closing recents repeatedly; a really nice usability feature.
Finally, it looks like night mode is back! By tapping and holding the settings cog in the notification area, another menu item will appear in settings called "System UI tuner". In here night mode (amongst other things) can be enabled. Hopefully this will make it into N and not get pulled at the last minute as it did for M.
Other notable additions to N
Beyond the immediate, noticeable features, Google have additionally added the following:
- Picture in picture for apps, which will allow videos to continue running whilst browsing the web or checking emails.
- Reply to notifications directly from the notification shade.
- Doze is more aggressive, kicking in even when the screen is turned off.
This is a developer build and as such problems are to be expected. So far the Google App has crashed a good number of times, and ~30 of the 45 updates on my device have failed for "unknown reasons".
Beyond that luckily everything is working as expected, which is incredible for such an early beta.
Have I missed something?
If you've noticed any new features that I haven't, shout out in the comments and I'll update and credit accordingly.
Now you've finished reading this, it's time to get involved! Head over to google.com/android/beta to enrol your own supported device and experience the new features for yourself!