While some phones are barely catching up and getting Android Marshmallow updates, Android developers have released the beta version of Android N to devices with unlocked bootloaders like the Nexus. Here are some of the new features Android N has to offer with possibly more to come.
The obvious flagship feature with this release is the addition of split-screen multitasking for phones and tablets.
Google has also added picture-in-picture support for some devices. I can’t seem to find any apps that support the feature at the moment, but it seems that it’s only for Android TV devices anyway.
Brand new notification shade
The new shade has bundle-able notifications that span the full width of the screen (on phones), quick toggles at the top of the notification shade (including those for Wi-Fi, cellular, battery, Do Not Disturb, flashlight, and a dropdown button), and a new edit button that lets you make changes without having to use the System UI tuner from Android M.
Here’s the full list of new features (via Google):
In Android N we’ve redesigned notifications to make them easier and faster to use. Some of the changes include:
- Template updates: We’re updating notification templates to put a new emphasis on hero image and avatar. Developers will be able to take advantage of the new templates with minimal adjustments in their code.
- Bundled notifications: The system can group messages together, for example by message topic, and display the group. A user can take actions, such as Dismiss or Archive, on them in place. If you’ve implemented notifications for Android Wear, you’ll already be familiar with this model.
- Direct reply: For real-time communication apps, the Android system supports inline replies so that users can quickly respond to an SMS or text message directly within the notification interface.
- Custom views: Two new APIs enable you to leverage system decorations, such as notification headers and actions, when using custom views in notifications.
The third feature for Android N come in the form of many enhancements for Android’s Doze power-saving feature.
Night mode is back
You can change a lot of settings from the Night mode menu including “Turn on automatically” (which, as its name suggests, will switch your device to Night mode depending on the time of day), but other options are under the “When Night mode is on” header. Here you’ll find options for “Use dark theme for Android OS,” “Adjust tint,” and “Adjust brightness”.
New settings app
As was leaked previously, the Settings app has gotten a bunch of new features and a new UI. First up is a new hamburger menu. When you navigate at least one level deep in the app, you’ll now see a hamburger menu in the top left rather than a back button. This menu lets you either quickly navigate to another Settings menu or go “Home” which takes you to the top level of the app.
In Android N, there’s also a new option called “Data Saver” to keep your data usage low if you’re in a pinch (and don’t want to trip that next $10 on your cellular plan, for example).
New gestures for the Recents button
With Android N, there are several new gestures that you can perform using the Recents (square) key.
There’s just one new wallpaper in this preview, but I’d say to expect a few more by the time the final release rolls around later this year.
Direct Reply from notifications
Android N now has a new Direct Reply API that allows developers to easily add a ‘reply’ button to notifications for any app.
New System UI Tuner options
The System UI Tuner was first introduced in Marshmallow and allowed you to customize Quick Settings and the Status Bar. Android N adds a bevy of new options. It is still activated by going into Quick Settings and tapping and holding the Settings gear icon until it spins. Afterwards, the System UI Tuner will show up at the bottom of the Settings app.
Under “Color and appearance,” you can activate the Night mode and calibrate the display. Tapping the latter brings up RGB sliders to fine tune the screen. In Night Mode, you can set it to turn on automatically and have it adjust tint and brightness. Settings for “Do Not Disturb” allows you to show the control when changing the volume and turn off the volume buttons shortcut to activate it.
New app crash dialogue box
The dialogue box that appears after an app crash has been slightly redesigned in Android N. Previously, users just had the option to close or send feedback. There is now an option to restart the app. If the app continues to crash, it will provide a reset and restart option. This feature could possibly be limited to the Developer Preview.
Granular control over notifications
Android N provides more control over the behavior of notifications. Tapping and holding on a notification reveals controls to: show notifications silently, block all notifications, or don’t silence or block. Users can get even more options by turning on full importance settings in the System UI Tuner.
When enabled, there are two additional options presented in a slider: silently show at the bottom of the notification list and show at the top of the notification list and allow sound. Tapping more settings will take users to the notification page for that individual app with the same controls and a button to reset the importance to the system default and an option to override Do Not Disturb.