Alphabet is one of the most versatile companies in the world. Under their umbrella, they have very innovative subsidiaries, the largest of which is Google. Google has known to be appreciative of developers and holds high regard for the latest breakthrough in software. It also holds an annual developer conference to encourage upcoming developers and to showcase their latest breakthroughs in consumer technology. Among many other things, Google announces the latest release and discusses a few of the new Android version’s highlights and differentiating features. Following the conference, Google releases a beta version – updated over the months – to give developers time to optimise their applications before the latest version of the operating system is officially pushed as an updates to millions of users all across the globe later in the year. This was an orthodox process that started in 2014 with Android Lollipop (Apple follows the same timeline with latest versions of OS X and iOS being released as a beta as soon as WWDC ends). This year, however, Google decided to break the continuity of this process; and stunned the Internet community by releasing a developer beta for Android N about three months before the ‘official’ unveiling of the new version of the operating system at Google I/O 2016.
Android N follows the release of Android Marshmallow (M) that was officially released in October 2015 on the new flagship devices – the Nexus 5X, the Nexus 6P and the Pixel C. The new beta gives us a glance into a lot of new features that will be present in the final release of Android Nutella(?) or whatever they decide to call it. These new features aren’t completely new at all; they are either modifications/improvements to already existing features or they are derived from older versions of Android. The key areas that Android N focuses on are – multitasking, notifications and battery performance.
Focus Area One: Multitasking.
Multitasking has been one of Android’s core feature. Samsung improved upon it heavily when they debutted their ‘Split-Screen’ feature on the Note series of smartphones – and gradual put the feature on most of their high-end devices that included the legendary Galaxy S lineup. Split-Screen allowed the user to run two apps simultaneously. This feature was exclusive to Android until last year when Apple announced that the iPad would be getting ‘true split-screen’ multitasking as well. Split-Screen was a key feature that was present in OEM Android skins such as Samsung’s and LG’s for many years but was never a part of ‘pure, stock’ Android – AOSP. Android N, however, brings support for ‘true’ multitasking to Android out of the box, that is, without any software additions or modifications by manufacturers. It allows users to run two apps side by side. The ability to copy-paste information between two apps or to reply to an email while looking at statistics on another app enhances productivity and elevates the user experience by a large margin.
Also, a tiny design change Android N brings is that the ‘recent app’ cards are bigger and occupy the entirety of the display.
Focus Area Two: Notifications.
Android deals with and has dealt with notifications more efficiently and suavely than both Windows 10 Mobile and iOS. In addition to having collection of notifications in the notification panel, Android allowed developers to make their notifications more powerful by allowing the use of custom actions. Android N takes it even more forward by not only making the notification shade much cleaner but also by bringing the much coveted iOS ‘quick reply’ feature to Android. Android also lets you clear individual app notifications from a collection now; and in addition to this, double tapping the recents button takes you to your most recent app allowing for quick switching between two apps.
Design changes include: the removal of the cards layout of the notifications and the usage of a paper style of notifications and the addition of the a quick settings toggle bar above the notifications. The shade itself has also been made more minimal and elegant.
Feature Focus Three: Battery Life and the Tiny Things.
Project Volta that was introduced as a part of Android Kitkat has been beefed up; and Doze mode has gained many under-the-hood improvements to make sure the device conserves battery when it is not being used. A much coveted night mode has also been added to the operating system. It darkens the user interface and makes all the white elements black to make using the phone in the dark much easier on the eyes. The settings app has also been given a hamburger menu for easy access to all the settings.
Overall, Android N is more of a refinement than a drastic overhaul. Google is trying to innovate upon tiny aspects of the operating system to make the user experience better. I feel that the fact that Google has decided to just innovate upon already existing features shows that the mobile operating system space has matured a lot in the past few years. It nails the open-source nature and makes Android the strongest operating system especially since it’s backed up by the beautiful material design library. All in all, I can safely say that Google ‘left no stone unturned’ to make Android N the best version of Android yet. Your move, Apple.