There are a few iOS features that Android N probably won’t get. But with the keynote at Google’s I/O developer conference behind us, we also know that there are plenty of Android N features that you won’t find on an iPhone. Zach Epstein reports for BGR that the keynote was “easily one of the most action-packed Google events we’ve seen in a long, long time,” with the introduction of Google Assistant, the unveiling of Google Home, a push into virtual reality with Daydream, and a brand-new assortment of Android N features being shown off during the event.
Vlad Savov reports for The Verge that Android N was announced early in March this year, and Google says that response to the N Developer Preview has been “overwhelming,” with many developers working with it on a daily basis. In addition to adding new features, Google improved the operating system’s graphics and runtime, and Android N will introduce the Vulkan graphics API to the platform. Vulkan is designed to deliver better graphics more efficiently, and the new JIT compiler in Android N works as much as 75% faster.
Epstein notes that some Android N features are novel, while some are borrowed from other platforms, and Savov notes that Android N will bring more than 250 new features and enhancements. Google has promised to make Android N available later this summer, and a beta version of the operating system is already available for Nexus devices and for the Pixel C tablet. But if you don’t have a compatible device, or aren’t ready to load experimental software onto your primary device, these are the X features that you can expect from Android N.
1. Split-screen multitasking
Last year’s release of Android Marshmallow disappointed plenty of tablet fans, since the operating system lacked any kind of split-screen or multitasking support. Combined with Google’s longstanding neglect to nurture an ecosystem of tablet-optimized apps and even new devices like the Pixel C were unable to compete with devices like the iPad or Microsoft’s Surface. But Android N will bring split-screen and picture-in-picture modes to Android.
Picture-in-picture will be limited to the Android TV, but will enable you to watch a live channel in one corner while working on another task. But the new multi-window feature will enable Android users to run two apps side-by-side, and will be a major upgrade for Android tablets. Google has also streamlined the multitasking menu, and has added a Clear All button to dismiss all active apps at once. Apps won’t necessarily have to be updated to support the multitasking features, and many already load just fine in the smaller view.
2. Instant Apps
At the I/O keynote, Google briefly introduced the idea of Instant Apps, which will enable users to test an app within the Google Play Store, without downloading or purchasing it. Frederic Lardinois reports for TechCrunch that Instant Apps could help bridge the gap between mobile apps and web apps by enabling you to use native apps almost instantly just by tapping a URL. With Instant Apps, developers will need to partition their apps into small parts that can start within a few seconds. That will make the experience of using new apps as seamless as possible. However, it’s likely to take some time before you see Instant Apps in the wild; while Google has already worked with a few early tests, the capability to use Instant Apps will roll out to users later this year, and Google will expand the set of developers with access to the feature over the course of the next year.
Another Android function that Google is upgrading with Android N are notifications. Google is adding the option not quick-reply to messages directly from a notification, without needing to open an app or navigate away from what you’re doing. Sam Byford reports for The Verge that the updates to the notifications system make things “much tighter visually, with a full-width design and smaller icons making better use of space.” In addition to taking action right from a notification, you’ll also be bale to long-press a notification to control how you’ll receive alerts from the app in the future. Additionally, Android N includes a row of five icons above the notifications to offer quick access to things like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth toggles.
4. Virtual reality
One of Google’s most exciting announcements on the first day of I/O was Daydream, a virtual reality platform that encompasses both hardware and software. Daydream is both a software platform and a hardware reference platform for headsets and controllers, and is Google’s attempt to take control of the virtual reality experience, which is already fragmenting. Phones that have the specifications and components to be certified “Daydream Ready” will begin launching from major Android smartphone makers this fall, and Google has already secured content partnerships with HBO, Netflix, Hulu, CNN, the NBA, the Wall Street Jounral, the New York Times, and IMAX.
5. Power-saving features
With Android Marshmallow, Google debuted a Doze feature that puts a device into a dormant state when it’s not in use. Android N will bring further improvements, including Doze on the Go, which will offer the benefits of Doze anytime the screen is off, not just when the phone is motionless. Another addition, called Project Svelte, will prevent apps from waking up when network connection statuses change, which will reduce the amount of battery power that they demand.
6. Background system updates
Anyone with an Android phone (or even an iPhone) has likely found it annoying at least occasionally that a smartphone is unusable during the process of installing an update, whether that takes five minutes or half an hour. With Android N, updates will work the same way they do in Chrome OS. They’ll download in the background over Wi-Fi, and will be applied instantly when the phone reboots, since they’re installed as separate system images, and the device will be able to automatically switch to the new operating system.
The Settings menu has also been revamped in Android N, and Byford reports that the first thing users will notice is that there are now suggestions for things you may not have done with your phone yet at the top, like set up email accounts or voice commands. Each option on the list also offers some useful information, so you can check your storage capacity, your current Wi-Fi network, your data usage, etc. right from the menu. The menu will also reflect persistent settings when they’re activated. For instance, turning on tethering or activating the new Data Saver feature will place a turquoise toggle at the top of the list, which can be swiped away like a notification.
8. Keyboard themes
Android N will also add a variety of themes for Google’s stock keyboard. You’ll be able to choose different colors, add or remove the borders between keys, or set a photo as a backdrop. Also on the topic of things that you’ll find on the keyboard is Google’s choice to update its set of emoji in Android N.