There's no waiting for Google I/O this year, the Android N Developer Preview is available right now.
Google's Developer Preview program has been a great way to get the important parts of the next version of Android out into the world early, so developers can prepare their apps for whatever Android does next. In the past, this new version of Android is announced — and early code released — at Google I/O alongside some sessions that make it easier for developers to hit the ground running. This year Google has decided to release the next Developer Preview before I/O, so developers are able to get familiar with the system before the conference.
You know what that means. Android N is here in Developer Preview form. It's time to flash partially broken images to Nexus phones and tablets to see what we can expect when it is officially available to everyone.
There are a handful of interesting visual changes in this Developer Preview, but it's important to remember that nothing is ever set in stone with these images. Google has added and removed features during this Developer Preview period in the past, and there's no reason to think they won't do so again. That having been said, it looks like a big focus in Android N is going to be further tweaking the notification system in Android. Bundled notifications will stop any one app from filling your tray with icons, and the tray itself has been adjusted so quick settings are available on the first swipe down instead of the second. This means faster access to things like Wifi and Do not disturb toggles, and a cleaner overall interface.
Anyone who was paying attention to the folks poking around the in Marshmallow Developer Preview last year shouldn't be surprised to see one of the big features Google is rolling out in N will be multi-window support. Developers will have tools available to support this feature in their apps, and in doing so make it so you can run two apps side by side. The notes for this Developer Preview also mention a Picture-in-Picture mode where apps can live in smaller floating boxes, which also requires individual developer support in order to function.
Visual changes are fun, but it looks like Google's pushing forward with improvements to performance and power management as well. Project Svelte enhancements ensure more low-end phones can update to Android N with no problem, and it looks like Doze is going to work a little differently throughout this new version of Android. Where currently Doze drops the phone into a low power mode when the phone is not connected to power and entirely stationary, it looks like some of the Doze features will now work when the display is off anywhere. This increases the control Google has on how certain apps behave in your pocket, which means better battery life overall for just about everything.
Eager to get your hands on Android N? You can find the Developer Preview images on Google's Developer site as usual, there is also an Over-The-Air update mechanism that you can sign up for, which will install the Developer Preview without having to jump through any hoops. If you're not sure you want to jump into this with your existing hardware, Google is offering a $150 discount on the Pixel C to anyone looking to jump onboard and help test. Google is clear in pointing out that these images are far from ready for use on daily driver machines, and should only be installed on developer equipment for now. Judging from our experiences with early versions of the Marshmallow Developer Preview, you probably don't want to put this on a phone you're actually relying on for important things. This Developer Preview is expected to have five updates before the final release to AOSP in Q3 this year, which means monthly updates will be happening while the software is being tested.
We'll be diving into this to see what other goodies Google has tucked into Android N, so keep an eye out for all of our coverage. In the mean time, drop a comment below for what you think the tasty treat that starts with the letter N Google will choose this year!