Google is doing even more with the notification shade in the latest version of Android.
It's very (very) early days for Android N, but as we're playing around with the first release of the Developer Preview we're instantly seeing big changes on the horizon. The first and most noticeable is the new notification shade design, which makes big changes to both individual notifications and the quick toggles that we've all been so fond of in Marshmallow.
Knowing that what we see here is very likely to change throughout the process of the Developer Preview being updated, and that what we see here is currently only applicable to Nexus devices, let's dive in and see how notifications are changing with the next version of Android.
First up are the notifications themselves. The base system is quite similar to that of Marshmallow, but a big handful of visual changes add up to quite a different experience. Visually, the notifications now take up the full width of the screen, and are also separated by a thinner line instead of a wide gap — the perceived depth of the cards is dramatically diminished with these two changes.
App icons accompanying notifications are now much smaller, but are visually separated with pops of color for the app icon and name to stand out from the white, grey and black of the rest of the notification.
Though notification bundling was already integrated into previous Android versions, what we have now turns the knob up to 11: notifications can be bundled up tightly with lots of information, and when expanded can be expanded a second time to see individual pieces of data and act on them. As this is a first release of the Developer Preview we only have Google's own apps to go off of here, but Gmail is a great example of this right now — bundling together several messages into just one notification, then letting you expand and act on each.
Of course you still have the ability to expand a single notification to act on it, whether that's sharing an image or replying to a message, and those buttons now draw in some of that visual separation with color you see elsewhere in the notification. Google is hoping to have even more apps use a new API for direct replies from notifications, just as we've seen in some apps like Hangouts today.
Notifications can be expanded and contracted with the standard two-finger swipe gesture, like before, but there are also small expand and contract buttons to the right of the notification subject line, meaning you can get at them quickly with a single tap.
One final standout feature is a new option for managing how notifications are delivered to the notification shade. In Marshmallow you're able to perform a long press on the notification to bring up a notification settings menu to block an app altogether, but now there are three options. Instead of a long press we now have a slight swipe (as opposed to a full swipe to dismiss) to bring up a settings icon, that when tapped exposes a new menu right in the notification.
You now have the choice to set each notification, by app, to come in normally, come in silently or not come in at all. "Do not silence or block" would be the standard notification we're all used to, where your phone can vibrate and make noise as it arrives. "Silently" is how Google Now surfaces some low-priority notifications today: it will still hit your notification shade, but you'll only see it when expanding your notifications and you won't be notified with vibration or sound. "Block" works exactly as you'd think.
You can also tap into further settings, which in some ways are duplicative. The only other option here is to mark the app to override your Priority mode, meaning you can have it alert you at any time, even when you have sound otherwise turned off on your device.
While this notification system isn't finished yet and is only working this way currently on the Android N Developer Preview for Nexus devices, it's a nice set of visual and functional changes that have us excited for developers to take in and use. Together, they bring a nice improvement to the way notifications work.
Notification quick toggles
In the notification shade, the first change to notice is that you have access to your top five quick toggles right at the top of the notification shade with just one swipe, rather than having all toggles hidden behind a second swipe. Those toggles work just as you're used to, with a single tap activating the toggle and a long press taking you to the appropriate settings area where applicable.
An additional swipe down on the bar reveals the full set of toggles, as we're used to in Marshmallow, but now you can swipe left and reveal a second page of quick toggles, if you so desire. How do you get that many toggles, you ask? Well, Android N Developer Preview now has the option to completely customize the quick toggles.
Expanding the quick toggles shade and tapping "edit" takes you into a new interface for rearranging and choosing which quick toggles you want displayed — just as you've been able to do in Android builds from various manufacturers. Long press any toggle and drag it around to rearrange, show or hide it from view. You can have anywhere from zero to nine toggles available in the shade, and if you add more than nine the additional toggles will end up on the second page.
You can rearrange in any way you like, with the first five (looking left to right, top to bottom) showing in the non-expanded view.
It's such a simple thing, but the changes in the Android N Developer Preview to the way the quick toggles work are pretty much exactly what Android fans have been asking for as long as Android has been around. This is also one area where Android manufacturers have arguably done a better job than Google itself — now the playing field is a bit more level.
The Android N Developer Preview is just that — a developer preview. While it's now "release candidate beta" quality we still have to issue a word of caution. Tread lightly.