Android N

We've had a few weeks with the second Android N Developer Preview under our belt — I've been running it on my Nexus 5X using either Project Fi or T-Mobile — and that's plenty of time to talk about how it's working out so far. So let's talk about our bug lists!

Before we go in too deep, remember that what we have from Android N so far is clearly labeled a developer preview. Nobody at Google (or anyone else) is claiming that it's ready for prime-time, and bugs should be expected. In fact, things that may have worked well on the last preview can be completely broken. That's what test software is all about — turning ideas into code, building it, and seeing what crashes and burns and what works as expected.

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One other thing — if you're testing, be sure to fill out bug reports! To do that, check the AOSP issue tracker for Android Dev-preview-N here. If you see your bug, star the item. If your bug isn't listed, fill out the form here to have it added. And please, don't post things like "PLZ BETA FOR NEXUS 5!!!!!!" or anything that isn't related to issues with the beta OS. All that does is take time away from the people working on the bugs, who aren't likely the people deciding which phones and tablets have the software available.

Enough of this, let's talk about how it works!

Android N

In a lot of ways, Preview 2 (and that's what I'm going to call it for clarity's sake) is better than the first one was. In other ways, it's worse. I no longer crash my 5X any time I switch from T-Mobile LTE to WiFi when WiFi calling is enabled. My videos don't flicker every time I try to play them back (though I do get a black screen sometimes). I get less connectivity errors when using apps that are just a wrapper for a webpage or webapp. Chrome crashes less (but still crashes too often). A big deal to a friend where there were some pretty crazy mathematical errors in fairly simple code that was causing out of bounds exceptions has been fixed. Lots of good stuff there, and it shows that there have been a lot of changes to the existing code outside of any new additions.

I also really dig the new folder style. Call me crazy, but I like the way it looks like a little porthole into the app drawer. Launcher shortcuts are cool, even though I probably wouldn't use them. Too much on my home screen makes me a little twitchy (I have a folder that holds every app on my Robin, and am so glad the app launcher isn't going away). Platform-level Vulkan support is also pretty awesome to look forward to.

But to me, it's still not ready for a daily driver. I'm having three major issues that are show-stoppers and make Preview 2 something I can't depend on:

  • Most of the time, I can't make or receive a phone call. The phone rings when one is coming in, it can make outgoing calls just fine, but chances are either there's is no sound on my end or no sound on the other, or possibly both. I've seen some people say this happens to them, some say it doesn't and some say it was doing it but randomly stopped.

  • I'm getting far too many random restarts. I reach for the phone and I see that I need to enter my PIN to restart Android. That tells me the phone restarted. I can shut that off so it can start back up, but then I won't know that it restarted. I need a phone that's dependable, because I'm a dinosaur and still talk on the phone.

  • Crazy lag and overheating when apps that display media crash. I'm not alone here, either. When something like Google Photos or YouTube crashes, I know I'll have to reboot. If I don't, things will quickly slow to a crawl and the phone gets hot. Some process is running wild under the hood, and keeping the CPU pegged. A reboot fixes things until the next time an app crashes.

Of course, there are plenty of expected issues with apps, but there's a good chance the apps themselves are at fault (at least partially). I've got no problem if a developer is taking their time and using these previews to be able to release something polished and ready when Android N officially launches.

Android N

If you only have one phone (and it happens to be in the Beta program and has an N Developer Preview available) I won't suggest you install it unless you've the time and patience to flash back and set everything up again. Maybe next time.

What about you folks? What bugs are you seeing, which ones have been fixed and are you using Preview 2 as your daily driver? Hit the comments and share your experiences and tell us if it's working reliable for you. I'm especially interested in what folks using a Sony Xperia Z3 have to say, so be extra sure to holler if that's you!