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The Android N Developer Preview can wreck your Nexus — think before you act!

Google has made it easy to enroll in the Android N beta program (too easy in my opinion) which means that a lot of people who aren't prepared to "fix" things when it all goes south are left with unusable devices. Over-the-air updates always have the potential to screw up a phone or tablet, and when you factor in the beta part of this particular one, things can turn ugly.

There are two common issues we're hearing — people aren't getting the OTA to roll back from the preview, or people are getting an update that breaks the OS and aren't able to fix things because they either can't flash an image or never unlocked their bootloader.

It's a hard truth, but beta developer and enthusiast software programs aren't put in place for everyone

The first is easy to fix — be patient. Whether there is an issue with Google pushing the return-to-Marshmallow OTA, or things are just slow, you're not going to be left hanging forever. Relax and spend the time thinking about how beta software may not be for you.

The second is a harder nut to crack. If you never OEM unlocked your Nexus, you have no means to flash a factory restore image. If you're unable to get the tools working to use fastboot and flash an image, this software wasn't something you should have installed — but keep trying. Visit the forums and get the help you need. People are looking for tricks to work around the locked bootloader issue, but if this is your situation you just may be out of luck.

As pointed out by TheStratMan in the comments below, Google has already done what they can do by providing a way to sideload the OTA.

It's a hard truth, but beta developer and enthusiast software programs aren't put in place for everyone. When an official OTA wrecks your stuff, you have people you can contact for repairs. With a beta — that's clearly marked as something for developers and enthusiasts only — you might be out of luck.

We hope Google is working on some solution, but we're not holding our breath. In the meantime, if someone in the community works their way through it, we'll be sure to talk about it.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

98 Comments
  • Google posted a site with links to the N preview OTA files for devices that have been bricked by the OTA during install. Here is the link: http://developer.android.com/preview/download-ota.html
  • The risk of writing things in advance. Have added to the post!
  • Thanks man! Just want everyone to know that Google is looking out for them. :) Cheers!
  • Now if only they'd release the OTA files like this for regular updates instead of making us wait for someone who knows how to extract the URL to get the OTA.
  • I'm just thrilled they host the images on release day. I remember having to depend on HTC to get them for my Nexus One. Good (bad) times.
  • Well times they are a'changin'. Who knows what Google has up their sleeves...
  • I knew it. LOL Posted via the Android Central App
  • I played with the beta and wanted to roll back. The unenroll did not happen for a few hours so I got impatient and tried to unlock my bootloader with no luck. Finally I realized there is probably a new version of the adb/fastboot tools....I got the latest fastboot and was successful at unlocking the bootloader and manually flashing back to the latest Android M easily.
  • But morons won't think before they act Jerry. That's why they're morons in the first place! Posted via the Android Central App
  • Morons is pretty harsh. (even when it fits :P )
  • How's condescending *********? That's pretty harsh when it fits too right? Because that's what you're coming off as in this article. If Google just wanted Developers to have this preview they could/ should have made it only available to Developers. But they didn't. They wanted as many people testing this thing as possible just like Apple/ Microsoft. I'm a part of the Microsoft's preview team too and thankfully I haven't run into any issues I haven't been able to fix. But Far be it from me to tell someone else they're a moron when they do run into issues. If someone has an issue and then cries about its GOOGLES fault, sure I'll remind them that they took the chance by downloading beta software that wasn't finished. But I'm not going to condescend and act like a dick about it. Rant over.
  • Good rant.
  • I don't believe this article is condescending at all. The reason Google released the software to the public is because, unlike another company that shall remain unnamed, Google doesn't require people to register and pay to be developers. However, any software beta programs should only be used by people that know how to get out of most problems they might run into (most meaning 99%; of course there will be some problems that are irreversible. And by getting out of the problem I mean reporting it and reverting back to previous software, not necessarily changing the software yourself). I believe that's the point of Jerry's article. Not to stick his tongue out and brag that _he_ can flash Android N and _you_ can't, but rather to warn people that don't know what they're doing that, hey, maybe it's a bad idea if you don't know what to do if a big problem arises. Posted via my smexy Nexus 6
  • Good point you have, people are clever enough to decide on their own and join the beta program if they want. It's not like lots of people are having Nexus. If they are participating in this they all probably know what the risks are and they do enjoy that risks. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Hopefully I'm not jinxing myself but I haven't had any issues with the dev preview. Google services is hitting the battery life a bit harder than usual but that's about it. I had the same experience with the M preview until the third update when it broke my Bluetooth connectivity. I was able to flash back to Lollipop with no problem and waited for the final OTA update to drop.
  • I agree entirely that they've made it too simple. They should've kept it as factory images. At least then you can be fairly sure the person using it has ADB/fastboot set up and has basic familiarity with their use. That said I have to applaud them for their efforts, it is a shame that you can't trust six year olds with boxes of matches. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Well they would be using toolkits and still wouldn't know what they're doing. As for matches, I don't let my kids play with that, but a lighter is OK. Right? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Zippo yes, gas no. Posted via the Android Central App
  • As long as you give them C4 but nothing else Posted via my smexy Nexus 6
  • I really am surprised at how many people try stuff like this out, or even root/rom without working platform tools on an accessible PC. If you are going to do anything experimental at all unlock your bootloader yourself with an up to date platform tools, so you have confirmation of a rescue avenue. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Wonder if a lot of problems are because of new people who want to tinker with their phones. There always is a learning curve for the Novice, and new to the software.
  • This is the reason why i decided against installing it. I initially enrolled in the beta and received the OTA, but never did download it. I'm perfectly fine with Marshmallow, and even though it would be nice to play with N, I'm not going to install the first release on the main device I use. Just have to be patient.
  • I think those who are willing to try out the preview know there are some risks involved and if not, they should have because there's a clear warning about it. I didn't think it would be just a smooth ride although it has been smoother than I expected. I think having an opportunity to try something like this is the fun part of having a nexus. Nobody really needs Android N. We just want to be the first ones to try out a version nobody else has.
  • Exactly why I want a Nexus device. I have the Nexus 7 (grouper) but they didn't release the preview for it. I always want the latest version of android so hopefully they get the nightlies for CM14 out quick for my phone Posted via the Moto X Pure (2nd Gen.) running CM13 w/ Nova Prime & Xposed
  • Eh, *knock on wood* I've not had any crazy things go down. Voice command timer crashes, reported the bug and now manually set my timer like the Neanderthal I am. I'll weather this storm, most apps im using are working fine. I'll probably riggity rock this beta program until release or relapse.
  • Windows Phone Insider and the Apple iOS beta program sure work well though. ;) Sorry, there's one in every crowd.
  • I have busted phones that say differently :) This stuff is hard and not for everyone. We should think about that before we jump in.
  • While Nexus people have the Nexus Toolkit it would be awesome if Google had there own recovery software toolkit ala iTunes for iDevices or Microsoft Windows Phone Recovery kit Posted via the Android Central App on my Frost Nexus 6P
  • Agreed Posted via the Android Central App
  • Meh, Windows insider completely bricked my 810 (I know, stone age, but still a fair device) and I can no longer even turn it on :( but there's always best and worst case scenarios Posted via the Android Central App
  • Recover it via the Windows device recovery tool. Posted via the Android Central App
  • If he can't get it to boot to a certain point that isn't a valid option Posted via the Android Central App
  • I thought this would happen. OTA's on a preview release? really? Back in the day OTA's were a no no...
    These kids need to do their research before taking on the risk of installing such things on their devices, with little to no knowledge on how the thing even functions at the firmware level...
  • Good thing I've been flashing, modding since the g1. Anyways I've been running the preview build sine release as a daily and all seems well. Digging it. Posted via the Android Central App
  • So, it sounds like it might be wise to bootloader unlock just in case before doing an ota beta. Of course that defeats the whole [no wipe] point of doing an ota. If i was brave enough to try N preview I would go ahead and unlock/wipe just as a precaution at this point whether I did full image or ota. I do have the dev tools installed, just not updated yet. I'd really like to leave 6P on M and play with N on the Nexus 5 that's just holding down my nightstand.
  • If you at least allow for bootloader unlocking, than you can at least give yourself the option to fastboot flash if it comes to that. No data loss in simply allowing it which is good.
  • That's actually what I do now on every device I own before upgrading the OS. I got stung with this when my Pixel C got stuck in a bootloop. Never again. Can always turn off afterwards.
  • Uh oh....i was planning on sticking with MM until the final N release in my October anyway
  • Just bought the Nexus 6p again today just to try out Android N. First thing in going to do now is OEM unlock before trying to get N. Posted via the Android Central App
  • A friend of mine just bought a Nexus 6 just to try out Android N as he doesn't want to do it on his 6P. Guess that's a smart move, eh?
  • Marshmallow is pretty awesome. I'll just wait till it's officially released. Posted via the Android Central App
  • The preview OTA failed and caused my Nexus 9 tablet to get stuck on the Google on reboot. I had to go back and flash Android N manually. I can't imagine what would happen to someone who did it on a lark. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I've been over at the Fi Google+ community reading all the comments from casual Android users how N is wrecking their phones. I'm like, does anyone read? It's a developer preview, not a stable build.
  • Don't see how this build is wrecking phones. If u dabble in modifying Android your bootloader should always be unlocked and u should have the knowledge to manually reflash a stock image. There is root avail now for Android N. Twrp 3.0 will flash without issues and allow for nandroids, ect. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Wow that fast?? That's great! Posted via the Android Central App
  • Rules of thumb from when I was a beta tester for Apple software: don't do it on your primary equipment unless you are ready to deal with the consequences and fix it! Good backups help :) Posted via the Android Central App
  • Google should've provided a device recovery tool like Microsoft provided.
    It is so convenient and easy to use. Posted via the Android Central App
  • They did. Fastboot. Problem is people don't learn how to use it before they jump in.
  • Yeah but isn't a one click tool and requires some knowledge to proceed through. The Windows device recovery tool is just one click. Plug in your phone and just click reinstall software and you're done. Posted via the Android Central App
  • They don't want people who don't know what they are doing messing around with the preview software. The preview comes with a host of possible issues and they want to see if OTA functions properly with the new builds. Making a home click tool would just further increase the issue. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Agreed. Apple has one ala iTunes. Microsoft has another. Google should make one as well. It'll be so much simpler. Posted via the Android Central App on my Frost Nexus 6P
  • But I don't think Google wants people that don't know what they're doing messing with Android N. And I can see why. Posted via my smexy Nexus 6
  • Is this not what you wanted? Are you not entertained? Posted via the Android Central App
  • It's working well for me so far on the Nexus 6. It's really smooth plus I like the changes.
    I'm looking forward to the next one already... Posted via the Android Central App
  • Same for me. The Nexus 6 runs it well. Except for the occasional crash if an app or a reboot but those are just typical beta things. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Probably the worst bug I found was when opening the app drawer in landscape, it disappeared and left a giant blank space. Posted via the Android Central App
  • What's the big deal? It's only a soft-brick.
  • A soft brick without bootloader is hell. That's why it's called "developer PREVIEW" there is no one here who understands what that means and doesn't have BL installed
  • My friend updated to n with no problems at all Posted via the Android Central App
  • Can I flash this on my V10? ;)
  • You deserve a brick if you didn't unlock the bootloader for a nexus. You deserve a brick if you wanted to try N BETA and not have an unlocked bootloader.
  • Better yet, if you don't know the term "unlocked bootloader" then you shouldn't be doing this Posted via my glorious Nexus 6P
  • Exactly Citizens 4 Constitutional Freedom
  • WugFresh to the rescue (if your BL is unlocked...) Posted via my glorious Nexus 6P
  • Well you guys have been talking a lot about the N preview around here (a lot more than I remember in past years), which has probably led a lot of people to enroll and try the preview that otherwise would not have. Sure you've made sure to include in your coverage that it's a beta and not for everyone, but we know most people don't read that stuff. So with all the coverage of the new stuff in the preview, most are like: ZOMG gotta install it NOW! So IMHO, you guys share some of the blame. :)
  • Silliest thing I've ever read. You'll think tell us that people actually jumped off a bridge because there was an article about people jumping off bridges about them reading about people jumping of bridges. TL: DR - No Posted via the Android Central App on my Frost Nexus 6P
  • I like what pirate arr said, these guys are a news blog site, if something new happens they talk about it. Like I said it is a "DEVELOPER PREVIEW" even the subject of the article read the same. This is where those "I agree" buttons come in handy... When you read there are professional bonji jumpers jumping off a cliff close to you, would you grab sheets from home, tie them together and go join them?
  • I installed the N preview and then opted back out with the factory reset OTA and I had no issue. I'm not sure I even enabled developer options at all. Are we saying the potential is there for problems? Posted via the Android Central App
  • I have successfully enrolled and unenrolled my 6p without a hitch ... Was kinda worried for a min. Took the unenrolled ota a couple hours to land but once it did it worked fine Posted via the Android Central App
  • Nothing ventured......nothing gained. Next thing you know they'll start allowing amateurs on my golf course. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I knew what I was getting myself into. I like that Google keeps us in the loop of new updates. Very excited for the next preview! Posted via the Android Central App
  • There are definitely some issues that I'm sure Google will address. As far as a daily driver, it is stable enough!! Can't wait for the final build. Promising!!!
  • The release is called "A DEVELOPER PREVIEW" for a reason, I don't see why Google should waste resources fixing an issue they didn't create. Developers know how to test apps and firmwares and also know how to roll back incase there is a failure. If an end user decides to install it, then they better spend the money to fix the damage and learn the difference between a developer and an end user.
  • OK, I want to add an extra comment for those who are saying "mine works fine" please unlock bootloader before it crashes or rollback to Android M. It is a DEVELOPER PREVIEW that is buggy and unstable. Someone would tell you it's a soft crash, without bootloader, soft crash can render your phone useless. If you want to pretend to be a DEVELOPER, the least you can do is apply the basic safety measures.
  • That's why it's called "DEVELOPER" Preview. Therefore, installing it REQUIRES a bit of technological expertise. It's not for newbies or the light-hearted. So ALWAYS PROCEED with CAUTION. For curious newbies always read up online or watch a lot of YouTube videos (I mean A LOT) before you go ahead installing N Preview on your device. Always create a backup plan BEFOREHAND.
  • Never watched a single YouTube video. Instead, XDA has been able to fix 99% of my problems when they arise. That being said, I spent about 48 hours (I'm a fast learner) looking at posts on XDA and other sites (including Android Central) on how to unlock my bootloader and flash ROMs before I did anything. Even then, I had a friend of mine do it for me just to make sure I I knew what I was doing. And I strongly recommend doing the same for other people Posted via my smexy Nexus 6
  • Did the OTA on my N6 (primary device is 6P). Haven't encountered any issues except when I popped in my Fi sim it locked. Wouldn't activate without being restarted. No big deal on that. Posted via the Android Central App
  • hi, come to zhihu(Quora of china) and G+ , it seems we have work around.
    zhihu.com
    plus.google.com/+LincolnV/posts/MXa1pkJ3ui8
  • This wasn't something you should have installed... LOL Posted via the Android Central App
  • It's called "developer preview" right?!? I installed it in the test/development Nexus 6 from the office. On my personal day-to-day use Nexus 5X? Fck no! Even thou I know how to restore and all that, people should really learn to be less trigger happy. It's just a software update, your life won't be less sad with it. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Thankfully the only things I've noticed not working on my 6P are the OneDrive and MS Health apps not updating in the Play Store. Basically the same issue I had last year with the M previews, just apps failing to update.
  • Had to go back to MM. I love N and can't wait for the public release, but the was a couple broken things I couldn't put up with.
  • I got it on my Nexus 6P, it's good. For me the clock clashes, there was an error with Swiftkey and I had to sideload Facebook. Instagram also shows an error, but it works.
  • I'd you've got a Nexus, you can use Wugfresh's Nexus Root Toolkit to flash a stock image. It's got a method specifically for bricked or boot looping devices. It's saved my bacon plenty of times. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Is that true for a Nexus device with a locked bootloader?
  • When returning to marshmallows my phone got stuck on the first startup. Had to go into recovery and wipe cach and do a factory reset. Then it started right up after that. Glad i have been through things like that many times.. :P
  • Enrolled in the android beta program and checked things out really liking the look of Android N so far I'll certainly wait until the beta version is more polished and closer to the final product before trying it out longer. Posted via the Android Central App
  • This is why they say don't use on your daily driver. I mean I haven't had any issues with the OTA or Android N other than what is to be expected with battery life and some apps not working. Folks should learn to be patient. One thing I will say though is Google should do regular updates like this. I mean I signed in to the beta program and had an OTA in 2 seconds. Why cant real updates be like that instead of waiting 2 weeks after a release to get an OTA
  • I don't blame users for foolishly signing up for the beta program. First off, the pull to have the latest and greatest is strong, plus Google and others throw around that "beta" tag a lot. Like Gmail was running "Beta" for like a decade. In Production. Millions of "beta testers". I installed the beta for marshmallow and wasn't prepared for it even though I'm a software developer and grew up on DOS. The OS itself was pretty stable, but endless crashing made it unfun
  • I don't blame users neither. Hey I want the latest and greatest but I know the risks. Google gave a warning so if something breaks its my fault
  • My only issue. That is not available for my Nexus 10.
  • Hi im john new in this compeny i hope it will be good.thanks alot.
  • Daily driver since it came out. No issues. Great article though. Smh.
  • I installed Android N on my phone(not a daily driver). Software looked great but there are a lots issues. in fact Skype and many more apps are not working.
    and there is strange problem of different apps opening instead of actual app to be opened ..weird. after reporting a lot of issues. i wanted to switch back so i enrolled for a rollback. this is where it go tricky. phone did not response for couple of hours and got struck in the installation phase of Marshmellow. after many trials.. reinstalled Marshmellow ...guess what...my phone got swiped out.. deleting all photos and music.
    Please dont not install Android N on daily drivers yet.
  • I'll consider myself among the lucky. I quickly signed for the beta program and promptly received N. Took it for a two day test drive, and was very happy with what i saw. I think N will represent a major step forward for Android. After the test drive, I hit disable for my device on the beta signup page, and after a few minutes received the prompt and was back to 6.0.1 . No problems whatsoever.
  • This development is most interesting, considering the last Podcast. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Good points!
  • I download N install and like it. Not really a heavy user but curious about updates.... Went back to marshmallow and now again N. Notification center looks pretty good to me