With the arrival of the Android N developer preview, there's burning question for those of us who haven't yet played around with this very early version on a Nexus device: When will the next version of Android be finished, and released into the wild.
Typically, new versions of the OS tend to land in late October or early November. However there are signs that Android N could reach "stable" status a little sooner in the year than you might've expected. Writing on Medium today, Google's Hiroshi Lockheimer suggests "final" Android N will be made available to manufacturers this summer.
By releasing the first preview and asking for your feedback now (in March!), we'll be able to act on that feedback while still being able to hand off the final N release to device makers this summer, so they can get their hands on the latest version of Android earlier than ever.
It's worth pointing out that a "release to device makers" isn't the same thing as a public release. So while the people who make phones might get final Android N code this summer, that doesn't mean updates will start pushing out, nor that new devices will start appearing running N out of the box around this time.
There are further clues in Google's Developer Preview site, which breaks things down from the first "alpha" release of Android N, right through to the "final" code drop sometime during the third quarter.
- Preview 1 (initial release, alpha)
- Preview 2 (incremental update, beta)
- Preview 3 (incremental update, beta)
- Preview 4 (final APIs and official SDK, Play publishing)
- Preview 5 (near-final system images for final testing)
- Final release to AOSP and ecosystem
The big differences for developers this time around includes much earlier access to final APIs, and the ability to start publishing apps using those APIs to Google Play right then and there. This will allow users in the Android Beta Program to use and test them on their devices.
So while there's no specific release date just yet — and we wouldn't expect one so far out from launch — sometime in late Q3 seems a reasonable bet. That said, Google missed a few of its projected timeframes during 2015's Android M Developer Preview, so don't hold your breath.
As always with early developer previews and pre-release operating systems, everything is subject to change, and nothing should be considered anywhere near final until Google says so.
More technical details at the Android Developers site.