With Google I/O 2016 fast approaching, the new Android N release is not far away either. As confirmed at last year’s I/O, Google will now release major new Android updates yearly, following the path established with Lollipop. So for this year, we know we’ll see the Android N developer preview at I/O, followed by monthly(ish) updates until the full Android 7.0 release in October. Here are all the confirmed, rumored and expected Android N features.
Confirmed Android N features
Android N release date
As mentioned above, we already know that the Android N release date will be May 18, during Google’s annual developer conference, Google I/O 2016. The Android N developer preview will be shown off during Sundar Pichai’s keynote lecture on day one of the conference and the factory images will be made available later in the day.
The Android N release date will be May 18, after the Google I/O 2016 keynote.
The final Android 7.0 release date will coincide with the launch of the next-gen Nexus releases at the end of October or early November. This Android 7 release will be limited to Nexus devices at first and make its way to all other manufacturer devices and carriers networks over the next six months or so.
The first Android N feature to be confirmed was multi-window mode, with the confirmation coming, obscurely enough, via a Reddit AMA with the Pixel C team. During the discussion, Andrew Bowers confirmed that “split screen is in the works”. Of course, you can already get a version of stock multi-window mode in Android Marshmallow, but it’s far from polished.
Better tablet support
During the same Reddit AMA, Pixel C team member Glen Murphy came right out and confessed: “we’re working hard on a range of enhancements for this form factor.” While he didn’t go any further, these Android N tablet features could include: more functional multi-tasking (and I’m not just talking about multi-window here), a real push for tablet-optimized apps (rather than just blown-up phone apps), customizable nav buttons, DPI switcher, stock floating mini-apps and tablet-specific System UI Tuner features.
Moving to OpenJDK from Java APIs
Following a sticky situation with Oracle over “rewritten” Java APIs , Google will officially be making the switch to OpenJDK in Android N. It’s still Oracle code, but OpenJDK is, as the name, suggests, part of the open-source Java Development Kit. As Google confirmed: “we plan to move Android’s Java language libraries to an OpenJDK-based approach, creating a common code base for developers to build apps and services.” The change should make development for Android N that much simpler and external changes will be negligible.
Rumored Android N features
No Android N app drawer
We got the scoop prior to MWC 2016 that Android N will ditch the app drawer, one of Android’s most iconic features. Then, during the show, the evidence started piling up, with the LG G5 and HTC One X9 arriving without an app drawer and the Galaxy S7 having an option to remove it. While the new Xperia X range does have an app drawer, Sony’s Marshmallow concept provides a “classic” and “modern” view – with and without the app drawer.
While Google wouldn’t confirm the story at the time, an official video for Google Maps later appeared showing a Nexus 6P with no app drawer shortcut on the home screen. However, the black nav bar, 5:00 time, Google app re-named as Search and only three apps in the dock could just mean this is a quick render and not a sign of things to come. It would just be a very convenient coincidence if it’s not true. (Update: Google has confirmed to Droid Life that the home screen in the video is a mockup, “not a hint or preview of what’s to come”.) We certainly hope this is true.
Revamped notification shade/quick settings panel
The notification shade in Android changed quite a bit with the launch of Lollipop, and it looks like it might be getting another revamp. According to some new mockups from the folks at Android Police, both the notification shade and quick settings panel will get some interface tweaks in the next version of Android.
The notifications shade looks like it’ll provide more information for each notification, and the height of each notification has been stretched to accommodate this. In Lollipop, notifications on the shade have a card-like feel with gaps of negative space between each one, and it looks like N will be filling up these gaps. While both have a very sleek, Material Design look, N opts for a lengthy sheet of contiguous paper over the card layout. We assume they will still be swipe-able.
The quick settings panel also seems to be a little easier to use this time around. On the notification shade it looks like there will be easier access to a few quick settings on the top, while the full quick settings page is just one more swipe away. According to the mockup, we also might get the ability to add multiple pages of quick settings. This will be particularly helpful if you want to keep your most used settings on the main page and tuck away the rarely used ones on the second. It also looks like users will be able to easily edit the quick settings panel with a dedicated button, rather than navigating to the System UI Tuner portion of the phone’s settings menu to do so.
Android N hamburger menu in settings
The Android Developers site recently posted two screenshots of the new support library, which has since been confirmed as Android N, with a new hamburger menu in the Bluetooth menu. There’s plenty of debate as to what kind of added benefit the hamburger menu could bring to a settings sub-menu, when we currently have a back button that takes us straight back to the main settings menu, presumably what the hamburger menu would do in Android N. Whatever the use case, when the screenshots appear on the official Android Developers site you know they’re legit.
Android N name
The Android N name is the biggest game of the year, even more so than “who will make the 2016 Nexus?” You don’t need to have a sophisticated knowledge of the Android ecosystem or market to have a horse in this race, simply pick your favorite dessert that starts with an “n” and place your bets. The firm favorite currently is Android 7.0 Nutella, with Nougat coming a close second and a variety of indian desserts also being bandied about. Sundar Pichai even said he’d ask his mother or let fans vote for the official Android N name.
Sundar Pichai said he’d ask his mother or let fans vote for the official Android N name.
Stock stylus support
As we recently reported, Samsung may have hinted at stock stylus support in Android N by planning to retire several of the main S Pen features from its Look API. The Samsung developers page makes the notation that these features “will be deprecated in Android N” – a term used to describe a soon-to-be-obsolete feature. The natural assumption is that these stylus features will appear in stock Android 7.0. The same thing happened with battery saving in Lollipop and fingerprint support in Marshmallow.
This one is a peculiar one. Last year The Wall Street Journal “confirmed” that Android and Chrome OS would be merged, only to have Google set the record straight soon after. While the initial report claimed that Chrome OS would be killed off, Google responded by saying it was fully committed to Chrome OS and the platform was “here to stay” but that it is looking at “ways to bring together the best of both operating systems.” It’s highly likely that we’ll see at least some implementation of Chrome OS and Android compatibility in Android N.
New messaging app
There’s a rumor doing the rounds that Google will be introducing an all-new messaging app with Android N to replace the largely unpopular Hangouts SMS/MMs integration. The new app will be based on the Rich Communications Services (RCS) platform, which allows for much more than just talk and text to be shuttled around, including video chat, file sharing and instant messaging. Google has publicly admitted its commitment to the RSC standard, but there’s no telling yet if it’s anywhere near ready for inclusion in Android N.
Expected Android N features
Return of the Dark Theme
The Dark Theme that appeared temporarily in the Android M preview builds vanished again to widespread dismay and still hasn’t made it back into an official Android Marshmallow update. Considering it’s such a popular feature request and AMOLED displays look set to take over the display market, we can only assume it will sneak back in as an Android N feature much like stock multi-window mode. Stock theme support would also be nice, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves too much.
Improved Smart Lock for Passwords
Android Marshmallow introduced Smart Lock for Passwords, a basic Google password manager that can store your app passwords so that any time you re-install an app you will be automatically logged in. Combined with Android’s revitalised app backup, the idea is that the whole process of setting up a new device is seamless. The only problem is that not that many apps support Smart Lock for passwords yet so its value is still largely underutilized. With any luck, Android N will see a lot more apps supporting the feature.
MOAR battery optimization
Battery optimization is and always will be one of the most important aspects of any Android release. Lollipop introduced a stock Battery Saver Mode and Marshmallow introduced Doze Mode and App Standby. Android N will likely refine these features – and hopefully allow Doze to work even when it’s in your pocket, much like Greenify’s new hibernation features do – and tweak Battery Saver in ways that make the default state of your phone a power-conservation mode.
Enhanced security and app stability
With the appearance of granular app permissions in Marshmallow, Google took a major step in the right direction: allowing users to choose the app permissions they were comfortable with on an app-by-app basis and reject those they felt were unreasonable. Because it was such early days, some apps that weren’t updated to allow such user-facing control tended to behave erratically. By the time Android N rolls out, Google should have committed devs to updating their apps to provide the same level of stability with or without certain non-critical permissions allowed.
Did we miss anything? Let us know what Android N features you’re expecting or looking forward to in the comments.