Well, this is a bit of a surprise. In recent years, Google has used I/O to start teasing its next major Android release, but today Google just decided to drop Android N and its first developer Preview.
The first Android N Developer Preview is now live, and you can install it if you have a Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6, Pixel C, Nexus 9, or Nexus Player. Google is offering factory images for all devices so that you can flash Android N now, and the company is also launching an Android Beta Program today to make it easy for developers to install N and get future updates over the air.
As for what’s new in Android N, Google has made some big additions. Perhaps the biggest is multi-window support, which will let you run two apps side-by-side. The feature is enabled on phones and tablets, and the images show a black bar dividing the two apps, suggesting that you’ll be able to resize the windows. Google is also throwing in a picture-in-picture mode, which sounds like it’ll let you view a video in a small window while performing other tasks.
Another big change coming with Android N involves notifications. Google has refreshed the look of the notification bar, ditching the card look found in Marshmallow and making the bar span the full width of the display. Notifications now support quick replies, letting you respond to messages directly from the notification, and there’s also support for bundled notifications. That feature will group multiple notifications from the same app together, and that group can be expanded to let you deal with each alert individually.
There also appear to be some Quick Settings toggles up at the top of the notification shade. In Marshmallow, you’d have to access the Quick Settings panel to see any of these toggles, but Android N appears to include a few at the top of the notification shade for even easier access.
One other notable change included in Android N is an improved version of Doze mode. In Marshmallow, Doze would help your device to save battery while it was stationary, but N extends that feature to save battery whenever the screen turns off.
Google’s Hiroshi Lockheimer says that the final version of Android N will be delivered to manufacturers this summer, and Google’s Android N overview adds a bit more info, saying that the public release will be given to OEMs in Q3 2016. In the meantime, Google will push out updates of this Android N Developer Preview to squash bugs, improve its new features, and get feedback ahead of the public release.
There will almost assuredly be more new features found in Android N as folks dig into the Developer Preview, but the ones that we know of right now sound pretty nice. The multi-window app support will make using Android for productivity much more doable, especially on tablets like the Pixel C and Nexus 9, and the notification shade is more powerful with quick replies and toggles up top. So far, Android N is looking like it’ll greatly improve Android’s ability to get things done.
If you’re feeling brave and decide to load Android N up onto a compatible Nexus device, be sure to share your first impressions with all of us!