Android N 7.0
Android N is finally real, after Google revealed a ton of new info about the forthcoming mobile OS in its I/O 2016 keynote.
Despite Android having been around for more than seven years now, Google’s still finding ways to enhance and improve the OS, some of which could significantly impact the way you use your phone or tablet. And that's true even if you're not thrilled about VR (although maybe you should be)!
Ready to get caught up? Here are the 10 things you need to know about Android N before the full release comes later this summer.
1. Big performance boost
Need for Speed: No Limits in Android N
Android N promises to deliver a significant boost in both gaming graphics and everyday performance due to some notable changes. Thanks to the new Vulkan 3D graphics API, developers can take direct control of the GPU to deliver dazzling mobile game graphics.
An updated version of Need for Speed: No Limits was shown running on a Nexus 6P, and between the super-smooth frame rate, motion blur, added detail, and water reflections, it was almost a convincing facsimile of last year's Need for Speed console game. (Almost!)
But it's not just about games: Google says there will be big improvements in runtime speed, especially with app installation times, compared to Android 6.0 Marshmallow. All told, Android N ought to be a zippier OS assuming your hardware is up to par.
2. More secure, less hassle
Security in Android N
Thanks to the improvements seen in Android N, your device will be more secure than ever thanks to aspects like file-based encryption and a hardened media framework. But in your day-to-day life, the biggest improvement should come with seamless security updates.
New devices built for Android N will have two system images and automatically download the latest updates onto the one running in the background; when it's ready, your phone or tablet will swap to the updated one and continue on, now newly secured against recent threats.
And lastly, all the code enhancements mean that pesky "Android is starting" post-update screen, in which all of your third-party apps have to be optimised before launching the OS, will be gone forever. Can we throw Google a parade for that one? We really should.
3. Google begins Daydreaming
Google Daydream headset
We heard that Google was reportedly working on a standalone VR headset, but the truth is slightly different: Google is working on a native VR platform within Android called Daydream, and it'll work with an array of approved phones, headsets, and controllers.
Makers like Samsung, HTC, LG, Huawei, and more will release Daydream-optimised phones starting this autumn, along with their own headsets and one-handed motion controllers based on Google's own specifications.
And Android N will have a VR mode that is optimised for VR performance and latency, with notifications coming through properly into your VR view and the ability to browse and use the Play Store right from the headset. It sounds like a massive step up from Cardboard, to be sure - although Cardboard will remain as a low-end VR option.
4. More recent than ever
Google's data showed that people tend to mostly return to the last handful of recent apps, so there's a noticeable change with Android N: apps that you haven't used for a while will be automatically cleared from the recent apps screen, making it easier to find apps and games you tend to spend a lot of time in.
Other enhancements are coming, as well – for example, a long desired "clear all" button for recent apps in stock Android, which is found at the top right of the screen. Also, you'll be able to double-tap the Recents button from anywhere to switch over to your last-used app, making multitasking easier and faster than ever.
5. Do the splits
Samsung phones already had split-screen capabilities, but now it's coming to stock Android. The feature will work on both tablets and smartphones, as well as in both portrait and landscape orientation. Google showed an example of watching a YouTube recipe video up top and then adding to a shopping list on the bottom pane, but we're sure you can come up with your own useful purposes.
Additionally, Android TV will get a new picture-in-picture mode in Android N, letting you continue to watch video in a small pane while, say, browsing the Play Store or accessing other apps and info. Handy!