As this Medium blog post from Google says, this version of Android is such an early stage that it hasn’t yet even been named, and hence, it is being called “N”. It is called the Android N Developer Preview and whether you are a developer or not, you can download it and take it for a test drive but just make sure since it is one of the earliest previews, all your data is safe on your mobile device and you don’t do anything serious with this initial version.
Google’s senior vice president for Android, Chrome OS and Chromecast, Hiroshi Lockheimer, says in the above-mentioned Medium blog post, “Last year, we took a hard look at our 2016 plans, with an eye towards building a timeline that gives everyone the opportunity to make the next release of Android stronger. 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 early than ever. Plus, you’ll be able to use this additional time to support all of the new goodies in N in your apps.”
The biggest change perhaps, in terms of visual design and information organization, is taking place in the section of notifications. This has been under consideration for a long time: the ability to respond to notifications from within the notification area rather than having to first go to the application and then respond. For example, you get a new email notification. All the functions that you normally perform in your email app – Reply, Forward, Snooze, Archive, etc. – will be available within the notification area. The same would go for a Twitter or Facebook notification. This way, you don’t have to take your focus away from your current app. In mobile phone or Android parlance, this is called Direct Reply.
In Android Marshmallow a Doze feature was introduced. Preserving battery power is a big factor when you are using a mobile device and it is not possible to charge it for a long time. The Doze feature sends your device into a deep power-saving mode when your smart phone or tablet is not being moved around and has been in a stationary position for some time. In Android N the Doze feature is being taken a step further by switching your device to power saving mode the moment you turn off your screen. Interestingly, the Marshmallow version of Android is installed on just 3% of devices yet.
Why is a preview version so early? As is explained in the Medium blog post, some fundamental changes have been made in the latest Android version and it will be better if app developers can incorporate these changes in the apps they are working on.
In order to get an over-the-air you can sign up here. Right now it seems that Android N can be tested just on Nexus devices. The current update is available for Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus 9, Nexus Player and Pixel C.
Do you notice that Google has started using Medium as its main blogging platform (it seems so from this blog post) rather than using its own Blogspot blogging platform?