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N for Nutella? Rumored Features for Android N Appear

January 11, 2016 - Written By Tom Dawson

While many of us are still waiting for an update to Android 6.0, dubbed Marshmallow, we can be sure that Google is hard at work on the next version of Android. Since Material Design and the Google Play Services became integral parts of Android it’s hard to think that Android 4.0 and such are even the same operating system these days. As we look ahead to the next version of Android, it appears that Nutella could be the name for Android 7.0, or perhaps Android 6.1? Regardless, many of the new features and changes for Nutella have been rumored and whispered about for some time now and some of them could be the biggest changes to how we use our Android devices.

Every year, Ars Technica takes a look at what the year ahead holds for Google, and of course we’re most interested in the Android side of things, and with that it sounds like Nutella could be the ‘N’ we’re looking for. Similar to the partnership that occurred between Nestle and Google for Android 4.4 KitKat, we could be in store for some special tubs of Nutella. Where features are concerned, it looks like three big changes could be headed to Android for the next big release.

One of those is multi-window, the ability to have more than one app on display at any one time, and the same feature that LG and Samsung have been shipping with their devices for years now. Available in Android 6.0 Marshmallow as a classically “highly experimental” feature, just as ART was in Android 4.4 KitKat, it’s clear Google is keen to get this functionality into Android sooner, rather than later. It’s always been a head-scratcher as to why this wasn’t included in Android earlier, but the changes in user interface design with Material Design probably had a lot to do with it. Talking during an AMA on Reddit about the Pixel C, Andrew Bowers from Google said that “we’d spoil the surprise of N if we shared all of them. Split screen is in the works!” One area we can be sure Google will be pushing this is in tablets, not only to make larger Android devices more useful, but to also take the fight to Apple and their new software features on the iPad.

Another of the big features that could be heading to Android N could be a new messaging app. It’s unclear whether or not this means that Hangouts will be pushed aside, but as we’ve already covered, Messaging is the gateway to the internet in emerging markets. Markets like India and parts of Africa go through WhatsApp or perhaps Facebook Messenger, not giving Hangouts a second thought. The Wall Street Journal has reported a number of times that this “new” messaging app would be smarter and more like a blending of Hangouts and Google Now, with answers available for whatever people ask it. These new chatbots are becoming a ‘thing’ these days, with the likes of Facebook looking to the technology, so it makes sense that Google would be looking to get in on the act as well, especially as they already have Google Now under their belt.

Perhaps the biggest change for Android in 2016 will also be a big change for Chrome OS as well. Now that the former head of Chrome and Android, Sundar Pichai, is the CEO of Google it wouldn’t surprise us if 2016 was the year we saw them grow ever-closer together. Purportedly, a preview version of the operating system is to launch later this year, and a final version of the merged OS to launch next year. The question here remains whether or not this hybrid of Android and Chrome OS will end up being the final Android product, or a third intermediary between the two while Google works on something bigger to finally unite the pair. Regardless, it looks like 2016 is going to be a busy year for Android as well as Chrome OS.