Google decided to release Android N a bit differently this time around. Instead of releasing the developer preview at Google I/O in May and releasing the final build in the fall. Google opted to release the developer preview today with the final release coming in Q3. We’ve been playing around with the first developer preview (there will be five when everything is all set and done) and there are plenty of changes to Android N compared to Android Marshmallow. Everything here was taken from a Nexus 6P. Things will look slightly different on the Nexus 9 and Pixel C, but not much.
The initial setup has changed up a bit as well. While things still look wildly similar to Marshmallow, there are still some changes. After selecting your language, you are given the option to restore your apps and data or set up your device as a new one. Then it’s off to WiFi setup, and logging into your Gmail account. Now it’s time to set up the fingerprint reader. Not much is different here, but you do have icons now. So there’s a fingerprint icon next to the “continue” button and a curved arrow pointing to the right for cancel. For choosing the screen lock, you have Nexus Imprint + Pattern, Nexus Imprint + PIN and Nexus Imprint + Password. After you’ve secured your device, you have the choice of getting additional apps from the Play Store, adding in emergency information, or you can do it later in settings and jump to the home screen.
Something that we saw appear in the Android M previews last year, but didn’t actually make it into Android Marshmallow when it was finally released. Multi-Window is finally here. Right now, it needs to be turned on in developer settings. You’ll need to go all the way to the bottom and turn on “Force Activities to be Resizable”. Then you are able to long-press the recents button – only when within an app – and you’ll now have two windows, which can be resized to an extent. So far this appears to work with all apps, which is a great thing. Something that LG and Samsung haven’t been able to do with their own implementations of this feature.
The System UI Tuner is back again, and it also brings back Night Mode, which appears to have a bit more features than in Android M. Like Multi-Window, this also appeared in the developer preview but never made it to the official release last fall. With Night Mode you can set it to a dark theme and have it automatically engage when the sun goes down. This way when you look at your phone at night, you aren’t blinded by the bright colors. Something we can all appreciate. It’s in the System UI Tuner, which means we may see it in the final release, we may not. We’ll have to wait and see.
Google changed up the settings app a bit. Everything is there, mostly, in the same spots as usual. However we now have a slideout drawer. So if you’re in the battery stats checking out the battery and want to jump to display settings. Just swipe in from the left and jump to the section you want to go to. A few other small changes include the ability to see the wireless network you are on from the main settings page, as well as if Bluetooth is on and what it’s connected too and your data usage. You can also see your storage and battery stats from a glance as well. Of course, if you want to see more, you can jump right in and check it out.
Android N added a “Data Saver” feature, which is going to be great for those on a limited data plan. It basically turns off the data in the background when your device is not being used. Pretty simple. But that can also cut down on quite a bit of data. It’s also worth noting that it also will cut down on your notifications. So if you need Gmail, text message or other notifications, you may not want to utilize the data saver just yet.
It’s safe to say that the notification shade got the most attention with this release. Quick Settings got some changes. So now you have quick access to a few of the settings at the top. Pull it down and you’ve got all of your usual settings. Additionally, these are now customizable. So you can change them to be whatever you want, within reason of course. Another small, but noticeable change is the width of the shade. Instead of being most of the width of the device, it is now the entire width. Notification actions are also on the left side instead of centered. The text is also in the color of the app, for example, Gmail will have “Archive” and “Reply” in red.