Slated to be the next big release in the evolution of Android, Android 7.0, known otherwise as Android N or Android Nougat, will be dropping sometime later this summer. The Developer Preview’s already out for a select few devices, but if you’re not running it yet, here are some things to know about the new operating system.
Things to Know about Android N – Nougat
Most notable, on large-screen devices such as tablets, Android N will be introducing split screen multitasking. While Android has always natively supported true multitasking in the sense that programs are not cleared from the RAM upon exit, this will be the first official Android release to fully support multi-window multitasking, enabling multiple applications to be open and displayed at once. You can now treat your Android tablet like your computer, and watch a YouTube video as you write emails, for example. This will be in part thanks to the Vulkan API and its enhanced graphical rendering capabilities, as we’ll soon see.
Multitasking has long been a highly popular feature among custom ROMs such as CyanogenMod, and it’s one of the most often used features in CM 13. Throughout the years, there have also been a variety of Xposed modules for those with rooted phones that have enabled multitasking, but all of these versions have not been approved by Google nor have they offered performance at 100%. Once properly implemented, both performance and productivity will improve significantly!
A game changing feature will be the introduction of the new Vulkan Graphics API to replace the previous OpenGL systems, increasing power consumption efficiency by anywhere from 30% to 600%, depending on the task at hand. These incredible improvements will serve not only to reduce battery drain enormously, but also enables developers to add in graphical detail that had been nonexistent in the past, as reallocated resources can now be used for more raw processing power. As demonstrated during Google IO and Samsung’s E3 2016 presentation, a wide variety of gaming developers have already partnered up with Android OEMs to bring next-gen gaming to our phones.
Vulkan brings forth such revolutionary compilers that mobile graphics performance will be able to rival that of its PC counterparts, as the specs on Android devices continue to evolve at an alarming rate. OnePlus, we’re looking at you and your six gigabytes of RAM!
Enhanced VR Capabilities
For the last few iterations of Android, we’ve been associating the term “Daydream” with Android’s screensaver, commonly activated when our phones are charging. However, with modern Android flagships and associated high-end devices boasting screens with resolutions of over 2K, specialized for use in VR headsets, Vulkan again plays a massive role in revitalizing another aspect of Android that has gone largely unnoticed. While Google Cardboard initially made a decent splash, interest feel behind as high-performance VR sets such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive outshown what it had to offer. With Vulkan, Google is now looking to introduce more fidelity and functionality into its VR suites, and is introducing a new Daydream: A highly customizable VR platform built directly into the fabric of Android N.
Daydream is already ready for developer testing on the Nexus 6P, and for the technologically-inclined, the APK can be found on Google’s website and sideloaded via ADB. However, as the release also warns, you might want to take notice that as Vulkan has not yet been perfected in the Developer Preview, thermal performance is not yet at par and the test app will only be able to run for brief periods of time before triggering thermal throttling on the 6P.
Revamped Notification Bar and Quick Settings
Once again, Google’s taken note of the status bar and is looking to streamline it even more. Android N will feature a more minimalistic status bar that will have quick toggles available just a tap away, even without pulling down the quick settings drawer. That’s not to say that quick settings won’t be receiving a makeover, however. Quick settings are more customizable than ever, with virtually anything modifiable being available as an option to add to the toggles already present. You’ll be able to press once for a quick localized submenu to appear on screen, or you can long press the icon to bring up the selected option in the main settings menu.
Notifications themselves will now also be grouped for additional convenience, as notifications from the same app will now take up a unified space in the panel rather than cluttering up the whole screen. Response options will not be restricted, and notification access will be just as easy as in the past, if not easier.
Google’s also made some fantastic improvements to the full settings app for Android N. Upon entering the app, you’ll be immediately greeted by some recommended settings derived from context. Depending on what profile your car is on, the state of your device radios or battery, the time of day, and more, the settings app will highlight suggested places to go and feature them at the top of the app in a specialized subpanel.
Going deeper into the app, you’ll also find tiny tweaks made to information presented, such as that found in the battery drainage graph – the graphics have been streamlined to blend in even better with material design, all while enabling more functionality.
While only a small addition, night mode will enable users to toggle a darker display for use at night, so we’ll no longer be blinded as we check our notifications in bed. On devices with AMOLED or OLED displays, night mode will also mean reduced power drain and higher battery performance, as the darker color palette will require fewer active pixels.
Last but not least of the great features we’ll be seeing, Doze, first introduced with the advent of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, will be getting some serious upgrades. In the past, Doze was only activated when all device sensors registered that the phone was at rest – that is, not moving for a prolonged period of time. This meant that Doze would only be activated when your Android device was set down on a surface, such as when you slept or while it sat on your desk at home. Already, this enabled Android devices to save up to 25% in battery usage, which enabled devices to last through nights on a single charge.
The implementation of Doze 2.0 will enable Doze to kick in even when the phone is in movement, such as when it remains in your pocket as you’re walking. This is done by adding more sensory feedback to the operating system, and means that Doze will now be able to cut down on power consumption even more than it offered in the past! Doze will also be introducing more dynamic states, so no worries – you won’t be missing any extremely important notifications during these power-saving periods.
Finally, the question that everybody’s been pining to find the answer to: What will the ‘N’ in “Android N” stand for? We’ve come a long way since the birth of Android in 2008, and we’re already more than halfway through the alphabet as according to the Android naming convention. Google held a naming contest earlier on this year, and through the tons of submissions, they’ve finally unveiled that they’ve settled on a name as of June 8th. What it is, we still don’t know, but they promised to let us know in a few weeks’ time, so we should be finding out soon.
What are you looking forwards to seeing in Android N? Are there any features you’d like future versions of Android to implement that haven’t yet been showcased for N?
UPDATE: Android has announced the official name of Android N – – that’s Android Nougat.