Android N 'Nutella' is here already -- download OTA

Android N anyone? Google will send it to your Nexus, but it's come earlier in the year than did Android Marshmallow: Dave Burke is “doing something a little different this year,” with the Android Beta Program.

Android N Google
Credit: Google, Inc.

Android N is upon us, says Google, which also hints that N might stand for Nutella. And it's come sooner and more convenient than Android Marshmallow did -- Google's new Android Beta Program allows recent Nexus devices get the N preview build with a simple OTA download.

But it's only March -- we weren't expecting this until Google IO. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers have the rug pulled out from under them. Not to mention: Mark Hamill vs. Oxford

curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. [Developing story: Updated 7:18 pm and 11:47 am PT with more comment]

What's the craic? Dieter Bohn sounds slightly surprised—The Android N developer preview with split-screen multitasking is available today:

Well, this was unexpected. ... That's much, much earlier than ever before — Google usually waits until its IO developer conference.

For the first time, the preview will be available as an over-the-air update. ... Google, of course, doesn't recommend [it] be used by regular consumers.

The headline feature in split-screen multitasking. ... Google is also adding a few features to notifications. ... Users [can] reply directly from a notification [and] "bundled notifications"...let apps put multiple messages into a single notification card that can be expanded. ... Doze, Android's battery-saving feature, is also getting expanded.

The details that Google is discussing right now are...nitty and gritty — these...are being released so that developers can...provide feedback. [But] presumably we'll get a lot more detail at Google IO.

Was this predicted by the ubiquitous rumor mill? Stephen Hall sounds vindicated—Android N’s first developer preview is dropping soon:

This seemingly confirms a tip we received...suggesting that Google wouldn’t be announcing [it] at I/O. ... Rather than at the event, preview builds of Android N are set to be released before...(it looks like today might mark the first release).

Our tipster...cites the Android team as having “not the best culture in the company” [and] engineering shakeups. [And] the previous leaks showing the redesigned notification shade are spot-on accurate.

So who's happy today? Google VP Dave Burke, that's who—First Preview of Android N:

Today we’re happy to announce a Developer Preview of the N release. ... By releasing a “work in progress” build earlier...we have more time to incorporate developer feedback [and] allows us to hand off the final N release to device makers...earlier than ever.

[It] includes an updated SDK with system images for...the official Android emulator and...Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Nexus 9, and Pixel C. ... You’ll be able to update...and receive ongoing updates via OTA.

But what does N stand for? Google SVP Hiroshi Lockheimer drops hints—N, as in: so early, it’s Not Named yet:

As we look to the next release of Android, N, you’ll notice a few big changes. ... We want to hear from you and iterate on the platform with you. ... Plus, you’ll be able to use this additional time to support all of the new goodies in N in your apps.

So, the burning question. ... What will the N release be named? We’re nut tellin’ you.

But not everyone's fandroiding over it. For example, Joel J:

Android N will just be getting to 5% of Android devices [in] 2017. Android will remain a hot mess on large tablets. ... Stretching phone apps to 10" is a horrible user experience.

Update 1: So let's give it a whirl. Andrew Cunningham calls it a very promising start:

The most significant new feature [is] multi-window multitasking. ... It's come a long way since we saw the janky, hidden, mostly broken version of it. [It's] actually pretty elegant, and it offers some nice improvements over...iOS 9.

You can long-press the..recent-apps button, which...snaps the app you're currently using to the left (or top). [Or] bring up the recent apps list, and then...drag one of the apps to an edge. ... The two apps are split by a slider with a small white indicate that it can be resized.

All of the...apps I tried that didn't demand full-screen mode or a fixed screen orientation seemed to work...after showing me a warning. ... Android apps already have to work on a bunch of different screen sizes...unlike with iOS. ... Compared to what Apple is doing in iOS...Google's implementation actually seems pretty elegant.

[And] the ability to hook up a Bluetooth mouse and get a basic cursor is great. ... Android's OS-wide...basic mouse support will make the whole thing feel more "computer-y".

Update 2: Of course, we saw features appear in the M previews that never made it to release. Ryan Whitwam squints—Night Mode Is Back, With Expanded Features:

Night Mode [is] part of the system UI tuner. ... Long-press the settings shortcut in the quick settings, then head to...Color and appearance > Night Mode.

You can have the OS use a dark theme. ... Joining the material dark...theme is an option to adjust the tint of your display. That applies a red filter to the entire the GPU level.

This is still a developer preview. ... The toggles on this screen are pretty buggy right now.

And Finally…

Mark Hamill at the Oxford Union

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Opinions expressed may not represent those of Computerworld. Ask your doctor before reading. Your mileage may vary. E&OE.

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