UPDATE: Google has now officially dropped the Android N preview for Nexus devices, making it available for developers to download today.
The company was thought to be saving "N" for Google I/O in March, but here it is making an unscheduled and unhyped appearance.
In a post on Medium, Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google’s SVP for Android, Chrome OS and Chromecast wrote: “As we look to the next release of Android, N, you’ll notice a few big changes aimed at you as developers: it’s earlier than ever, it’s easier to try and we’re expanding the ways for you to give us feedback. We hope these changes will ensure that you are heard and reflected – that’s what makes Android stronger,”
Original story, explaining new features, continues below...
We still don’t know what the official name is, but Android N is nearly here.
Google’s Android N developer preview is nearly ready to go live, it seems.
Tech site ArsTechnica published – and then quickly removed – an article titled: “Surprise! The Android N Developer preview is out right now”.
The article details many of the upcoming changes in the next version of Google’s mobile operating system – Android 7.0.
“Google I/O takes place on 18-20 May, but forget Google I/O – the developer preview of the next version of Android is launching right now,” wrote Ars. “Google has posted the Android N Developer Preview for the Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6, Pixel C, Nexus 9, Nexus Player, and the General Mobile 4G, an Android One phone.”
We’re guessing that the removal means Google didn’t intend for this information to be public just yet. Fortunately, a quick-fingered Redditor captured the entire post – and pictures – for posterity.
Here’s what’s coming up in Android 7.0 N:
Google is finally sending a proper side-by-side app mode for Android live in Android N.
The feature works on both tablets and phones, and looks similar to what Samsung currently offers through its TouchWiz OS.
The article notes that developers will need to opt in to the split-screen mode, as well as a new picture-in-picture mode, which is also debuting in Android N.
Related: Best Android Smartphones 2016
Redesigned Notification Panel
The Android N notification panel has been “totally redesigned”, according to the leak.
For instance, power controls now reside at the top of the panel, and there’s an expandable dropdown button too.
The card aesthetic has been replaced by a white sheet with “thin line separators”.
You can also now reply directly from a notification without having to open the app.
Finally, notifications from a single app can now be bundled, much like the current system used on Android Wear.
Battery Life improvements
Google has also improved the power-saving "Doze" mode in Android N.
If you’ve forgotten, Doze minimises the power-drain that takes place while a phone isn’t in use by putting the handset into a deep standby mode.
Doze used to only work when the phone wasn’t being moved, but Google has now updated the system to save battery “whenever the screen turns off”.
What do you make of Google’s latest operating system? Let us know in the comments.