The first Android N dev preview just dropped earlier today, and to say that Google’s launch timing surprised us is something of an understatement. Still, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get it installed on our devices and see what’s what in the next version of Android.
You’ll notice some changes right from the setup screen where you now get the option to add additional apps and fill in emergency contact and medical details. Essentially, this allows doctors/paramedics get in touch with your emergency contacts and see a brief overview of any pre-existing conditions or allergies if they need to.
Once we get past those setup screens we see the new home screen for the first time, and of course, that means a brand new wallpaper. Probably the first major change I noticed, however, was the new drop-down menu. The animation of the quick access toggles when expanding is brand new, and looks pretty awesome. When pushed back up, only the essential quick access buttons are shown in a single row above the notifications.
As well as that, you can now tap the battery icon to get a quick look at your battery usage, without leaving the drop-down shade, and you can rearrange, add, or delete custom quick settings toggles by hitting ‘edit’ then dragging and dropping them. You no longer need to enable the feature in System UI Tuner or by installing a third-party app.
On top of that, the notification cards themselves have been completely redesigned. They fill the entire screen on the lock screen, and the homescreen when unlocked. And, with certain apps, they include a new quick reply option, allowing you to respond to messages without leaving the app you’re in. I’m a big fan of the flatter, wider notification cards. It’s a much more aesthetically pleasing interface.
Without doubt, the biggest update is found within the multitasking window. While the new main recent apps screen has been redesigned with wider cards, we now finally have multi-window split-screen apps baked right in to the software. It’s been rumored for months that Android N would include split-screen support, and that option is included in the very first developer preview.
Activating it is easy; simply press and hold on an app in the multitasking view and drag it to the top of the screen, then select another in the bottom half. Once you’ve chosen your two apps, you can interact with both, and adjust where the split should be. Turn it horizontal, and it works in landscape too. While the multitasking mode is enabled, the home screen (including icons) also turns landscape. Cancel the split-screen mode, and it returns to its portrait-only orientation.
One feature I like a lot is the new Display Size option in the Display settings. By adjusting the slider, you change the entire interface to make app icons, text, cards and menus larger or smaller to suit your taste.
And, if you enable the System UI tuner by pressing and holding the settings cog in the drop-down menu for a few seconds, the night mode option has returned. This changes the color of the screen to make it less harsh for night-time reading, and includes options to have it come on automatically, and lets you activate a system wide dark mode.
The settings menu has been updated too, and shows you when you have features like Do Not Disturb, or Data Saver switched on, right at the top, and gives you smart suggestions like changing wallpapers, What’s more, the settings menu now has a side menu, which is easily accessible and gets you back to the main list of settings categories. Data Saver is also a new feature which lets you select which apps can use data limitlessly, set a usage barrier, and monitor your data consumption more effectively.
To see what else we’ve discovered in Android N, check out our in-depth guide on the update. If you want to install it your self, you can download the factory images for the Nexus 6, Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, Nexus 9, Nexus Player and Pixel C direct from Google. If you’re not sure how to install, be sure to check out our installation guide.