Event Coverage

Android N: Top must-know features of the next Android OS

By PY Ho & Vijay Anand - 19 May 2016

Top features in the new Android N


Android Nuts? Android Nutella? Just N for now.

Google's yearly I/O event unpacked today morning at 1am (Singapore time) and the 2016 edition saw several new initiatives and advancements to existing offerings. Google Home, Google Assistant, Duo, Daydream for VR, Android Wear 2.0, improved Android Studio, new Firebase, Android Instant Apps and more were unveiled. Oh and of course, Android N - the successor to the current Android 6.0 (Marshmallow).

So what can you expect out of Android N?

While there are over 250 new features according to Google, here are 7 key highlights of the next mobile OS from Google:-

1) Drag and drop

Ever saw a cute icon on the web, and wanted to copy/paste it in your favourite IM (instant messaging app)? Previously, you had to save image, switch to the IM, and insert the picture. In Android N, developers can enable their apps for drag and drop, where users can simply drag data from one view to the other.


2) Multi-Window

Multi-window is the ability to display more than one app at a time on the user interface. Though multi-window has been implemented by various OEMs onto their UI overlay (e.g. Samsung TouchWiz and others), it was never officially supported by Android. With N, multi-window is finally officially supported.

There are two different approaches on how multi-window is achieved. On the mobile phone platform, multi-window is achieved by way of split screen, whereby apps run side by side each other.

On the TV platform, multi-window is achieved by "Picture-in-picture", whereby an app runs on a small box, overlaying another app.


3) Notifications

There are new ways in which notifications are displayed on Android N. One of which is the option of direct reply. Imagine having a chat notification. Instead of having to open the app and reply, the user can reply directly from an edit box directly on the notification.


4) New JIT Compiler

For a long time, Android apps are compiled Just-In-Time (JIT), which results in a larger APK file and somewhat slower loading times, compared to when compiled natively. Since Android Lollipop, Google implemented Ahead-Of-Time compilation, where the code is compiled natively during an install. This results in optimized file size, faster execution, but the tradeoff is that all apps will have to be recompiled in the event of a system update, or clearing of cache.

In Android N, the JIT compiler is further optimized to reduce the app footprint, and to eliminate the need for recompilation after a system update. For consumers, that means no more staring at the "App is being optimized" notice after a system update!


5) (Potentially) Sleeker, smoother, faster graphics performance

Android N will be the first iteration of Android that supports Vulkan. Vulkan is a new graphics framework, with emphasis on developing close ‘to-the-metal’. We've more details on Vulkan and how it fares with OpenGL, but in a nutshell, it empowers developers to deliver smoother gameplay where performance is top priority. Game engine companies, such as Unity and Unreal, are looking into developing Vulkan-supported engines, thus bringing sleeker and smoother gameplay on Android mobile is closer to reality.


6) Seamless background system updates

Starting from Android N, Google will serve updates quietly in the background. Users will get the updated system on reboot.

Of course, this applies only to the Nexus line of devices.


7) VR for Android

The challenge of developing VR is that the app must be smooth and appear really immersive. In N, developers can, with one line, define their app to be a VR app. In this mode, developers can take advantage of the high-fidelity and low-latency features not present in normal app development. Users can then experience truly immersive VR on N.

And one more thing…

N stands for....?

Traditionally, Google names Android versions over various kinds of tasty treats. This year, they have decided to open up to the whole world for suggestions. Have your say! Visit android.com/n. Oh and here's some inspiration to help you out:-

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