By now just about every Android enthusiast has Android N Developer Preview installed on their (supported) Nexus device and have already been using it for hours testing it out and whatnot. With Google allowing the option to sign up for OTA updates, it makes it much easier for those that don’t know how to unlock a bootloader and flash the Android N ROM (I’m speaking about me here). We’ve already covered some of the new features that are coming in Android N, but I’m here to give you a first look of it from my experience with the first preview out.
Starting out with the major feature that most people are now happy about is the multi-window feature. Getting to it is fairly easy, just tap on the recent apps icon and then hold down the app you want to use first. After that, you’ll see other apps that can also be used. If you’re already in an application, you can also hold down the recent apps icon and choose another application to split. One thing that confused me at first was closing out of them both. Tapping the back icon does close out both in a way, but it leaves the first app chosen open. You have to go back into that app and then back out of it. I doubt this will be in later preview version of the OS, but for now it doesn’t bother me. The feature also works in landscape mode too which is pretty neat. Another nifty little trick with the new multi-window feature is the ability to select text in one window, then drag and drop it in the other.
The new enhancements to quick settings was actually the first thing I noticed. We’ve been used to the first slide down from the notification bar showing what notifications we have and then a second swipe will bring down toggles such as WiFi, Bluetooth, Airplane mode, etc. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I really like what Google did to the first drop down for the notification bar. Giving you 5 quick toggles which can also be edited by choosing the “edit” option on the second drop down. For the second part of the notifications bar the toggles are spread out and look much better than they did in Android Lollipop and Marshmallow. Not specifically the icons, but how it looks. You can also swipe from right to left to see your other toggles. Back to the “edit” option, you can rearrange all the toggles or select which ones to not show up or if you want all of them to show you can.
Quick settings isn’t the only other feature that received some nice enhancements. All notifications have been improved and updated. When you’re looking at the notifications you’ve received, you’ll notice it’s been expanded. What I mean by that is there’s more room to see what the notification was for. When I received a Hangout message, I was able to read it much easier than I could on Android Marshmallow. If you slide from left to right or vice versa, there will be an option which allows you to tweak notification settings for that app, including silencing them outright and do not disturb options. You now have the ability to directly reply to messages either from a messaging app or SMS with inline replies. So without going into the app, you can now reply from the notifications bar.
The settings UI has changed, but not drastically. It’s more of an update that may or may not have been needed in other versions of Android. Regardless, it’s here now and is much more helpful. A little info is under each option in the settings so you have a little heads up before getting further into the settings. Before, if you wanted to see what WiFi connection you were on (without checking quick settings) you had to choose WiFi and then the SSID is displayed. Now, it shows what network your on without even going into it. Google implemented a “suggestions” section which you can go through to see what’s being suggested to you then and there. In the screenshot gallery below, you’ll see that Google was suggesting me to set up a lock screen to protect my device and change the wallpaper. You can remove a suggestion if you’d like or just minimize it all entirely.
While still under settings, if you slide from left to right you’ll see something that looks very familiar to you. Something you haven’t seen in a good while. Those that remember Android Honeycomb will know what I’m talking about. It doesn’t matter which part of settings you’re under because that pane can still be accessed to bring you to a different option under settings. Going a little bit deeper into the settings, system tuner to be more precise, you can turn on night mode giving your settings a dark theme. I kept hitting a bug where I was turning off night mode, but it would stay on no matter how many times I kept turning it off. Eventually it turned off, but took some time. This will most likely be ironed out either in the next preview update or one after that.
So far Android N is coming along nicely and I didn’t hit many hiccups unlike some other folks I know that have installed this OS on to their devices. It’s too early to say this is one of the better OS version Google has pushed out or one of the biggest upgrades for Android, but everyone’s preference is different. Me personally, I’m liking Android N much better than others in the past.