Google is just about to launch its latest batch of phones on October 4, but they won’t be Nexus phones, no sir, this will be the new Pixel brand, launching as the Pixel and Pixel XL. The duo will run Android 7.1 Nougat and as well as all the usual Nougat features seen on the updated Nexus phones will also likely have some bespoke, baked-in software capabilities not found on other devices produced by Android OEMs. A major leak has occured ahead of launch when several carrier networks in Canada and the UK revealed most of the spec line-up for the Pixel and Pixel XL, which will both be powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 SoC with 4GB of RAM. KYM will be in attendance at the London-facing launch, so stay tuned for the details!
After a long, LONG time of speculation on the official name of Android N, and after Google threw the doors wide open to the public to vote for their preferred name, the software’s latest moniker for build 7.0 has finally been revealed. It is, as it turns out, none other than popular front-runner NOUGAT, the nutty confectionary often eaten on its own, but probably most commonly consumed covered in chocolate and other treats – just as you’d find it in a Mars bar. Seems like a sensible choice to us, although we can’t read that word without hearing it in our heads in the dulcet tones of this man:
It’s just a very Partridge-y word. And now we’ve ruined it for you too.
Below is a list of some of the best wannabe names that were put forward on social networks:
- New Mexico Chile
- Nut Brittle
- Navel Orange
- Norwegian Smoked Salmon
- Nun’s Puff
Google has been testing the software extensively for the last several months and took time to detail the platform fully at its recent I/O 2016 developer conference.
Android, like a fine wine, has developed beautifully over the past few years. Google has added in new features, improved performance and refined the look and feel of the platform via Material Design. Most Android users will not get to experience this, however, as most Android phones operate behind a custom skin like Sense.
Go stock, though, like you get on Nexus phones, and you’re in for a treat. Android N looks utterly stunning and is easily the best looking platform out there right now; it makes Apple’s iOS look practically remedial in comparison. The only downside to Android, and this has always been the case, is that the vast majority of Android phones will not get the latest and greatest software, such is Android’s fragmented nature.
Google has had MASSIVE success with its Android N beta programme thus far. Post Google I/O 2016, the Big G pushed out yet another update, the cleanest yet. And now it is back with another preview build aimed squarely at those looking to install Android N on their daily drivers.
The firm has put in a lot of man hours on Android N and the result of this latest build is the net result of all that work; the build is stable and designed for use on daily drivers. This means you can download and install Android N right now and, all being well, it should perform and function just like a gold-standard release.
In order to access and download Android N, simply go to Google’s Landing Page. Once downloaded and up and running, you can also deregister your device as well — great, if things aren’t quite as rosy as you thought. Below are the current supported devices:
- Nexus 6
- Nexus 9
- Nexus 5X
- Nexus 6P
- Nexus Player
- Pixel C
- General Mobile 4G (Android One)
Android Nougat FINAL Public Release In August?
According to a info emerging on July 30, Android Nougat’s final public build could arrive in August; the word comes via reliable tipster Evan Blass, aka @evleaks on Twitter, who said on the social network that “Android 7.0 releases next month with the 8/5 security patch.”
However, there is a sting in the tail, he goes on to say that the Nexus 5 will NOT be updated to Android Nougat.
“Sorry Nexus 5 owners, no Nougat for you,” he added. The Nexus 5 is now three years old and the revelation perhaps means that some of Android Nougat’s new advanced features have outpaced the handset’s aging technology. That said, we’re fairly sure you’ll see third-party developed Nexus 5 Nougat ROMs online in very short order, if you’re someone who doesn’t mind flashing their handsets with modified software.
Android Nougat Developer Preview FINAL Build Released
Google has now officially released the final build of the Developer Preview for Android Nougat, which means that the next release will be the full public release – it’ll likely debut on the new HTC Nexus (Marlin and Sailfish) phones at some point in the next few months with a rollout to existing Nexus hardware following imminently. Then of course there’ll be the usual gradual rollout to other devices at whatever speed OEMs and carrier networks decide. The final build is loaded with bugfixes, as well as “the near-final system updates for all of the supported preview devices,” and final APIs; all of which means apps tested in this version will be ready for the public release.
Android N: Nuclear Wipe Option Rumoured
Google is said to be prepping a new security feature for Android N that will have huge implications for security. The new feature, which is dubbed the Nuclear Wipe as of now, will allow users to brick their phone completely in the event that it is stolen or lost.
“It appeared in AOSP on Friday,” reports Android Police, “and it takes ‘wiping’ to a whole new level. Namely, the level of bricking. When initiated, the brick command can securely erase (write to zeroes) any partition on your Android device, including the recovery, boot, and bootloader themselves (at which point, recovering the device without dedicated JTAG hardware is often impossible). Manufacturers would be able to define just which partitions are included in the brick command, with the ability to add things like a partition for an external SD card, for example. Most likely, implementations would make the device unbootable while still providing the user the ability to recover the device without any special hardware once they have it back.”
There is no information about whether Google plans to bring this feature to its Android Device Manager. It’d obviously be very handy for enterprise handsets or those with sensitive materials stored on it, but Google would also need to have a recovery method sorted as well and it is likely both features will have to be sorted before any rollout.
Android N Seamless Updates
Google is constantly pushing what’s possible with its software, adding in new features and capabilities each year, but, as is often reported, there is one large elephant in the room: most handsets don’t get the newest build of Android right away. In fact, only about 7.5% of Android handsets are currently running the latest build of Android Marshmallow. And this is pretty pathetic.
Google has trialled a few initiatives over the years in order to speed up this process and get OEMs and carriers pushing updates out faster, but none have really worked. Android is still fragmented as hell and 90% of Android phones never see the latest updates in a timely fashion. Google announced its latest solution for Android fragmentation at I/O 2016 — it’s called Seamless updates — and the long term implications are very positive indeed.
Android N Seamless Updates: What Is It?
Seamless will only be available on Nexus handsets to begin with, but will likely come to OEM-built Android phones in the future. At present the scheme is still somewhat beta. How it works is similar to how ChromeOS updates; everything takes place in the back-ground and, once you restart your system, the new update is installed.
“Devices built on Android N will instead have two system images,” notes Android Pit. “This means that when an update is available, your phone will automatically download the newest image, but in the background. Then when you restart the device, it will automatically switch over to the new system image. Note: this feature will only be available to new Nexus devices, unless Google announces otherwise.”
The longer term implications of this are clear: should handset manufacturers adopt the process, their respective Android N phones will update silently in the background. This does cause certain issues, however, when you factor in things like OEM bloatware and custom skins. Certain brands stand to benefit more; Motorola uses a pretty much stock setup, so, in theory, it could implement Seamless with minimal fuss. Other brands like HTC, Huawei and Samsung would likely struggle though, as their custom skins are slightly more complex.
Either way, this is definitely a step forwards for Android.
Google I/O 2016 Reveals New Android N Features
Google I/O has kicked off as of May 18 and so far Google hasn’t given Android N its confectionary name yet, but has commented that the response to the developer preview has been “overwhelming”. Google has detailed the update’s “late summer” release date as well as a few of other features it is now prepared to reveal. One of the BIG features Google was keen to reveal on day one is related to the platform’s performance, with the big G saying it has improved this on two fronts; runtime and graphics.
Google also let slip that it is now building its own chipsets. Called the Tensor Processing Unit, the chipset is what’s powering The Big G’s Assistant AI platform. This is kind of a big deal because it puts Google in direct competition with the likes of NVIDIA, Qualcomm and Intel. Whether these chipsets will come to mobiles in the future remains to be seen, but starting to build your own SoC isn’t exactly cheap, nor is it an endeavour one takes on for just a single product.
Perhaps this is why Google only mentioned it in passing; maybe it didn’t want to upset its long-standing chip-making partners. Qualcomm invests billions in R&D every year and is involved in a fiercely competitive space with the likes of Samsung, Intel and NVIDIA. The addition to Google likely wouldn’t be seen as welcome news given the company’s financial size and influence.
The graphics and runtime side of things is down to the new Vulkan API, essentially offering an extensive series of optimisation tweaks so that devs can squeeze better graphics out of current and forthcoming hardware AND it’ll run more efficiently too thanks to a new graphics compiler that is claimed to be 75% speedier than the previous architecture. Google also says these tweaks will mean applications will be smaller in terms of storage space than before, so you’ll get more apps into your device!
The Vulkan API is also cross-platform and scalable, while the benefts are obivous to mobile, an Nvidia demo showcased the API running the new Doom game on a desktop machine.
Always a focal point of Android is the multitasking, and Google has tweaked things a little further for the new build – the multitasking hub will now show you only the last seven apps you’ve used rather than every single one, plus there’s now a “clear all” option. As detailed previously, Android N features split-screen multitasking with application windows. We don’t yet know the details for phones, but tablets will allow you to have two applications dividing the display in half, or run a smaller window in the corner of a larger full-screen application, say a YouTube video in the corner of your web browser, for example. Messages in your notifications menu will now allow a quick-reply option.
An of course VR is a BIG deal this year. Google announced its VR scheme called “Daydream” and Android will be involved with its own VR mode, and Google is providing OEMs with a required spec sheet if they want to be able to run Daydream – the “Daydream Ready” spec.
Android N: Release date
While the name might be harder to guess, the first preview of Android N is easier to surmise. The next Android OS will almost certainly be previewed at this year’s Google I/O, which takes place from May 18-20 2016. Google will also almost certainly release a developer preview that day.
As for a public release date, expect to be downloading it for certain phones come October. There’s a few reasons for this. First, Marshmallow appeared during the same timeframe last fall. Second, an OS update spurs sales of new devices—important for the holiday shopping season. Third, Apple will be releasing iOS 10 around the same time (probably in September), which will mean Android devices will need some new features to tout.
Android N: Which phones will be the first to get it?
Of course, just because Android N gets a public release in October doesn’t mean all phones will have access to it right away. It’s almost certain that Google will release a new Nexus flagship phone around the time that will ship with Android N preinstalled. Older Nexus phones should get an Android N downloadable update shortly after that. As for other major flagship phones from the likes of Samsung, LG, and HTC? Expect an Android N update for some of those devices before Christmas, with virtually all of them getting the new OS by early 2017.
Android N: Will it merge with Chrome OS?
Probably not. An Android/Chrome OS merger will instead probably happen the next year with Android O. For those of you who don’t know about this, back in October the Wall Street Journal revealed that Google is set to merge the two operating systems by 2017. As the WSJ reported: “Alphabet Inc. ’s Google plans to fold its Chrome operating system for personal computers into its Android mobile operating system, according to people familiar with the matter, a sign of the growing dominance of mobile computing. Google engineers have been working for roughly two years to combine the operating systems and have made progress recently, two of the people said. The company plans to unveil its new, single operating system in 2017, but expects to show off an early version next year, one of the people said.”
No one knows what a merged Android/Chrome OS will look like, but it will probably retain the look and feel of Android, while also being capable as being run as a full desktop OS on PCs. However, don’t expect that ability in Android N.
Android N Developer Preview: New Features & Tweaks
Android N is now available as a preview to developers, as well as those with compatible Nexus and Sony handsets. We’ve had a play around with the software on our Nexus. This isn’t the final software, however, and there will likely be a bunch of new features in the final build that didn’t make it into the developer preview — you want SOME surprises, after all.
So what’s new inside this developer preview? Quite a bit as it goes.
Folders have been completely redesigned. They look a lot smarter on the homescreen and also give a better indication of what’s contained inside them, especially if you limit the number of applications you put in there to four.
Google Camera App
This isn’t technically an Android N exclusive, as it is now freely available inside the Google Play store. Google has made a few visual design changes to the layout and moved a few of the buttons and/or features around. The slow-motion button, for example, is now available from a slide-in menu which you access on the camera app’s main screen.
You can now also capture images while filming video; again, not a new feature by any stretch of the imagination, but a useful one nevertheless.
Android N will feature baked-in support for 3D Touch-like display technology, whereby you hard-press on an application icon for sub-menus and quick actions within it. This feature is already present on some Android phones in a proprietary implementation. Hardwired into Android’s source code though means all of Google’s hardware partners can implement in on their hardware, bringing support for all third party applications in time, not just bloatware ones placed on the phone by the manufacturer.
Nevertheless, ahead of this Google has made some other changes to Android N’s launcher — changes that ALL Android N handsets will experience. Inside the Android N preview you can assign shortcuts to applications, so, in messaging, for instance, you could assign “compose message” as one of the shortcuts in order to save you actually going into the app to compose a message.
Like Samsung handsets before it, Android N will FINALLY support multi-window applications. Google has taken its time introducing this feature to Android. This is likely down to the fact that such a feature only really works on phones with displays of a certain size; it’d be pointless on a 4in phone, for instance.
Google’s implementation is very smooth as well; it works like a charm, even in this developer preview. Operating this new feature is easy as pie as well: hold the Overview (square button) to activate Multi-window mode with the primary app you want to have open. The screen splits in half and the other half displays a rotating carousel of recent apps. You then select the secondary app you want to use, which fills the remaining half of the screen.
Or — from the homescreen: tap the overview button to bring up the recent apps carousel as usual, then, tap and drag one of the cards over to the edge of the screen to put it into Multi-window mode. Simples.
Notifications & Quick Toggles
Google’s constantly tweaking and refining Android’s notifications menu — and always in a positive, forward-looking manner. This trend continues inside Android N, but it also applies to Quick Toggles as well now as the Big G has added in support to edit what settings appear in this secondary menu, so you can add in bespoke toggles for things like Hotspot, Data Saving or display settings.
With notifications in Android N, Google has made it so similar notifications can be bundled together — messages, for instance. These bundled notifications can be expanded with a two-finger swipe. The notifications themselves are richer also, with more details available at a glance — all good things.
Plus the ability to reply to messages and IM via notifications menu appears to have gone system wide and now includes support for ALL messaging and IM applications — WhatsApp included. How it works is simple too: reply option appears below the notification and tapping it turns it into a text field. That’s literally it.
Below is EVERYTHING else you need to know about Android N.
Sony Xperia Z3 Gets Android N Developer Preview Update
Sony has now followed Google’s example in making the Android N Developer Preview available on one of its handsets, specifically the Xperia Z3. Google already made the update available for the Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus 9, Pixel C and Nexus Player, but now the Xperia Z3 is also getting in on the action. Xperia Z3 units designated as D6603 or D6653 models can now gain quick and easy access to all the in-development features, including split-screen applications, advanced Doze battery saving capabilities, and an enhanced interface. You can check the model number by going to Settings>About Phone, although to be brutally honest if you didn’t at least know that already you probably shouldn’t be flashing your smartphone and installing an incomplete developer preview! This is all at your own risk, as usual!
Bear in mind this will be Google’s vanilla flavour of Android so the Xperia launcher interface will disappear (not that this is a bad thing, in our view). Here’s the word straight from Sony on how to install the update:
- Connect your compatible Z3 device to a computer with a USB cable.
- Xperia Companion will open automatically
- Make sure you have Xperia Companion version 1.1.24 or later. If not, download the latest version from here.
- Hold down the ALT key on your computer and click on Software repair on the home screen, then follow the guide.
- You’ll be asked to disconnect and turn off your device, then to reconnect whilst holding down the volume down key to start the software flashing.
- You can return to factory settings at any time by connecting back to Xperia Companion and following the Software repair
Android N To Natively Support Pressure Sensitive “3D Touch”?
According to a report out of China, specifically from an alleged insider tipster commenting on the HTC-made Nexus 2016 handset, Android N will have built-in support for pressure sensitive touch displays similar to the iPhone 6s 3D Touch display.
If you’re not familiar, the 3D Touch aboard the iPhone 6s can detect different types of pressure input and allow them to perform different functions on the phone, for example, a harder press can bring up a different menu from a quicker, lighter tap.
It seems, at least according to the tipster, that Google wants HTC to put this display tech aboard the next Nexus phone, but is also going as far as hardwiring it into the next Android build, meaning that just as with biometric security and battery saving features inside Android M, it’ll be a feature other manufacturers building Android phones can tap into.
Google Prepping “Nexus VR” Headset
The launch of Android N at this year’s Google I/O expo could be sweetened with the release of a more advanced version of Google Cardboard, the Big G’s first attempt at a cheap, VR headset. And by more advanced, we mean something similar to Oculus Rift or Sony’s PlayStation VR — so, an all in one unit capable of linking up with any Android phone.
The news comes from The FT, which claims Google is working on a VR product similar to Samsung’s Gear VR headset. The device would be made of plastic apparently and support all types of Android phones, unlike Samsung’s. It will also feature “better sensors” and “lenses,” though the connected phone will deliver “most of its processing power.”
All in all it should be a very exciting expo. But for most people it will be Android N that is the star of the show. Here’s everything you can expect to see inside the next Android OS.