A wild Android release appears! Out of nowhere, Google unleashed the Android N Developer Preview on the world. The new iteration of Google's operating system is more evolution than revolution when compared to Android Marshmallow, but it still comes with a few interesting features.
Apps can now configure themselves so they can be launched in a window. Android offers free-form (floating windows), split-screen and picture-in-picture modes. This feature is new to stock Android, but Samsung has already been doing it for a while. Official support will certainly improve apps' support for windowed mode, though.
In my opinion, Android's notifications system is the best around already, and it's getting better still. Notifications can now be shown as expandable groups, and apps can register specific input behaviors. For example, users can reply to a message or take an action directly from the notification shade. Users with poor eyesight should be happy to know that Android N now has a Screen Zoom feature which makes the OS render everything at an adjustable size, too.
The main focus of this release, however, are power and performance improvements. Marshmallow's Doze battery saving mojo has been improved. Doze now keeps the phone in sleep mode when the screen is off, only doing some actual work periodically. Apps can now set more specific priorities for whatever work they need to do while the screen is off, like handling an incoming notification.
The Project Svelte app thinning effort also resulted in some changes in Android N. There are now tighter controls in place about what kind of work applications can do while running in the background. The Data Saver feature also gives apps a shorter leash when it comes to mobile data usage. The system "blocks background data usage and signals apps to use less data in the foreground wherever possible."
Android N's development process is a little different from the usual. Google is now releasing a "work in progress" build, so that it has more time to receive and act on developers' feedback. According to the company, this also allows it to send the final build (expected around summer) to manufacturers a little earlier.
The new Android Beta program lets developers can install the preview version of Android N on their Nexus devices and easily receive OTA updates. Developers also get a $150 discount on the purchase of a Pixel C convertible—just enter your e-mail here and get a coupon.