10 Top Features You Need To Know About Android N

Every major Android release gets a Nickname and a version number, now is the time for Android N, currently in beta stage it can be tested by nexus users thanks to an early release on March 9 as it would probably be released in August/September.

This list will explore some of the changes from past Android versions, although you have to bear in mind that it is not unusual for features from the developer preview to be cut from the final version.

10. Multi Window

Multi Window
Two applications running one beside the other split screen mode.

A feature already known by certain android users, Multi Window is something that has existed in other phones (like Samsung’s) for some time but now it is getting integrated into stock Android. If it isn’t obvious by its name, Multi Window allows us to have more than one application sharing screen space at the same time, which will let you use two apps at once without needing to switch between each other useful specially for tablets and phones with big screens and developers will be the ones in charge to making their apps compatible.

There’s also a hidden feature for normal users, so it is unclear whether or not it will make the cut, but through ADB a free form mode can be enabled which will let you overlap different apps on top of each other if necessary, much like we can in our desktops operating system when moving our windows around.

9. Settings Menu

The settings menu has undergone some small UI changes, the most obvious and significant one is the addition of a hamburger menu to make navigation between the different sections easier as you don’t have to go back to access different parts of the settings, instead, whenever you are inside a sub-menu you will see the hamburger menu in the top left corner which will let you go to another section of the settings without leaving first where you are, and the hamburger menu is organized much like the setting “root” screen, so you’ll find your section of interest just as easily.

There’ll also be more entries in the settings, for example, “Tap & Pay” gets its own entry for easy access, and “Notifications” and “Sound” which used to be grouped together are now separated, as such the sub-menu itself has also changed, the storage section has also gotten some changes as well.

8. Changes in Doze Mode

Changes in Doze Mode
Illustration of how Doze applies a first level of system activity restrictions to prolong battery life.

It is frustrating, I know, you get a new phone, it probably is faster and snappier than the one before, it has a new processor, a more powerful gpu, more ram but… the battery is still underwhelming, unfortunately battery technology doesn’t seem to advance as fast as the rest of our phones, leaving us slaved to plugs, to try to get some more juice to our devices Android M introduced Doze Mode, which reduced a lot of battery consumption when the screen is off and the device is stationary by limiting the activities of your apps and it got some love in Android N.

Normally you’d have to take the phone out and put it in a desk if you wanted to make sure to have it activated, which a lot of people, myself included, simply aren’t used in doing as we just put it back into our pockets by reflex. So now its behavior has changed, now your device will enter Doze Mode regardless of whether or not it is stationary, it just has to be with its screen off for a certain time. There’s also some changes in how it works as now it has two level of aggressiveness, reducing how often it will sync and how much activity it will allow will depend on whether it is stationed or not, again Doze Mode will activate even if your phone is in your pocket, but if you have it still it will save even more battery by limiting more app activity, Doze Mode will also not activate if your phone is plugged in to an energy source in the case this was worrying you.

7. Night Mode

A lot of users have been waiting a lot of time for a dark theme for Android, Google get us excited during the preview of Android M by allowing a dark theme to be used. Unfortunately the dream was destroyed when Android M was released as said feature was removed.

Now a dark theme appears again in Android N preview, hopefully to stay this time. Now called Night Mode, it isn’t simply a system wide dark theme, it also allows you to control the tint of your screen as the light of the screen is generally blueish, the brain interprets is as being day making it harder to sleep at night if you were using your phone, so you can play a game without much worry before heading to sleep. Night Mode can be set to activate automatically at certain times and to also reduce the brightness of our display.

6. Data Saver Setting

Through the years a lot of providers have offered bigger and better plans for out smartphones, but some still don’t and even when they do it might be a little too costly for us to justify, and when we are limited on how much we can consume every kilobyte counts.

Android has had data management for some time to remind you of how much you’ve consumed and try to get you to not burn through it too fast, but we’ll get more features now to stretch our data plans a little bit further. Now there’s the Data Saver Setting inside data usage which will give you a tighter control on background data consumption of your apps. You just have to activate it to limit your apps, and it will also attempt to get your foreground app to consume less if possible. Along with the ability to limit every of our apps there’s a whitelist in the case you need it for any of your apps.

5. New Accessibility Features

New Accessibility Features
On the right screen the effect of increasing Display size for a device is shown with an image of Android system N.

In the past, users that wanted to change the size of the content in their phone, had to modify build.prop or use an app that would require the user to be rooted, making it hard for end users to be able to easily change the size of the elements of their phone, this relatively simple change can allows the elements of the apps to be smaller and thus allow to more information to show at once, or it could also be made bigger to aid people that might have poor vision or something that makes it hard to accurately use one’s hand and get them to use their device more easily.

Android N introduces a new screen zoom feature which lets you change this effortlessly, and during the setup of your phone you will also be presented with magnification gesture, font size, display size and TalkBack to configure them in one go.

4. Scoped Directories

Scoped Directories

As said before, Android M allowed us to control what can an app access, and this includes access to read or write our storage system, which could be either our internal memory or our Micro SD card, and this permission in particular got some refinement on Android N.

Apps can only access their own allocated folder by default, to be able to write or read from a different folder they had to be granted access by the user, neat, right? the problem being that it’d grant the app access to our whole storage, allowing it to read and write on any part of our memory if it wanted to do so, but now in order to write or read a folder, the app will have to ask for permission for that particular folder, meaning its access will be restricted, making your device safer by limiting what can our apps see.

3. Notifications

Notifications
Android N adds the Reply action button.

The notification bar… how many times do we pull it a day? probably a dozen or a couple of dozens of times, so having some changes be made to something we use so often has to be noted in this list.

As the name implies, the notification bar carries our notifications, and it got some changes on how we interact with them. For some time we’ve been able to interact with apps using only the notifications themselves and avoiding having to open the app if possible allowing us to perform actions without having to open the pp itself, things like being able to reply in hangouts using just the notifications themselves or being able to archive emails thanks to the Gmail app. Android N makes some improvements by allowing developers to bundle notifications, this means applications can group similar notifications in one to have a tidier notification bar, this bundle of notifications can be expanded and dismiss or access the notifications that conform it individually.

2. Android TV

Android TV

Android TV hasn’t been forgotten by Google and has gotten some changes in Android N. Changing its settings from a tiled multi row design to one making to the normal setting menu found in our phones and tablet, it gets fixed to the right side of the screen, this has one drawback, however, as you’ll need more clicks to reach most of the options compared to how it was before, and some components have yet to update their looks as some of them, namely the Google app, which is in charge in most of most of search related activities stills show the old tiled layout, but it is bound to be adapted to the new look in time.

Now we can also add multiple accounts as well, one of the biggest complaints found from its users was the lack of multiple users support. As android TV is meant to be used by different family members it makes sense they’d all be able to access the content they have bought in the store and finally they can. However, a lot of apps have yet to make use of this and only access the main account, and this includes the Google Play apps, there’s still a lot of time before release so we can expect these things to be fixed before it.

1. The tiny things

And finally we go with those tiny UI changes that might just make our life a little easier. The download manager now includes a way to quickly cancel our downloads, this might not sounds like much, but we used to only get a bar that notified us of the progress of our download so this is a nice change. We used to need to tap our notification which would lead us to the Download Manager, there we would long tap an item until a contextual menu appears which will let us cancel and delete the file, now the download notification itself shows us a cancel button below the name and bar of progress of the download, this also works with Play Store downloads.

Fast Scroll in app list, in Android M you can activate Fast Scroll action in your contact list, which is pretty useful for a long list of contacts, however, it couldn’t be use with your app list, Android N changes this and makes the Fast Scroll be usable here.

 

Another usability change is now the app info screen, where you can force stop, uninstall, see permissions, and delete data from an app, is now able to house a shortcut for the app’s settings in form of a gear icon to quickly access it.

And finally notification tweaking, we can choose to only silently show notifications, to block them or to do neither of these letting it behave normally but we can also set the importance of our notifications so we can have a better control over our notifications, after enabling the System UI Tuner we’ll see the full importance toggle under the “Other” section. When enabled, your importance setting will convert to a 5 point scale which can be accessed with a long tap on the notification and in the notification settings, in here the lowest tier is the equivalent of blocking the notifications from an app.

And here ends some this list for some of the changes we find in android N you can talk about the features you are excited about and even the ones that you’d want to see but have yet to be added.

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One Comment

  1. i like your applications very much it is really awesome and very nice to see your ideas thanks for sharing

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