Android N preview at Google I/O goes over performance, security, and productivity improvements


That Google is hard at work on the next major Android release is no secret. In fact, Android N, as it is referred to for now, has been available in an early preview form since March of this year. You know, for all digital adventurers to test-drive ahead of its launch. What wasn't quite clear, however, is what the upcoming software update would really bring to the table once it is released – some of its highlights were known from the early preview we just mentions, others were kept under wraps until today. Thankfully, the Google I/O keynote shed some light on the matter.

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Performance


Several Android N pillars were overviewed at the Google I/O opening event. On the performance side of things, we have the addition of support for Vulkan – something we knew about, but not much was said regarding what benefits this would bring. So now we know that this new API would allow game developers to create better-looking games without sacrificing performance. This is achieved by providing them with direct control over the GPU. For those not familiar, Vulkan is 3D graphics and compute API with low overhead, available on multiple platforms. Or in human speak, it enables the addition of advanced visuals – realistic motion blur, real-time water effects and reflections, to name a few – to games in a highly efficient manner, without bogging down the device's hardware. 


But performance is not all about gaming. The compiler in Android N shows a performance increase between 30 and 600 percent on major CPU benchmarks compared to Marshmallow. And through the addition of a new JIT compiler, app installs are 75% faster, all while using 50% less space. Further improving performance and battery consumption is the compiler's ability to write compiled code for the next time an app runs. Oh, and the "Apps are upgrading" dialog after a software update is now gone. All this makes the Android N release more efficient than ever. 

Security


When it comes to security, timely software updates are of paramount importance. Updates can be a drag to deal with, however, which makes this new Android N feature more than welcome. When available, updates will be downloaded automatically to the device and will be applied the next time it is powered on. All is done seamlessly, without the user having to deal with anything or go through lengthy installation procedures.

Furthermore, Android N brings file-based encryption for the user's data. This is done to provide better protection for each individual user of the system. Also, key sub-systems – things like codecs and file extractors – have been split into individual protected processes for better security of the entire device.


Productivity


Of course, a phone needs to be not only fast and secure, but also practical and fun to use. To improve in the latter field, Android N comes with a better recent apps screen and additional multitasking features, many of which we actually got to try in the early Android N preview. For instance, clearing apps that haven't been used in a long time makes it easy to find the app you're actually looking for. Also, a Clear All button is conveniently placed at the top! But the coolest addition has to be Quick Switch. In a nutshell, a double-tap on the recent apps button will bring back the last app you were in. During a call, for example, you can switch back to your contacts list or calendar, which you just had opened. Then another double-tap will go back to the dialer. 


But the multitasking capabilities of Android N go further, just as expected. The new version introduces split screen mode for both tablets and phones. Basically, long-pressing the recent apps button lets you open another app. Both apps are active at the same time, so you can take notes while watching a video, for example. And with picture-in-picture mode, you can have a video hovering in a window over another app, although this feature was only shown in an Android TV interface. 

The enhanced notifications UI is another tweak we find useful. It gives us the option to send quick replies to incoming messages without having to open the respective app, and a long-press on a notification lets us block notifications or set them to show silently. And since notifications from the same app are grouped together, more of them can fit in the shade. For all the chatheads out there, over 70 emojis have been added. 


Release date and expectations


All this may seem like a lot of stuff, but in actuality, there's a lot more coming up with Android N. Doze, for example, has been expanded to work when the device is in stand-by, but not stationary, and we haven't even touched on Daydream – Google's virtual reality platform. 

However, we won't be able to experience Android N in its fullest until later this fall. The good news is that a new beta version will become available for preview shortly. We'll try to get a hand on it as soon as it is out to share hands-on insight on the platform's new features. Until then, take a look at the rest of our Google I/O coverage, submit your suggestion for what sweet treat N should stand for (even though that contest is for entertainment purposes only), and let us know in the comments if you're excited about Android N's launch!

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12 Comments

1. PhoneCritic

Posts: 1354; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

Seems like Android is maturing very nicely and Google is taking the necessary steps to ensure Android presences in the market place as one of the top OS.

7. bachir8k

Posts: 153; Member since: Feb 25, 2013

Honestly, and I know it's dumb, but I feel Google is always try copying Samsung features, like all the mentioned above are available on Galaxies since 3-4 years (clear all, multi windows, hovering video, Vulkan, Knox, etc.) This is why HTC stopped developing further in it's skin as Google is providing almost everything by default, and this will motivate Samsung to develop new features to stay ahead from the competition.

10. korean411

Posts: 92; Member since: May 04, 2009

In way yes because Samsung takes the android operating system and tinker it to their liking. HTC doe the same thing with their sense. Those features you name is basically touch wiz features that were added to Galaxy devices a couple years ago. You can say Google is providing features similar to that for stock android N basically people who doesn't want to buy touch wiz features or sense UI features.

11. sieg117

Posts: 5; Member since: Oct 13, 2014

I'm sorry but you just mentioned something that made you look like someone who doesn't know what he's talking about. Vulkan is not some sort of simple UI modification or skin, it's a new graphics API that was anounced last December 2015 and had its first stable release last May 20, 2016 (yup just a few days ago before this reply). Now assuming you don't know what an API is (although it's obvious you don't) an API is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications, a few more examples would be "DirectX" used by Windows and "Metal" used by Apple iOS. For the past years Android OS has used OpenGL ES for its graphics API meaning ALL Android Smartphones "regardless" of the "brand" uses OpenGL, meaning the new graphics API - Vulkan will only be available on devices running Android "N" in the near future.

20. bachir8k

Posts: 153; Member since: Feb 25, 2013

Well i have a BSc in Mutlimedia, and MS in Information Systems so I know what an API is, anyway all what i am saying is Samsung was first to take the initiative to use Vulkan API.

2. phantom28

Posts: 16; Member since: Feb 23, 2015

on paper so far sounds good , hopefully more devices will be updated to N not just the top ones

18. boosook

Posts: 1442; Member since: Nov 19, 2012

just get a nexus, next time! ;)

3. QWIKSTRIKE

Posts: 1459; Member since: Mar 09, 2010

I just got the second pretty release beta tonight. .

4. vincelongman

Posts: 5693; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Its Vulkan, not Vulcan

13. JunitoNH

Posts: 1946; Member since: Feb 15, 2012

Hello, my name is Mr Spock

5. aznhachi

Posts: 212; Member since: Apr 12, 2016

looking forward

6. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

Very surprise that Google not only manage to migrate their custom java library to OpenJDK but manage to add plenty of new desirable feature.

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