A first look at the Android N Developer Preview

Also in today's open source roundup: Android N lays the groundwork for proper windowing, and how to roll back to Android Marshmallow from Android N

A first look at the Android N Developer Preview
Credit: Google, Inc.

Android N Developer Preview

Google recently released a developer preview version of Android N, and many Android users have been wondering about it. A writer at Engadget has a first look at Android N that delves into some of the new features and functionality.

However, you should know that while it promises some great new stuff, most users should probably avoid installing the developer preview as it still contains lots of bugs.

Chris Velazco reports for Engadget:

Last Wednesday, Google threw us all for a loop by pushing out an Android N Developer Preview well ahead of its I/O developer conference. We already dug into what this preview build means for tablets like the Pixel C, but that’s only part of the story. The only thing left to do was to throw N onto a sacrificial Nexus 5X and spent a few days getting a feel things on the small screen. Long story short, while most of you should steer clear, the preview offers a tantalizing – and feature-packed– peek at Google’s refined vision of mobile computing.

There are some thrills to be had by rolling up your sleeves and pecking commands into a Terminal window, but really: You should just enroll your compatible devices in the Android Beta program. Not only does the process take mere moments to get started (I swear, I got the update notification in less than a minute), you’ll also get access to over-the-air updates as they’re released. Google has never, ever made it this easy to install its unfinished software; hopefully, this is a trend that sticks.

Before we go any further, it’s worth reiterating one crucial fact: You should not use this build as your daily driver. For every surprisingly nuanced feature you’ll find, there’s at least one potentially deal-breaking bug lurking in the shadows. Dialog boxes were squished to the point of illegibility, preventing some apps from working properly. Other apps just crash out of nowhere. Chrome simply refused to work after acknowledging it was connected to my Google account. I couldn’t listen to a single voicemail.

Besides the new stock wallpaper (a fetching violet landscape), the first thing you’ll probably notice is Google’s revamped approach to notifications. How could you not? Pulling down that shade reveals denser, more tightly packed information – Marshmallow’s spacious cards are gone. Everything looks crowded because multiple notifications from the same app are bundled into a single stack. The shift in design makes individual notifications harder to parse at a glance; it’s one of the rare visual missteps on display. More importantly, notifications now allow you to take action without popping into the app proper. Over the weekend, I saw this mostly with YouTube and Hangouts notifications – I was given the option to watch new videos later or respond directly to messages, respectively.

More at Engadget

Android N lays the groundwork for proper windowing

One interesting tidbit about Android N comes from a story on The Next Web. Apparently Google has laid the groundwork for proper windowing in Android N, and that may eventually give Android the ability to compete with desktop operating systems such as OS X, Windows and even Linux.

Napier Lopez reports for The Next Web:

The biggest feature in Android N so far is native support for split-screen view, much like snapping programs to the sides in Windows 10. But what if Android could actually behave a lot more like Windows? It seems Google is considering the idea. Android N’s official documentation references a ‘freeform’ mode, which allows you to resize and move around apps in a windowed form to your liking.

Ars Technica notes that the code for the feature isn’t quite active yet in this preview build, but Google’s clearly laying the foundation. And though the documentation doesn’t specify how to enter free-form mode, it does say developers can specify an app’s default and minimum window size and position, so it’s likely we’ll see it pop up more prominently in a future build.

With devices like the iPad Pro and the Surface duking it out to define the future of productivity, it seems Google is ready to join the fray. Though we haven’t seen what it looks like in practice, Android N appears to be implementing much more robust windowed-app support than we’ve ever seen from a mobile OS.

For its part, Google has frequently denied that it plans to convert Android into a desktop OS or merge it completely with its current laptop platform, Chrome OS. But by the looks of Android N, the idea is far from ruled out.

More at The Next Web

How to roll back to Android Marshmallow from Android N

If you’re one of the folks that installed Android N and now you want to switch back to Android Marshmallow, have no fear. It is possible to do so without a lot of headaches.

Aaron Mamiit reports for Tech Times:

The launch of Android N Preview was a surprise for most Android fans, as the first look at the operating system was not expected until Google’s I/O Conference in May. As such, some users may have been too excited and installed the operating system, choosing between installing Android N Preview though over-the-air updates by signing up in the Android Beta Program or flashing a system image.

Some users may now be starting to get annoyed with the various bugs associated with preview builds, however. Thankfully, Google has made it easy to roll back Android N Preview to Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

The instructions to uninstall Android N Preview from a device are also listed on the same Android Developers page where Google revealed how to install the operating system.

For users that chose to install Android N Preview through the Android Beta Program, they can simply un-enroll themselves from the program by going back to the same page where they signed up. An “Unenroll Device” option will be displayed in the same place where enroll option is located. Afterwards, users will be receiving an over-the-air update that takes down the operating system to the latest version of Android available for the device. This update will require a full reset of the device, which means that all the data on the device will be erased. As such, users are recommended to back up their data before performing this operation.

More at Tech Times

Did you miss a roundup? Check the Eye On Open home page to get caught up with the latest news about open source and Linux.

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?