Google released more information about Android N (referring to N as Not the real name). The preview of the mobile operating system gives the impression of a more in-depth system and user-level polish that has been Google’s obsession since Android 4.4 Kitkat.
Multi-Window support stands out as the most important feature for users, consumers and developers. It allows apps to be opened in two separate windows and used on a split-screen display. User interest in Multi-Window has become increasingly important as mobile devices replace PC apps with mobile apps. When work moves to a mobile app, users want many of the same PC features, keyboards, split screens, drag and drop, etc.
Developers can easily add Multi-Window attributes to their apps, such as automatic window layout, with one addition to the manifest. A second app and screen can be launched from within applications to run adjacent to the calling app. A minimum size can also be set so unreadable windows aren’t launched on devices that have small displays.
Device makers building devices with larger screens like kiosks and TVs have additional options. One smaller window can be rendered on top of a larger one much like the television picture-in-picture feature. Free-form window sizes will be supported. Details of the free-form windows are scant, but it seems like it will support touch displays.
Multi-Window helps Google capture more of the detachable keyboard market. Tablets are an unloved business except when looked at from the detachable keyboard category that Microsoft created with the surface. IDC predicts it will grow at a compound annual rate of 15 percent over the next four years.
Experiences and habit guide Microsoft, Apple and Android users to devices that are essentially light versions of notebooks designed for work.
Microsoft users want to replicate what they do on desktops on Surface tablets with keyboards.
Apple’s community of creative users, represented by graphic artists, designers, engineers and architects (to name a few), is beginning to move from Macs to iPad Pros—attracted to the powerful processor, keyboard and drawing stylus. Tim Cook said Apple was targeting the 600 million PCs that are 5 years old and older, but iPad Pros are not the natural upgrade path for an antiquated PC user. However, professionals who print large drawings that are marked up during collaboration and then resubmitted to CAD operators, designers and graphic artists for edits and reprint are likely to switch to iPad Pros because of the features of the iPad Pro. Also, these businesses often use Apple as the primary desktop and notebook platform.
Loyal Android users are the ones most likely to upgrade to Android N detachables because those users are immersed in Google’s ecosystem of mobile and web apps. If they don’t have a split-screened keyboarded device designed for work, however, they could choose a Surface or an iPad Pro.
Developer Options Revealed
Google also announced some developer features:
Google dramatically improved the battery life in Android Marshmallow with Doze Mode. When running on battery power, a device running Marshmallow with Doze Mode will enter a low-power state if the accelerometer reports that the phone is not in use or at the ready in a person’s hands or on his or her body. In this state, network connectivity and background processing are restricted, and only "high-priority" notifications are processed. Additionally, network access by apps is deferred if the user has not recently interacted with the app.
Ian Lake, developer advocate at Google, said more improvements are coming that won’t require additional work by developers but will increase the battery performance of their apps.
As apps and wearables have proliferated, the annoying interruptions of notifications have come under scrutiny. Users are increasingly intolerant of the alerts and shut off notifications or, in extreme cases, uninstall the offending app.
Google redesigned notifications in Android N with a visual design refresh and new function. The new notifications user interface (UI) will be larger and easier to read in a short glance. The name of the person who triggered the notification will be displayed, and the app identity will be more prominent. To shorten the user’s time to respond, developers can build a direct response field into the notification so opening the app does not delay a response.
Google updated the Android N preview added last month on its developer site where descriptions of these and other features can be found. Developers can learn even more by downloading Nexus preview images of Android N.