Android N surprises with early dev preview - here are its new features

Android N

There's no need to wait until Google IO 2016 to hear about Android N, let alone try it out for yourself. The first Android N developer preview is available to download right now.

Of course, the operating system update requires a Pixel C or a newer Nexus device: the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus 6, Nexus Player or Nexus 9. Looks like it's time to retire that trusty Nexus 5.

The follow-up to Android 6.0 Marshmallow, while still unnamed at the moment, has arrived much earlier than expected, with the aim being to make N the best iteration of Android yet (with your help, of course.)

Eager early adopters can dig into Android N right away, and that's good for them, but what's better is that we now know about some new, crowd-pleasing additions that are headed to the popular mobile OS.

Tell me about the new features

First off, multi-window view is coming to N. Similar to multi-tasking in iOS 9 and Windows 10, users can put two apps into view and be more productive with Android than ever. The feature also allows for developers to code for native picture-in-picture support for videos.

Another cool addition that will speed up communication is the ability to directly reply via notifications. Android Wear served as the inspiration for migrating this fast and easy way to reply to messages over to the phone and tablet front. Additionally, the notifications in Android N look to be more detail-rich and interactive.

Since battery life is a constant concern, Google's refinement of the Doze feature, implemented in Marshmallow, is much welcomed. Android N's Doze aims to save even more battery when the screen is powered off. The developer blog post makes the point that, working in conjunction with Doze, the company is also working to reduce the memory required to run Android N. If this ends well, we could see the latest version of Android on a ton of devices.

Android N

Anything else I should know about?

Android N seems to be all about the small details that can amount to big improvements in the experience. A feature that seems to perfectly embody that is Data Saver, which does exactly as it says. If you're running out of data on your monthly or pre-paid plan, switching on Data Saver blocks background usage and alerts each of your apps to fetch data less often.

Google stated that it aims to have the final version of N in the hands of manufacturers this summer, which should hopefully funnel over the air onto your device this coming autumn.

We'll be at Google IO in May, where even more details about Android N are likely to be unveiled. If we're lucky, maybe Google will spill the beans on what the "N" stands for. As for now, Google says, "We're nut tellin' you yet."

Was that not the biggest hint ever? Nutella, perhaps? We had a few guesses on what we think it will be called. Care to tell us what you think?

Cameron Faulkner

Cameron is a writer at The Verge, focused on reviews, deals coverage, and news. He wrote for magazines and websites such as The Verge, TechRadar, Practical Photoshop, Polygon, Eater and Al Bawaba.