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Android " N " (6.1 or 7.0) New Features Nexus VR and Android Wear

The next version of Android is already well under development

Android N
Android " N " Home Screen Concept
It seems that Android 6.0 Marshmallow is barely out of the gates and already the focus of everyone’s attention has moved on to the next version of Android. That next version will be the seventh major release of the world’s most popular mobile OS and if Google’s past penchant for the alphabet is anything to base assumptions off of (it is—especially since the company renamed itself Alphabet, with Google only not being one division of the larger company) it’s very likely the next version of Android will be colloquially known as “Android N”.

But just what will Android N entail? Truthfully, we don’t know much yet—but slowly some leaks have begun to appear which we'll take a look at below. Beyond Android N, however, there will also be updates for Google's Android Wear platform, as well as what the Big G is up to re: its self-driving cars. Project Ara is likely to get a mention also -- it's been delayed for AGES now.
No App Tray In Android N Update?
One interesting update for Android N currently doing the round concerns Android’s app folder -- or, lack thereof. According to multiple reports and one official Google video, published to Twitter, Android N will not feature an App Tray. Odd? Yeah, kind of -- Android has had an App Tray since, well, forever.

But perhaps no app tray is better?

A lot of Asian phone makers -- Huawei, for instance -- don’t include app trays inside their custom UXs. Either their customers prefer it this way or Huawei thinks Apple’s onto something with its no-app-tray setup inside iOS on its iPhone and iPad devices. And it looks as if this feature could be coming to Android N.

Google Prepping “Nexus VR” Headset
The launch of Android N at this year’s Google I/O expo could be sweetened with the release of a more advanced version of Google Cardboard, the Big G’s first attempt at a cheap, VR headset. And by more advanced, we mean something similar to Oculus Rift or Sony’s PlayStation VR — so, an all in one unit capable of linking up with any Android phone.

The news comes from The FT, which claims Google is working on a VR product similar to Samsung’s Gear VR headset. The device would be made of plastic apparently and support all types of Android phones, unlike Samsung’s. It will also feature “better sensors” and “lenses,” though the connected phone will deliver “most of its processing power.”

All in all it should be a very exciting expo. But for most people it will be Android N that is the star of the show. Here’s everything you can expect to see inside the next Android OS.

Android N: Name
Google seems to like naming its Android OSes after candy (Android L was “Lollipop” Android M was “Marshmallow”) so what could Android N possible stand for? Many have suggested Nougat or Nectar, even Naan Bread (which, while it has sweet varieties, isn’t likely). However, Google might not limit N to generics. After all, Android 4.0 was called Kit Kat. I’m really hoping they go down the brand name route for Android N. Tops of my list is Nutella, but if they want to get really crazy NutRageous would be the best name ever. And what if they did a brand crossover with Nestle? Each subsequent point release of Android 7.x could be code named “Nestle Crunch,” “Nestle Butterfingers”, “Nestle BabyRuth.” The possibilities are endless really.

Android N: Release date
While the name might be harder to guess, the first preview of Android N is easier to surmise. The next Android OS will almost certainly be previewed at this year’s Google I/O, which takes place from May 18-20, 2016. Google will also almost certainly release a developer preview that day.

As for a public release date, expect to be downloading it for certain phones come October. There’s a few reasons for this. First, Marshmallow appeared during the same timeframe last fall. Second, an OS update spurs sales of new devices—important for the holiday shopping season. Third, Apple will be releasing iOS 10 around the same time (probably in September), which will mean Android devices will need some new features to tout.

Android N: Which phones will be the first to get it?
Of course, just because Android N gets a public release in October doesn’t mean all phones will have access to it right away. It’s almost certain that Google will release a new Nexus flagship phone around the time that will ship with Android N preinstalled. Older Nexus phones should get an Android N downloadable update shortly after that. As for other major flagship phones from the likes of Samsung, LG, and HTC? Expect an Android N update for some of those devices before Christmas, with virtually all of them getting the new OS by early 2017.

Android N: Will it merge with Chrome OS?
Probably not. An Android/Chrome OS merger will instead probably happen the next year with Android O. For those of you who don’t know about this, back in October the Wall Street Journal revealed that Google is set to merge the two operating systems by 2017. As the WSJ reported: “Alphabet Inc. ’s Google plans to fold its Chrome operating system for personal computers into its Android mobile operating system, according to people familiar with the matter, a sign of the growing dominance of mobile computing. Google engineers have been working for roughly two years to combine the operating systems and have made progress recently, two of the people said. The company plans to unveil its new, single operating system in 2017, but expects to show off an early version next year, one of the people said.”

No one knows what a merged Android/Chrome OS will look like, but it will probably retain the look and feel of Android, while also being capable as being run as a full desktop OS on PCs. However, don’t expect that ability in Android N.

Android N: Features
So what will Android N feature? The short answer is “no one knows…yet.” One likely feature, however, could be improved split-screen multitasking. Android and Chrome UX director Glen Murphy revealed in a Reddit AMA “We're working hard on a range of enhancements for Android in this form-factor. There are many things, like multiwindow, that we've been spending a lot of time on – hopefully, we can share more about this soon.”

Later in the same AMA Andrew Bowers, director of consumer hardware, said, “We're working on lots of things right now for N that, of course, we wish we had, you know, yesterday. But we'd spoil the surprise of N if we shared all of them. Split screen is in the works!”

As of March 1, Android Police reports having had access to an "early" build of Android N and explains that the UI is being tweaked in a few specific ways. The publication said it could not publish screenshots of the UI directly, but was able to have some demonstration images mocked-up based on what it had seen.

A series of comparison shots show the current Android M UI on the left and the mocked-up Android N UI on the right.

Android "N" Notification Toggle's Changes
Android "N" Notification Toggle's Changes
In the above image you can see that the notifications panel has been changed. Overall the theme appears to be greater simplification of the UI elements, as well as making some icons or components larger and clearer to read, while some are smaller to be more discreet. The notifications panels feature a new, brighter colour and design that spans the full width of the display and has no gaps. The new notifications also have a more detailed description to inform the user about which app created the notification. There's also a row of quick shortcuts for thinks like Wi-Fi and 4G.

The notifications also feature a new paginated design and it'll allegedly be easier to customise this aspect of Android.

Android "N" Notification Toggle's Changes
Android "N" Notification Toggle CM 13 Copy


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