Android N: What to Expect From the Upcoming OS

Learn about the as-yet unnamed Android 7.0 operating system update

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Android has released the developer preview of Android N, giving us a peek into what to expect from the post-Marshmallow operating system update. Android N won't hit your smartphone for quite some time, though; in fact, Marshmallow (Android 5.0) is still rolling out. But that's no reason not to be excited, especially as more features surface in the coming months. Let's take a look.

Multi-window aka split-screen mode

Samsung has offered a split-screen mode on its Galaxy devices for some time now, but it's compatible only with some Samsung and Google apps.

With Google opening this feature to all app makers, this could become a really useful feature, especially on larger screens. While working, you can put your email and calendar side-by-side, or when on a break, your favorite game on one side and a messaging app on the other. We're already doing a million things at once, why not make it easier? App developers will be able to set some parameters, such as a minimum display size. This feature will also allow a picture-in-picture function on television screens. As The Verge reports, you will also be able to drag and drop text between certain apps. That's pretty cool.

Notification Enhancements

Android offers two new features related to notifications: direct reply and bundled notifications. The Direct Reply feature will allow you to respond to notifications right from the notification shade saving you time and hassle. Currently, some apps have enhanced notifications in which you can press a reply or snooze button, for instance, but you still have to open the app to complete the action.

Bundled notifications are just what the name says; it's a way to package together multiple notifications from one app. For instance, a messaging app could bundle replies, a social media app could bundle requests, or a to-do app could bundle reminders. You can then tap on each bundle to progressively show more detail, rather than tapping on each separate notification.

This sounds to me like a big time saver. 

Doze Improvements

Doze, introduced in Marshmallow, works in the background to conserve battery life when your device is idle. This feature has limitations, though. For instance, if you wake up your screen for a few seconds just to check the time, Doze mode is interrupted, and will take some time to resume. In Android N, Doze mode can be activated when the device's screen is turned off, and in many cases, app developers may already be ready for this enhancement.

Emergency Information on the Lock Screen

While you can currently customize your lock screen in a number of ways, including adding your contact information in case you lose it, Android N offers a way for your device to help you out in an emergency. Droid-Life discovered an Emergency info screen in the user section of settings, in which you can fill out your name, address, date of birth, blood type, known allergies, medications, medical conditions, and whether you are an organ donor. You can also add emergency contacts.

This feature requires the user to have a secure lock screen (pin code, pattern unlock, etc.). Enabling it adds an emergency info button to your lock screen; tapping it twice opens up a page with the information you've provided.

This could be a great tool for an emergency responder or other individual helping you out if you're ill or unconscious, but it also means that a thief could access some of your private information. In any case, you should set up the Android Device Manager, which can wipe your data remotely should your device get lost or stolen.  

While Android N will be in developer testing for the next few months, you can get a jump ahead by downloading N-themed wallpaper and getting a refresh on how to update your Android OS.