Android Marshmallow, the latest version of Google's mobile operating system, came out only six months ago, so it came as a surprise to many when the company today announced the release of a developer preview version of Marshmallow's successor, known officially, for now, as "Android N."
By releasing a preview earlier than Android developers expected, Google said it hopes to incorporate more feedback into the final release, which it aims to have ready by sometime this summer.
As expected, the Android N preview includes a new feature: support for split-screen viewing of multiple open apps at once. And to encourage developers to test the preview on its own Android devices, Google is also offering a related incentive: a 25-percent price cut on the Pixel C, the 2-in-1 (and Android-powered) convertible tablet launched in December.
Final Version Expected this Summer
"Last year, we took a hard look at our 2016 plans, with an eye towards building a timeline that gives everyone the opportunity to make the next release of Android stronger," Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google's senior vice president for Android, Chromecast and Chrome OS, wrote today in a Medium post about Android N's early release. "By releasing the first preview and asking for your feedback now (in March!), we'll be able to act on that feedback while still being able to hand off the final N release to device makers this summer, so they can get their hands on the latest version of Android earlier than ever."
Android N's support for split-screen (multi-window) viewing will let developers specify a minimum size for windows and allow the creation of a picture-in-picture mode option, according to today's update on the Android Developers Blog by vice president of engineering Dave Burke. The newly enhanced capability, is "a great feature for apps that play video," he said.
Other new features in the Android N preview include an API for direct reply notifications, bundled notifications, additional battery-saving capabilities with Doze when the screen turns off, and improved support for Java 8 language features. More features will be added as Google continues developing the release, Burke said.
'N' for 'Nutella'?
In conjunction with the release of the Android N developer preview, Google is also launching a new Android Beta Program, Burke said. Expected to launch later today, the program will enable developers to receive ongoing, over-the-air updates of Android N going forward, he added.
Burke said the developer preview supports testing on the Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Nexus 9 and Google's official Android emulator. A consumer version of the preview will become available "as we get closer to a final product," he noted.
Developers who sign up for the Android N discount on the Pixel C will receive a discount code that can be used for purchasing the device via the Google Store. That means a price of $349 for the tablet-only (an add-on keyboard is extra) 64 GB model, which normally sells for $599. The discount will be available for a limited time only, Google said.
In his post on Medium, Lockheimer noted that Google has not yet announced a name for Android N. However, his closing remark -- "We're nut telling' you yet," suggests the final moniker appears likely to be Nutella, the name for the original hazelnut chocolate spread made by Ferrero.
Image Credit: All images via Google Android Developers Blog.