Developer Preview of Android N Released Early
To solicit developer feedback for fine-tuning the upcoming Android N release, Google today made a preview of the smartphone OS available earlier than usual in the release cycle.
Developers can immediately start banging away at new APIs and tools in anticipation of the OS being provided to third-party partners in its final form.
"By releasing a 'work in progress' build earlier in development, we have more time to incorporate developer feedback," Google exec Dave Burke said in a blog post today. "Also, the earlier preview allows us 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."
Among the new features that Google wants developers to test out is improved support for Java 8, the latest version of the de facto standard programming language for Android OSes.
"We're excited to bring Java 8 language features to Android," Burke said. "With Android's Jack compiler, you can now use many popular Java 8 language features, including lambdas and more, on Android versions as far back as Gingerbread. The new features help reduce boilerplate code. For example, lambdas can replace anonymous inner classes when providing event listeners. Some Java 8 language features -- like default and static methods, streams, and functional interfaces -- are also now available on N and above. With Jack, we're looking forward to tracking the Java language more closely while maintaining backward compatibility."
Other new features include: multi-window support that provides the ability to launch activities in split-screen mode on mobile devices; notification enhancements such as direct reply notifications, borrowed from Android Wear, and bundled notifications; better efficiency in battery and memory use; Data Saver mode to help reduce cellular data use by apps; and more.
"The N Developer Preview includes an updated SDK with system images for testing on the official Android emulator and on Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Nexus 9 and Pixel C devices (and to help test out these features on a tablet, developers can get a $150 discount on Pixel C)," Burke said.
Burke warned that the OS isn't ready for daily or consumer use, just developer testing. Google will be making continuous updates to system images of the preview during the testing phase in preparation of opening up the preview to consumers also.
Some industry sources believe Android N will get an official name and be released in its production form in late summer or early fall. More details are expected at the Google I/O 2016 conference set to open May 18 in Mountain View, Calif.
David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.