Android N: Here's what's inside the latest developer release

Android N Developer Preview 2 has landed, with new features for developers to incorporate in their apps.

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The Android N beta running on a Nexus 6P.

Image: CNET

Google has released the second 'developer preview' of the next version of its smartphone operating system, Android N.

The company said that Android N Developer Preview 2 fixes bugs in the previous release -- such as not being able to connect to hidden wi-fi networks -- and also builds on new features.

Noteable updates to Android N include:

Vulkan, which is a low-overhead, cross-platform API for high-performance 3D graphics. It provides tools for creating high-quality, real-time graphics in applications; Google said it can offer a significant boost in performance for draw-call heavy applications.

Launcher shortcuts: Apps can define shortcuts to help users perform particular actions quicker -- like sending a message or navigating home in a mapping app. When users perform a gesture over an app's launcher icon, these shortcuts appear.

Emoji Unicode 9 support: Google is introducing a new emoji design for people emoji with a "more human-looking" design. The company said that developers with a keyboard or messaging app should start incorporating these emoji.

API changes: The API changes are part of a move to refine features such as multi-window support (developers can now specify a separate minimum height and minimum width for an activity), notifications, and others.

Developers can get over-the-air preview updates by enrolling their device in the Android Beta Program, or they can also download and flash this update manually.

But Google warns: "Developer Preview 2 is intended for developers and not as a daily driver; this build is not yet optimized for performance and battery life."

The N Developer Preview is currently available for Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus 9, and Pixel C devices, as well as General Mobile 4G Android One devices. The update to Developer Preview 2 for Nexus Player will follow the other devices by several days. To build and test apps with Developer Preview 2, you'll need to use Android Studio 2.1

The final release of Android N is expected in the third quarter of this year. However, there's often a significant lag between the final version being published and it actually appearing on your smartphone or tablet.

The current most up-to-date version of Android is Marshmallow, but even though that became available seven months ago it still runs on less than five percent of Android devices. There's also the still-unresolved question of what Google will call Android N, assuming it sticks with its sweet-treat naming policy. Nougat? Nutella?

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