Google released a developer preview of the next version of Android, Android N, in March. So, now that Google has officially released a public beta of Andorid N at Google I/O, there aren't too many surprises. There is, however, one giant one: Automated security updates.
With seamless updates, new Android N devices can install system updates in the background. This means that the next time a user powers up their device, it can automatically and seamlessly switch into the new updated system image. Instead of patching the system, a new, more secure version of the operating system is installed.
Seamless updates take a page from Chromebook's Chrome OS, which has long done this. Of course, for this to work, Android vendors will need to activate this feature in their devices. If they have any sense, they will.
We also don't know Android N's real name. Google is leaving it up to users to offer their sweet-flavored suggestions for Android N's official name.
For users, the biggest change will be that you can now interact with two programs at once. Android N does this by using a split-screen view. You'll also be able to watch video and pictures in a video in video mode. Your older apps will not run in these modes -- you'll need programs that have been customized for Android N.
In other mulch-program scenarios you'll be able to reply to texts directly from a notification. In the past, you had to stop what you were doing and click over to the texting app.
Google is streamlining the recently used app menu. It will now only show the last seven used apps. There will also -- at long last! -- be a "Clear All" button to knock out all active apps at once.
Android Marshmallow's power-saving Doze feature has been updated. Doze halted background programs when your phone was idle and sitting still, giving you improved battery life. With N's Doze on the Go, your phone can take a snooze even when you're walking with it in your pocket.
Users will also notice that Android N devices will be faster. That's both because the new Android is using a new Just-in-Time (JIT) compiler and the speedy Vulkan graphics. According to Dave Burke, Google's VP of Engineering, Vulkan's new 3D rendering application programming interface (API) will enable game developers to "deliver high performance graphics on mobile devices".
Developers will notice that Google has changed from using Apache Harmony for its Java foundation to Oracle's OpenJDK. Oracle and Google are still ripping each other to shreds in the courts over Java in Android, but that's not stopping Android's designers from working with Oracle's Java 8 implementation.
As mentioned earlier, Google is also trying to make Android more secure. Far too many Android device vendors never update the base operating system. This allows long-fixed security holes to be used by attackers.
Android N taking a page from how Chromebooks apply updates now includes the option of seamless updates. With this engineers can create Android N devices that will automatically install system updates in the background. This means that the next time a user powers up their device, new devices can automatically and seamlessly switch into the new updated system image. I hope that vendors are getting tired of endless Android security problems caused by their refusal to update systems and adopt this new easy-to-use way of patching their devices.
The next version of Android will arrive on smartphones and tables by summer's end. The beta version is available now for Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6, Nexus 9, and Pixel C tablet owners to test. Sources say other versions may be out later for older members of the Nexus family such as the 2013 Nexus 7.