Android N release date and news: Say hello to Android Nougat

A roundup of the latest news about Android N

Update: Google has announced that Android N is going to be called Android Nougat. It's a suitably sweet-toothed choice, although we're a bit disappointed Naan bread wasn't picked.   

A firm Android N release date isn’t far off, and with developer previews already in the wild, we’re getting a good idea of how Google’s new mobile operating system is shaping up. The latest is a report that Google is giving its home and navigation bar a do-over. 

According to Android Police, Google is redesigning its navigation buttons, only a couple of years since the company last redesigned them. A mock-up of the new version, based on information given by a “reliable source”, shows opaque icons and a colourful home button.

“According to our source, the new multicoloured home button does animate in some fashion when long-pressed, with the various colours expanding in their corresponding directions until they all file out horizontally,” the site says. “I know – it’s not exactly easy to visualise, but stuff happens. As you can see, all they keys are also now opaque – an interesting change.” 

Android Police notes that it lacks a corroborating source for the information, and admits Google likes to change its plans late in the process. The colourful redesign is sure to be somewhat divisive, although there isn’t a suggestion it will have any real functional impact. The colours do shout Google, so it will be interesting to see if the company intends to roll it out beyond its newest Nexus phones.  

Android N: Everything we know so far

Every year, Android gets an overhaul. Alphabet lover that it is, Google likes to give its annual OS iteration a consecutively lettered name. 2015’s was Android M (Marshmallow), 2016’s is Android N (Nougat).

The company has  recently released Android N Developer Preview 4, allowing developers and brave early adopters to get a hands-on grip with the mobile OS’s new features. We’ve reviewed the developer preview of Android N (7) here. Below we have a roundup of the essential information relating to Android N, including details about its release date, which phones will get the update, headline features, and how to download the developer preview.

Android N: Release date

Google announced during its annual I/O event that Android N would launch “later this summer”. It’s not exactly an iron-set release date, but it does suggest we’ll get Android N around early September.

Android N review: Nexus 6P with logo onscreen

Android N: Which phones will get it?

Once it’s out in the wild, Nexus phones will get the upgrade first. Other manufacturers will then need to rework their own versions of Android, which can take several months – if it happens at all.

HTC has said it will bring Android N to the HTC 10, One A9 and One M9, and Motorola has said it will bring the upgrade to the Moto G4 Plus. You can also expect Samsung to hoist Android N onto its recent flagships, including the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge, and probably the S6 too. Generally, if you have a recent flagship, the odds are that your manufacturer will roll out the upgrade around the beginning of 2017.

Android N: Features

The developer preview of Android N has allowed us to get hands-on with the new OS’s headline features. One of the most notable is in-line replies to messages – which is a rather unwieldy way to say you’ll be able to reply directly to notifications. It’s useful because it means you don’t have to leave the app you’re using to respond.

Android N also gives you the ability to split-screen applications, which we weren’t as convinced with. This may be useful for tablet users, but for smartphones it risks being both fiddly and unnecessary. It’s also something that some manufacturers have had their own version of for some time on their phablets, including LG and Samsung.

Data Saver is another new addition to Android N. Flick the switch next to an app and all background data from that app will be blocked. When you have it running in the foreground, data will be allowed, but limited to a certain degree. In other words, you can throttle Facebook’s data hunger while whitelisting Spotify, to ensure your music comes through in crystal-clear quality.

You can read more about Android N’s other features, including Night Mode and a Quick Settings area, in our review of the developer preview.

Android N: How to download and install the developer preview

Dave Burke, Google’s vice president of engineering, called the preview build a "work in progress" – so expect the features to be a little rough around the edges. If you’re keen to catch a glimpse of the next Android iteration, however, here’s how you can install it.

Users can install Android N developer preview the Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6, General Mobile 4G, Nexus Player, Nexus 9 and Pixel C devices. A word of warning: the developer preview isn’t intended for consumers. The build isn’t stable, and could potentially damage your data. You’ll probably want to back up your phone’s contents before proceeding.

Option 1: Install Android N Beta via Google’s sign-up

  • Go to Google’s Android N beta page and sign in with your Google account – you’ll need to have a compatible device associated with your Google account.
  • Select Enroll Device and choose your device.
  • Agree to the terms and conditions and click Join Beta. You should then get a notification about a system update. If you need to check it manually, you can by going to going to Settings | About Phone | System Updates.

Option 2: Install Android N Beta via Factory Image

  • Make sure you have the latest version of Android Studio Preview installed on your computer, including ADB and Fastboot.
  • Download the factory image for your device.
  • Go to Settings | Developer Options, tick "USB debugging", then extract and save the factory image to your computer.
  • Connect your device to your computer via USB
  • Start the device in Fastboot mode. You might need to boot into Ffastboot mode with the ADB tool. If so, with the device on, go to the command terminal and execute: adb reboot bootloader.
  • Navigate to the unzipped factory image.
  • Execute and command: flash-all.bat – the phone will install all the necessary software, and will likely need to reboot several times. Don’t interfere with it during this time.

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