Google announced its third Android N Developer Preview at Google I/O last week, and since my Nexus 6P is enrolled in the preview, I was able to upgrade to and experience the new release over the past few days. Here’s what I’ve seen so far.
It’s a short list.
It’s also called Beta 1. With this preview, Google has transitioned from a limited developer preview to a Beta 1 release that is deemed to be stable and reliable enough for average users. That said, it’s still limited to mostly Nexus devices, including the Nexus 6, Nexus 9, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Pixel C tablet, and something called the General Mobile 4G, which is a low-end Android One device. (Sony Xperia Z3 owners can also participate through Sony’s N Developer Preview program.)
New wallpapers. Yep, this is big news in Android circles. None of the default Android wallpapers have impressed me since, well, forever, and this is just more of the same.
Keyboard themes. Perhaps feeling the heat from the suddenly growing third party keyboard market, Google has been quickly enhancing its stock Android keyboard. And in Beta 1, we see keyboard themes, with nice color choices and, as you can see here, the ability to use your own photo or other image.
Night mode quick setting. I’m not 100 percent sure this is new to this release, but Android N will provide automated night mode capabilities at the OS and app level, and you will be able to toggle night mode using a new quick setting icon too. Yes, just like in iOS.
Camera improvements. Speaking of stock Google apps, many complain about the quality of the firm’s Camera app, though I find it to be mostly OK since I stick with automatic controls anyway. But in Beta 1, Camera picks up (again?) manual exposure controls, though you have to enable them first in settings. What that does is add another option to the short list of icons at the top of the screen, giving you a way to fine-tune the lightness of the resulting image over five steps.
Power notification controls. Not sure I would have found this one on my own since it’s hidden in a System UI Tuner settings interface that I believe will disappear by the final release. But this interface ostensibly lets you configure app notifications on a scale from 0 (block all notifications) to 5 (basically, show all notifications). It’s off by default, and many wonder if it will see the light of day in the final release of N.
Is there more? Almost certainly. But it seems like this release has fewer new features by design, since Google is pulling in more mainstream users with the shift to Beta 1.