Google has released a developer preview of the next version of Android for Nexus devices, codenamed 'N', offering several updates and new features.
Google usually waits until its annual I/O conference, which this year kicks off on 18 May, to make developer previews available, but the firm has decided to do things a little differently this year.
Those with a compatible device, such as a Nexus 5X or Nexus 6P, can sign up for the Android N preview which will be available to download as an over-the-air update. Google doesn't recommend that regular consumers use the preview as it is "not intended for daily use or consumer use".
This change, which echoes Apple's iOS public beta system, sees Google ensuring that all bugs are ironed out before the software is officially rolled out, and could also mean that devices start getting Android updates more quickly.
"By releasing a 'work in progress' build earlier in development we have more time to incorporate developer feedback," Google said in a blog post. "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."
Android N's stand-out addition in terms of features is split-screen multitasking (shown below), which allows Android phones and tablets to run two apps side by side. Google said that developers will need to opt-in to the split-screen mode, as well as a new picture-in-picture mode also debuting in Android N.
The next version of Android also brings iOS-style direct-reply notifications, which means you'll be able to reply to texts and Facebook messages, for example, from the notification panel, along with a new bundled notifications feature.
Android N has improvements to Google's battery-saving Doze mode which will now save power whenever the screen is switched off, and better support for the Java 8 language.
The full list of devices that can give Android N a spin is the Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Nexus 9 and Google Pixel C.
Google hasn't yet revealed what the next version of Android will be called, although Nutella and Nougat have both been suggested.
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