Android N’s ‘freeform mode’ could let users resize app windows
Android N is set to be the best Android release yet with tons of improvements and new features. Here’s everything we know so far about the next iteration of Google’s mobile operating system.
Android N latest news
17/03/2016: Android N may allow users to resize apps’ windows with the inclusion of a so-called freeform mode.
This mode, detailed in the operating system’s guide for developers, lets users change apps’ default window sizes and positions, and is designed to be used with larger devices, where making an app window smaller would not make it unreadable.
The document reads: “Manufacturers of larger devices can choose to enable freeform mode, in which the user can freely resize each activity. If the manufacturer enables this feature, the device offers freeform mode in addition to split-screen mode.”
The feature is not included in the developer preview, according to Ars Technica, which speculates it could be used should Google decide to merge its Android and Chrome OSes into a single desktop OS.
Android N release date and device availability
The preview version of Android N was made available on 9 March by Google. Usually, the first look at a new Android OS normally happens at Google I/O, which is scheduled for 18 May 2016.
Despite the preview coming far earlier than anticipated, we will no doubt see some more features of the new OS at the show. Google said that the final preview version of Android N will be ready by the summer. Far quicker than in previous years.
The final version of the code that consumers will get their hands on will be released around October, around the same time as a new Nexus device.
The rollout of Android N to existing Nexus devices will occur in the next few weeks after that. We would expect Android N to land on a Samsung S7 sometime in 2017.
Android N name
As is a long-established tradition, the name of the Android operating system has a confectionery connotation. We can only speculate on what the name will be; either a dessert or a type of sweets.
These names are generic with the exception of KitKat, which, of course, is a brand. Hiroshi Lockheimer, SVP Android, Chrome OS & Chromecast at Google hinted in a Medium post that the next version of Android could be named after another brand of confectionery; namely Nutella.
“So, the burning question that’s on everyone’s mind: what will the N release be named? We’re nut tellin’ you yet,” he said.
Android N developer preview
There is a developer preview available to download. It sports a number of features, such as multiple window support and enhancements to notifications.
Dave Burke, Google’s vice president of engineering, described the preview as a “work in progress”, so expect it to be a little rough in places.
“We’re doing something a little different this year by releasing the preview early… really early,” Google vice president of engineering Dave Burke said in a blog post.
Android N features
Multiple window support
Android N will sport a new feature, dubbed Multi-window, which allows multiple windows on a single display. The attribute called android:resizableActivity is available for apps targeting N and beyond. With this enabled, a user can put apps into a split-screen mode. The feature is said to work when users switch from landscape to portrait mode. The apps should be able to handle the reconfiguration themselves. Apps can also go into picture-in-picture mode on devices like TVs.
There are a couple of enhancements to notifications. First, Android N allows users to receive incoming message notifications quickly and conveniently, without leaving the notification shade. There is also a feature called Bundled Notifications. This, as you can work out, groups notifications from the same app together – for example individual messages from a messaging app. Grouped notifications can be expanded into individual notifications by using a two-finger gesture or tapping the new expansion button.
Android N hopes to eke out more life from your device’s battery when the screen is turned off, like with Doze in Marshmallow, which saves battery when your device is stationary. Doze has a new feature to save battery life as part of Project Svelte, an effort to reduce the memory needs of Android so that it can run on a much broader range of devices. In N, the feature makes background work run more efficiently.
Improved Java 8 support
Android N brings Java 8 language features to the OS. The latest update means users can access Java 8 language features, including lambdas and more, on Android versions as far back as Gingerbread. This is said to reduce “boilerplate” code. For example, lambdas can replace anonymous inner classes when providing event listeners. Some Java 8 language features – like default and static methods, streams, and functional interfaces – are also now available on N and above.