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Android N: how to get it right now

Android n logo

The latest versions of Android usually debut on Google's range of own-brand Nexus smartphones and tablets, which are announced sometime between September and November. But this year it's all change.

Google has taken the wraps off its yet-to-be-officially released Android N software four months ahead of schedule, in the form of a pre-release, work-in-progress edition.

The really good news, though, is that although primarily intended for software developers, you can see what it's like and start playing with it today too.

But what do you need to know? Read on, and all will be revealed.

Sign up to get down

android developer preview

To start seeing what Android N can do, you'll need to sign up to the Android Beta Programme.

That's because this preview is built for software developers to test their apps on, and isn't intended for use by the general public.

Before you do so, however, you'll need to back up your device so you don't lose any data.

To back up, go to Settings>Backup & reset and enable both Back up my data and Automatic restore. It also makes sense to back up your photos to your computer.

You'll need a compatible device

android phone

Unfortunately, because Android N isn't ready for public consumption, it'll only work on a handful of devices at the moment.

These are: the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Nexus 9, Google Pixel C, and, strangely, the ancient Sony Xperia Z3.

If you don't have one of these devices, then that's just bad luck we're afraid. Google may well roll out the preview to more phones and tablets, but there's no guarantee.

If you're serious about getting an early taste of Android N, you can pick up a Nexus 5X from Google Play for £299.

Then you'll need to sign up to the Android Beta Programme. Just head to the Android Beta Programme website and sign in using your Google account (i.e. the one you use to sign into an Android device, and to your Gmail account).

Now you should see a list of your eligible devices. Click Enrol Device when you find yours, and that's it.

You should now get over-the-air updates to Android 7.0 N just as you would with standard Android updates.

Installing on a Sony Xperia Z3 is a little trickier.

You'll need a Z3 with the model number D6603 or D6653. Back up your files, then download and install the latest version of Xperia Companion.

Plug your Z3 into your computer, hold down the Alt key on your keyboard and click Software repair.

Then follow the steps on-screen to download and install Android N.

Remember, this is an early version, so is likely to feature a host of bugs that will be ironed out before launch.

You can go back to an earlier version of Android

Android Marshmallow generic

What if you don't like the strange new feel of Android N?

Or you've realised you need a more stable mobile operating system than this buggy pre-release?

No problem – you can switch back to the latest version of Android instead.

Just head back to the Android Beta Programme website and click Unenrol Device.

This will download an update over-the-air. Install it, and you'll be back in the warm confines of the latest official public version of Android. In this case, that's Marshmallow. Or whatever you were running before updating.

Doing this will wipe all data from your device, however.

So if you've taken any photos/written any notes/made any calendar entries you'd like to keep, make sure they're backed up.

Doze has been boosted

Android Doze

Doze is one of the flagship features in Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

When the phone is stationary, Doze puts a lot of functions to sleep, helping you conserve precious battery life.

But in order for it to work, the phone had to be completely stationary. As in lying on the desk, not being touched whatsoever.

Android N addresses that state of affairs. It combines all your background activity whenever the screen is off – so your phone will use less battery whenever it's in your pocket.

That's a lot more useful for everyday use.

It doesn't disable the device though. While all network access and background jobs are restricted to only happen every few minutes (rather than constantly), alarms, the clock and Wi-Fi scans operate as normal.

So you won't sleep in just because your phone screen was off.

It's packed full of other features

Android N split screen

There's plenty more that's new in Android N. Not least that you can now open and use two apps side-by-side using split screen view.

Only one can be active at a time, but that doesn't mean the other is completely inactive. Rather, the secondary app is paused but not stopped.

That means it'll update with new messages – if it's an email programme, say – and keep playing your video.

Apps within Android TV can now run in picture-in-picture format. So if you're watching TV, you can have an app like the weather sitting on top of the moving image.

Another killer feature is Data Saver. This was introduced on a per-app basis before, and let you designate which apps should use Wi-Fi only and not your data allowance, resulting in a lower phone bill.

Now it's got a device-wide option, so you can quickly and easily selectively switch off your data connection and only use Wi-Fi for pre-selected functions.

Category: Features
Tagged: android, google
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