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Thursday, 12 May 2016

Google I/O 2016: What To Expect With Android N

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Google I/O is, for many in the tech and Android industry, the biggest time of the year. If you’re a loyal Android and Google product user then this is when all of the magic happens as Google tends to throw plenty of new and exciting stuff that revolves around Android at the public. They don’t always launch new hardware products, but they typically show off new versions of Android as well as updates to the software in other ways. Beyond Android, there are other Google products that can make an appearance, and this year there is likely to be tons of stuff to look out for. More or less, this is likely to be a huge year for I/O with lots of exciting and intriguing tech both on the hardware side of things as well as the software side, ranging from a new version of Android along with potentially new Nexus devices, some VR technology, and plenty of other things.

Android N


For many people, whether they’ll be attending the conference or watching at home via the live stream broadcast, Android N will be the most interesting topic, and that will be the focus here as it is sure to be discussed plenty throughout the conference in regards to various things. While there have been no confirmations from Google on if they will officially announce Android N in its final form at the conference, complete with name and all, part of the speculation is that Google will be launching Android N alongside new Nexus smartphones next week. If this is to happen, Google will surely unveil everything at the Keynote speech on the first day as this is when they have always shown off new versions of Android that show up at I/O. The keynote is also the biggest part of the conference, so it just makes sense for the biggest things to be talked about here first. Although the keynote speech is quite likely to hold some information about Android N, like the official announcement, one of the first sessions, called “What’s New In Android” is also likely to have some information. Here, Google would be talking about all of the new developer features that Android N would be introducing into the system, including new APIs for developers to work with and how to make the most of the performance improvements within the system. Of course, if Google does announce Android N at Google I/O next week, there will not be as many surprises to a good chunk of the community of Android enthusiasts, as plenty of people already have their hands on the developer preview. The features within the preview won’t necessarily make it to the final build of the software that is meant for the public, but most of them likely will and much of it has already been public for the last couple of months since the developer preview was officially launched. One thing with Android N that has not really been experienced yet is a new rumored VR mode that is speculated to be part of the software. With the second developer preview, there are references to “VR Helper Services” and “VR Listener Services” and it’s possible that Google will be delving into this a little bit more next week, which wouldn’t be a surprise considering VR has a lot to do with the conference as there are multiple sessions dedicated to the topic. This would also give them a good reason to display VR hardware.VR Helper Services
Another thing to look forward to with Android N is the inclusion of platform support for the Vulkan API, which is a new 3D rendering API that will be a big step up in improved graphics performance with low-overhead GPU control, which, is essentially going to be more power efficiency for games that are built with Vulkan. This support has shown up as part of the second developer preview for Android N, so we should expect to see some focus on gaming with Android N at the conference next week. Although it may have nothing to do with it, Google’s 2 P.M. session on the first day called “Games: The Google Advantage,” could house some information on gaming in Android N. What’s more likely to dive into this particular area of Android N a bit more though is the 6 P.M. session called “Make shinier, faster mobile games with Vulkan,” which as you might expect is all about the Vulkan API and how developers can take advantage of its improvements in the system, from porting OpenGL  ES framework over to Vulkan to how developers can make the most of Vulkan’s power. Since Vulkan is only supported in Android N, this is a pretty huge suggestion that Android N will have a decent presence at the conference and in various forms across various topics.
Of course, if Android N is present at the conference, that means that the two new rumored Nexus devices may also show up, as well as other hardware that Google has been working on which Android N is supposed to support natively, like VR headsets. One of Android N’s biggest features, multi-window, which appeared in the first developer preview for Android N, is sure to receive quite a bit of attention and focus, likely during the keynote, as this is something users have been requesting to have added into Android natively for a long time. Now that it is finally here, Google may be ready to show off the parts of multi-window which haven’t really been up and running yet, like the resizing of the multiple windows that are open on screen. If you’ve messed around with Jide’s latest version of their Remix OS, known as Remix OS 2.0, then you already have an idea of what this would look like. While the version of this within Android N may not look exactly like the image below, it won’t be too much different as the function really won’t be changing. Resizing multiple windows will still be resizing multiple windows regardless of the platform.Nexus 9 Remix OS 2.0
Nexus 9 Remix OS 2.0
While there hasn’t really been an immense amount of talk on the subject, what would be nice to see at Google I/O next week is a launch of Android N for Android TV. For those who already have Android TV devices or have used the platform, this would be the perfect setup for a feature like multi-window and the ability to resize open app windows, as the TV is a much larger screen and there would be plenty of room for this to work when compared to tablets. The second developer preview for Android N has hit the Nexus Player, so an Android TV launch of Android N isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Even if the launch happens for Android TV devices including the Nexus Player further in the future, displaying a final build for it at the conference would be nice to see and make it visible to consumers that it’s on the way sooner than later, which could entice consumers to buy who may want the multi-window feature access. Another rumor speculated to be part of Android N is a pressure sensitive touch feature, which presumably would not be too unlike Apple’s 3D touch feature on iOS, that would allow users to complete different actions based on the amount of pressure they tap the screen with. So far this isn’t something which has been enabled within the Android N developer preview, so there is still a very good chance that it may not even be included in the public release of Android N. Google could simply be laying down the foundation of the code in preparation for a later OS version release, or they could surprise everyone and show it off at Google I/O. With just under a week to go until Google’s annual developer conference, excitement is high for those who are Android enthusiasts as they will want to learn anything new about Android N that hasn’t already been discovered, and while a lot of Android N has been discussed through the releases of the developr preview, Google is sure to have a surprise or two up their sleeves for the event.

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