How to install the Android N beta

If you like living on the bleeding edge and have a Nexus device, here's how to sign up for Google's new beta program.

Oscar Gutiérrez/CNET

Google on Wednesday released a public beta of Android N. The upcoming mobile operating system adds multiwindow support, direct reply from notifications and more. To install it, you will be required to join the Android Beta Program.

Once you sign up for the program, your Nexus device will receive Android N updates via the normal software update process over-the-air, saving you valuable time and frustration should you have no idea where to begin with flashing images to your beloved Android device.

Signing up for the program is easy, but there's a giant warning you need to be aware of before doing so: The only way to revert back to a stable build of Android Marshmallow is to completely wipe your device, removing any and all personal information from it.

Google has said that the Android N beta is stable enough for everyday devices, but it is by no means perfect, and you may still run into bugs and other problems. Installing Android N isn't a permanent decision; however you should be prepared to set up your device as brand-new should you want to go back.

All right, with that out of the way, here's how to sign up:

  • You must own a recent Nexus device to take part. The complete list includes the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus 6, Pixel C tablet, Nexus 9 and Nexus Player.
  • Visit the Android Beta Program page and sign into the same Google account you use on your Nexus.
  • There you'll fine a list of eligible devices. Click on Enroll Device next to the device you want to install Android N on.
  • Accept the terms -- and the stern warning about reverting back to Android Marshmallow -- then click Join Beta.

A few minutes later, the freshly enrolled device will prompt you to install an Android system update. It can take up to 24 hours for the update to reach your device according to Google, but in my testing I was prompted in less than a minute after joining on two different devices.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

It's not a bad idea to have your charger handy and a solid Wi-Fi connection. The update on a Nexus 6P came in at just over 1GB.

Once you begin the installation process, the steps are no different than a standard system update; just let your device do its thing.

To leave the beta program, revisit the program page and click Unenroll Device. Another OTA update will be sent to your device, wiping all user data and putting the device on the latest official version of Android.

Editors' note, May 18, 2016: This article was originally published in March but has been updated to include additional information on the Android N public beta.

Featured Video