Android N: What's new in Google's latest OS

The search giant shows off new features like a split-screen view, battery-saving tech and mightier graphics.

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Dan Graziano Associate Editor / How To
Dan Graziano is an associate editor for CNET. His work has appeared on BGR, Fox News, Fox Business, and Yahoo News, among other publications. When he isn't tinkering with the latest gadgets and gizmos, he can be found enjoying the sights and sounds of New York City.
Richard Nieva
Dan Graziano
2 min read

Android N, is slated to arrive on smartphones and tablets later this summer. A beta version is available Wednesday, however, for this Nexus 6P phone and a few other devices.

Oscar Gutiérrez/CNET

Google on Wednesday showed off the latest features in the latest iteration of Android, the most popular mobile operating system in the world.

For those who have been paying close attention, Google's Android N demos on Wednesday were no surprise. For the past two years, Google has used I/O to give the world its first look at changes to Android. But this year, for the first time, Google dropped a preview version of the software months earlier, in March. The idea was to give developers even more time to get acclimated with the new software.

New features include a split-screen view that lets you run more than one app simultaneously. You'll also be able to reply to texts directly from a notification, instead of having to stop what you're doing and go to the texting app.

Watch this: Android N packs new features, and you get to name it

The software will also have a battery-saving feature called Doze on the Go. When Google released Android Marshmallow last year, it unveiled a feature called Doze, which puts a halt to the background computing your phone is doing if you haven't been using it for a while. But for Doze to come on, your phone needs to be sitting completely still. With Android N's Doze on the Go, your phone can take that break even if it's moving, like if it's sitting in your pocket.

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Google also touted more powerful graphics. Game developers will be able to gain direct control of the device's GPU through a cross-platform 3D graphics API called Vulkan. This will allow developers to create better looking games with more high-end effects.

In addition, David Burke, VP of engineering for Android, highlighted an improved Android runtime that will result in apps that take up less space and install 75 percent faster, which should benefit those with lower-end devices. Android N will also include support for 72 new emojis, including better representations of woman working and skin tone variations.

Even with all of those new features, it doesn't really matter if most users never get them. While Google makes Android, it doesn't make the phones that use it. Instead, it relies on handset makers including Samsung, LG and HTC to make the hardware. But that means Google doesn't have the power to push out new versions of Android -- it's at the mercy of wireless carriers including Verizon and AT&T and device makers.

It's something critics call "fragmentation," and it's the reason why so many people are using older versions of Android. As of May, only 7.5 percent of Android users are using Marshmallow, the most current iteration. By comparison, 84 percent of Apple devices are on the latest version of its latest mobile software, iOS 9.

The next version of Android is slated to arrive on smartphones and tablets later this summer. A beta version will be available later today for Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6, Nexus 9 and Pixel C tablet owners to test.