Google has announced the next version of Android and although we don’t yet have a name, there is beta available. You don’t need the beta and you can use its top features right now.

Beta versions of software can be a bit buggy, so it is not recommended that you sign up for the beta and install it on your one and only phone. The final version will be released towards the end of 2016, although phone manufacturers are frustratingly slow in passing on updates to existing phone owners. Android 6, Marshmallow, has been out for several months, but even though you may have a top-end phone, you might still be on Android 5, Lollipop.

The best way to get Android N will be to buy a new phone and if you are looking to get one at the end of the year, there is a good chance it will come with the new OS.

We know the name starts with N because Google is working its way through the alphabet with names for Android Kitkat, Lollipop, Marshmallow, N…? Nougat? Nuts? Whatever it is called, it will be Android 7.

 

Android N top feature: Split screen

One of the top features in Google's updated mobile operating system is split screen view. This enables you to have two apps on the screen running side by side or one on top of the other. The thing is, this is not new and some phones have had this capability for a long time.

Phone manufacturers take the stock Android OS and customise it be adding features and apps. Samsung for example, adds the TouchWiz interface and this has supported split screen apps for ages. It was in Android 5 and is also in Android 6. Now Google is copying Samsung and others and putting the feature in Android 7.

It means that phones that don’t have a split screen facility will get it, but if you have a Samsung or another phone that already has it, then why not use it right now?

Start an app and press the task switcher button to show the apps that are running. If an app supports split screen working, and not all do, then tap the button in the title bar of the app. (Long press on the task switcher button on some phones.)

Android app switcher

The screen splits into two and in the bottom half of the screen are the apps that support split screen working. You can now start another app by tapping an icon.

 Samsung Galaxy split screen Split screen apps in Android

I opened Facebook and it can be seen in the lower half of the screen. You can tap in either the top or bottom half of the screen to use the apps. The divider can be dragged up or down the screen to make one app bigger or smaller.

Tap the button in the middle of the divider and it expands to show a toolbar. The icons enable you to swap app positions, copy text or images from one app to the other, shrink or grow an app.

Android apps split screen view

If the phone is turned on its side, the screen is divided down the middle.

Android split screen working

So there you have it. Split screen working, the big new feature in Android N is just a copy of Samsung’s (and others) split screen feature.

 

Android N top feature: Respond to notifications

Another new feature in Android N is the ability to respond to events, such as a text message, from the notification. You don’t even need to leave the current app.

Once again, you might already have this feature on your phone and Samsung has had it since Android 5 Lollipop. It is also in Android 6 Marshmallow.

Facebook is being used here when a text message arrives. It is displayed as a notification at the top of the screen (Hangouts is set as the text message handler).

Android N features

Tap the Reply button and the screen is dimmed. A message box is displayed, the keyboard appears and you can type a reply to the message and press Send. You can then continue using the original app.

Samsung Galaxy responding to a text

This is great when you just want to send a quick reply and there is no need to switch apps back and
forth to reply and then return to whatever you were doing.

Android N? I’ve already got it thanks!