Google asks the public to name the forthcoming Android N operating system

Not 'Namey McNameface' pleads Burke

Google I/O 2016 Google has been using its developers conference to show off forthcoming improvements in Android N and is taking the unusual move of asking the public to name it.

Traditionally Android builds have been named after foodstuffs, like Jellybean or KitKat – the later picked not for marketing dollars but as an attempt to show how "fun" Google is. Now the next iteration of Android, version N, needs a name and the public have been asked to come up with it.

"Just don't call it Namey McNameface," said the VP of Android engineering Dave Burke, alluding to the recent fracas over the naming of the UK's latest research vessel.

"We will be picking the name from the suggestions – it's not a vote."

The developer preview of Android N has been out for a few months now, but today Google has released a third preview that Burke said was a bonafide Beta build that could be run on a Nexus phone or tablet, and detailed a few additions to the OS.

We already knew that Android N is going to be adding a new 3D engine called Vulkan, which is both faster and smaller. But Android is also getting a new JIT compiler that Burke claimed is 75 per cent faster at booting apps and compresses code down to 50 per cent of its current size.

On the surface

As for the user interface, there are some new features: split screen, windows in windows, and drag and drop capability. All Android N phones and fondleslabs will be able to run two screens simultaneously in portrait and landscape mode.

Android TVs can run a window in a window to allow you to watch TV and do other things, Burke said. In both cases data will now be drag and droppable between the screens.

The device notifications bar is also being updated. When a user pulls down from the top of the screen to access things like turning WiFi or location data on and off, the five most-used notification tabs will be displayed at the top of the screen and users will be able to customize the whole page.

On the apps front, Android N will have a new feature, still in development, called Instant Apps. This allows a user to click on a link to a site that has its own app and just download a few parts of the software to help the link run more smoothly and with more features, but without installing the full code.

Instant Apps, when it's finished, won't be just for Android N users however. Google will roll it out to all Android builds back to KitKat for maximum coverage. On the battery front, N will have an enhanced Doze mode, dubbed Project Svelte. With the current build the phone will slip into power-saving doze mode if the phone is stationary and on battery. With N, doze mode will be accessed even if the phone is in motion but isn't being used, like being stuck in a bag or a pocket.

As for saving data, Android N will allow users to cap the amount of data that individual apps use. This is good news for someone on a tight data plan, and should help rein in talkative apps.

Security has also been beefed up in N. The build will include a feature from ChromeOS that allows the phone to download an updated image of the operating system in the background without bothering the user, and patch the OS remotely.

Android N will also introduce file-level encryption for individual chunks of data, to work in tandem with the existing phone encryption systems. The oft-patched media handling software has been rebuilt into separate silos, like codecs and file structures, to reduce the attack surface and dissemination possibilities for hackers.

The future of VR and Wear

Google has been expected to make a virtual reality announcement and Clay Bavor, the firm's VP of VR, said that Android N had been built with the virtual world in mind.

The VR platform is called Daydream, and will be released this Autumn along with a developer toolkit and a reference design for a virtual reality headset that uses an Android phone. Also coming is a handheld controller to allow you to maneuver in the virtual space.

The VR experience does require more sensors in a phone to be really good, so you'll probably need to upgrade your handset. Bavor said that a dozen smartphone makers will have new VR-ready kit available this year.

Google has also signed up a lot of partners for content. The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are going to be publishing VR content, and Hulu, Netflix, and IMAX will also be broadcasting virtual shows for end users.

YouTube is being totally rewritten with VR in mind, Bavor said, and will be hosting lots of VR content when daydream finally launches. Existing content will also be adapted for VR viewers.

Finally Android Wear is going to be getting an overhaul, with Wear 2.0 to be released shortly. The new operating system will allow people to write messages on their phone using fingers, and allow apps to run on a smart watch without being tied to a nearby mobile phone.

Wear apps are also getting smarter. Wear 2.0 will allow them to exchange information with each other – for example an exercise app can share data with a dietary app on the number of calories used in a workout.

The one thing that wasn't mentioned was a firm release date for Android N. Based on what's been said today, expect it in early Autumn. ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Google shows off immersive maps, AR-flavored search, Pixel 7, and more
    Your essential de-hyped guide to what the Chocolate Factory teased at developer shindig

    Google IO Google I/O, the ad biz's annual developer conference, returned to the Shoreline Amphitheater in California's Mountain View on Wednesday, for the first time in three years. The gathering remained largely a remote event due to the persistence of COVID-19 though there were enough Googlers, partners, and assorted software developers in attendance to fill venue seats and punctuate important points with applause.

    Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google parent Alphabet, opened the keynote by sounding familiar themes. He leaned into the implied sentiment, "We're here to help," an increasingly iffy proposition in light of the many controversies facing the company.

    He said he wanted to explain how Google is advancing its mission in two ways, "by deepening our understanding of information so that we can turn it into knowledge and advancing the state of computing so that knowledge is easier to access no matter who or where you are."

    Continue reading
  • iOS, Android stores host more than 1.5 million 'abandoned' apps
    That's more than the total that are actively maintained, study claims

    A study has found more outdated apps in Apple's App Store and Google Play than actively updated ones. 

    Analytics biz Pixalate – the outfit behind the study, titled The Abandoned Mobile Apps Report – told The Register its figures appear "to support Apple's apparent desire to 'clean up' abandoned apps," despite the unpopularity of the announcement with developers. The iGiant last month threatened to wipe away software from its store that hasn't been updated for a significant period of time.

    The report consists of data from crawls of the Android and iOS app stores to look for what Pixalate classified as abandoned apps – those that have gone two or more years without an update. Between the two stores in the first quarter of 2022, Pixalate said it found more than 1.5 million abandoned apps, amounting to 33 percent of the more than five million apps it told The Register it examined. 

    Continue reading
  • Microsoft closes Windows LSA hole under active attack
    Plus many more flaws. And Adobe, Android, SAP join the bug-squashing frenzy

    Microsoft patched 74 security flaws in its May Patch Tuesday batch of updates. That's seven critical bugs, 66 deemed important, and one ranked low severity.

    At least one of the vulnerabilities disclosed is under active attack with public exploit code, according to Redmond, while two others are listed as having public exploit code.

    After April's astonishing 100-plus vulnerabilities, May's patching event seems tame by comparison. However, "this month makes up for it in severity and infrastructure headaches," Chris Hass, director of security at Automox, told The Register. "The big news is the critical vulnerabilities that need to be highlighted for immediate action."

    Continue reading
  • Engineer gets Windows 11 working on a Surface Duo
    So those hardware requirements for Microsoft's OS really are arbitrary

    Arch tinkerer Gustave Monce has demonstrated Windows 11 running on a first-generation Surface Duo.

    The Duo is famously an Android device but, fresh from showing that Windows 11 could be coaxed into running on a Lumia Windows Phone, Monce has worked his magic on Redmond's first effort at a foldable handset.

    While Monce's work on the Lumia 950XL was more of an intellectual exercise, getting both screens working on the Duo is undeniably impressive. His adventures have been well documented on Twitter, with the engineer observing: "I think there might be a performance ~~gap~~ ocean between this and the Lumia 950 XL. Crazy what 4 years did in terms of SoC performance. Oh and thermals are very good."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022