Android N

Google surprised everyone earlier today with the very first preview release of Android N — the next operating system update for Android devices — which anyone savvy enough with the right hardware can try out now for free even before Google’s upcoming I/O developer conference. Included in the first preview version of Android N are many new features that catch Google’s mobile OS up with Apple’s iOS 9 like split-screen apps and picture-in-picture mode. Like Apple, Google’s even launching a public beta program for consumers soon. Check out the full details at 9to5Google and see how each feature compares between Android N and iOS 9 below:

Apple poured new life into its tablet last year with iOS 9 for iPads. After years of working on the multitasking feature, Apple finally shipped side-by-side apps using an interface similar to Windows before it. Now with Android N, Google is bringing new multitasking power to its devices as well, and the implementation looks quite similar.

Notice the slider in the center. Testing Android N on a Nexus 9 tablet, this slider works similarly to iOS 9 on the latest iPad hardware, except Android allows the left app to be split into quarters, not just the right app. Android N also differs by using top and bottom apps in portrait mode while iOS 9 maintains left and right apps in both portrait and landscape mode.

Here’s Split View on iOS 9:

iWork Split View

And here’s how “split-screen” looks on Android N:

Android N Split-Screen

Android’s approach results in apps often breaking in portrait split-screen, while Apple’s approach creates really narrow and tall apps. While Android N is still in preview, the current method for engaging with split-screen apps also differs. iOS 9 requires apps to update to support Split View at all, while Android N in its first preview lets any app try to use split-screen, but many apps that obviously haven’t been updated yet break and Android flags the user with a message.

Android N Portrait Split Screen

There’s also picture-in-picture, which Apple brought to iPads with iOS 9. Android N currently saves PIP mode for Android TV, and it works and looks just as you’d expect.

Here’s PIP on iOS 9:

iPad Pro Split View PIP

And here’s PIP on Android N for Android TV:

PIP Android N

Admittedly, it would be nice if Apple TV gained system-wide picture-in-picture with tvOS. Android N for smartphones and tablets doesn’t yet support PIP (except the YouTube app where PIP is app-only of course).

Android N users also gain the ability to reply to notifications directly from alert banners. Apple introduced interactive notifications with quick reply back with iOS 8. Apple’s version looks like this:

Banner Quick Reply

Starting with Android N, quick replies will come to Android devices and look like this:

Android N Quick Reply

Finally, Android N includes Night Mode (which was previously in Android M previews but didn’t ship with Marshmallow). This setting lets you apply a dark theme to areas which usually have a light them throughout Android. It can also be automatically enabled based on location and time of day, and optionally adjust both tint and brightness.

While Apple lacks a system dark mode feature, it has introduced a new feature called Night Shift in iOS 9.3, which works like Flux on computers to adjust the color temperature of displays for easier night time use. Android N’s Night Mode takes similar steps.

Here’s what Night Shift looks like on iOS 9.3 when cranked all the way up:

iOS 9.3 Night Shift

And here’s Android N’s Night Mode option:

Android N Night Mode

Of course iOS hasn’t been shy about borrowing features from Android (and Windows!) over the years, so sharing good ideas is just par for the course. Where it counts is how these features are implemented, and who wins that battle is up to you.

Android N also includes a number of other changes already available in the first preview version, including a brand new notification shade, enhancements to Android’s power-saving Doze feature, a new wallpaper, and a whole lot more which you can read about on 9to5Google.

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About the Author


Zac covers Apple news, hosts the 9to5Mac Happy Hour podcast, and created