SAN FRANCISCO – Google is previewing the next version of its Android operating system two months ahead of schedule in an effort to get the upgraded software on more mobile devices.
The upgraded software, known as “Android N” for now, offers a split-screen feature so users can toggle between apps more easily. Android N also enables users to reply directly to notifications, something already available on the software that Google makes for smartwatches running on Android Wear.
Another change is being made to reduce the battery power drawn by apps when the device’s screen turns off. Devices running on Android “Marshmallow,” a version released last year, shift into a battery-saving mode called “Doze” only when they’re stationary.
The new edition initially is being recommended only for mobile app makers and will only work on a few smartphones and tablets.
Google typically hasn’t released test versions of Android until its annual developers’ conference, which begins May 18 this year. The head start is designed to get Android N the hands of mobile device makers earlier than ever, according to a Google blog post , to give them more time to set up the new software on their latest models.
Although other improvements could be added before the software is released to consumers later this year, Android N doesn’t appear to breaking any new ground. Both the split-screen and reply-to-notifications features, for instance, are already offered in the operating system running Apple Inc.’s iPhone.