Google just released the Android N Developer Preview of the next iteration of the world’s favorite mobile OS. And some features could definitely bring an improvement to your e-reading experience on an Android device. Full details of the Android N Developer Preview are available from Google here, but herewith are a few of the highlights.
First and foremost, there’s multi-window support, as shown in the image above. Some Android licensing partners, notably Samsung, have already offered this for a while, but in Android N it will come as basic to the OS. “In Android N, we’re introducing a new and much-requested multitasking feature into the platform,” Google explains. “Users can now pop open two apps on the screen at once. On phones and tablets running Android N, users can run two apps side-by-side or one-above-the-other in splitscreen mode. Users can resize the apps by dragging the divider between them.” So you’ll be able to read an ebook while taking notes from it in another app at the same time, keeping an eye on chat, or whatever. Tests of this feature already look pretty good. More info here.
That’s probably the single biggest shift away from the traditional mobile OS user paradigm in Android N. But there’s more for ebook readers. For one thing, the promise of a better tablet experience. As one Google developer said in a recent Reddit discussion, “we’re working hard on a range of enhancements for Android in this form-factor.” This might help address the complaints typified by one Reddit poster, that “so many Google apps are just stretched out phone apps when they are on a tablet.”
For another, there’s the option to change screen resolution, a.k.a. display size or screen zoom. This familiar feature from Windows desktops has been notably absent from stock Android. Android N, however, “enables users to set Display size, which magnifies or shrinks all elements on the screen, thereby improving device accessibility for users with low vision.” And obviously, users with low vision may not be the only ones to benefit from such a feature while reading ebooks.
Then there’s Night Mode, a feature similar to the Amazon Fire’s Blue Shade option. As reported elsewhere, this will allow users to filter out blue wavelengths, for those concerned about such things. Chris Meadows has already reported on the addition of this feature to Google Play Books, and Google now appears to be rolling it out to the whole OS. And obviously enough e-reading fans are concerned enough for this to be a significant feature in the Fire – and soon, in Android N.
As a minor tweak that might help some, there’s Data Saver, which cuts down your mobile data bills. “The system blocks background data usage and signals apps to use less data in the foreground wherever possible,” explains Google. There’s also an improved Doze mode, which “improves battery life by deferring CPU and network activities when a user leaves a device unplugged, stationary, and with the screen turned off.” As well as a new Settings menu, sundry adjustments to Notifications, and so on.
The Android N Developer Preview is already available for … well … previewing on a selection of Nexus, Pixel, and Android One devices, but absolutely do not try this at home, unless you’re an experienced Android user who can afford to risk losing a device. All told, though, Android N appears to offer some of the most significant enhancements in e-reading user experience on Android that we’ve seen in quite a few go-rounds. Further details are expected at Google I/O 2016 in May.