While many of Android N's improvements are under the hood, Google is sprucing up the look of its upcoming mobile OS. Take a tour of Android N's new features.

Responding within notifications

Android N's notifications are interactive, and you can respond within notifications instead of opening an app. For example, when you receive a text message notification, you can reply in the notification.

Android N Notifications

Changing display size

You can change the display size, selecting from Small to Largest settings, to shrink (below,left) or blow up (below, right) elements on the screen. The accessibility setting, designed for those with low vision, is at Settings, Display, Display Size.

Android N display size

Multiwindows

Samsung has supported a way to display side-by-side windows for a few years, but that functionality will now be built in to Android N. On a phone or tablet, you can view two apps side-by-side or one above the other. On a TV, you can display apps by using picture-in-picture mode. To jump to multiwindow mode, long-press the Overview button.

nmultiwindows.jpg

Settings navigation menu

The Settings window now has a navigation menu (aka a hamburger menu) that lets you move between individual settings. Tap the navigation menu to see the settings list.

nsettingsnavmenu.png

Quick Settings

Quick Settings gives you access to common system settings, such as for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. In Android N Google has tweaked the screen, adding more room for Quick Settings tiles and letting you rearrange tiles by drag and drop.

nquicksettings.png

Shift screen colors

Night Mode is similar to the just-released iOS 9.3's Night Shift. It lets you shift your screen to the warmer side of the color spectrum, which may make it easier to fall asleep at night. (Below, you can see the warmer setting on the left and the regular setting on the right.)

On Android N the setting is hidden, and Google warns it may go away in the future. To check it out, go to Quick Settings and then tap and hold the gear icon. A tiny wrench should appear to the right of the gear, signalling System UI Tuner is activated. You can turn on Night Mode by following Settings, Display, System UI Tuner, Color and Appearance, Night Mode.

nnightmode.png

The System UI Tuner gives you access to other interesting tools. For example, you can swipe up from the Overview button to enter split-screen mode.

Early access to Android N

To check out prerelease builds of Android N, go to Google's Android Beta Program page. Google cautions the software "is not suitable for use on your primary device" and strongly advises that you back up the contents of your phone or tablet before jumping to Android N. If you want to back out of the prerelease program, you will have to restore your data from backup when you return to a previous edition of Android.

Google said the prerelease build will run on the Nexus 6, Nexus 9, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, and Pixel C.

Once you opt in to the program, you will receive Android N through an over-the-air (OTA) update. It took a few days after we signed up before the Android N update appeared on our Nexus 9 tablet.

Google said it hopes to release the final N build to device makers this summer.

Clifford Colby follows the Mac and Android markets for Download.com. He's been an editor at Peachpit Press and a handful of now-dead computer magazines, including MacWeek, MacUser, and Corporate Computing.