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Google releases Android N update with new emoji and launcher shortcuts

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Download it manually or update your Nexus over the air

Google is updating the developer preview of its latest big Android update, Android N, to a new version today. The company has just released factory images of Developer Preview 2, which can be downloaded and manually installed on your device. But one of the great things about the now-public Android beta program is that you should be able to install the new build onto your Nexus 6P, 5X, 6, 9, or Pixel C just by heading to the settings menu and downloading the over-the-air update. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem that this method is working quite yet. So if you're impatient, grab the files.

So what's new, then? To start, Developer Preview 2 brings the Vulkan 3D rendering API to Android's core OS. Vulkan will lead to "significant" performance improvements for graphic-intensive apps (read: gaming). It's actually already on Samsung's latest flagship smartphones, which have proven to be killer when it comes to fluid performance.

Next is something really cool: launcher shortcuts. This lets apps create shortcuts in Android's launcher that lead to specific actions inside that app. Here's what Google says about the new feature, which power users could grow to love:

Launcher shortcuts: Now, apps can define shortcuts which users can expose in the launcher to help them perform actions quicker. These shortcuts contain an Intent into specific points within your app (like sending a message to your best friend, navigating home in a mapping app, or playing the next episode of a TV show in a media app).

And finally we get to emoji. Good news: Google is making human emoji look more... human! And that means getting rid of the blob-face emotions and activities that were impossible to decipher with any certainty. Look how much better these are:

We'll be updating our own Nexus gadgets to take a look at everything else that's new. But already, the new features introduced in the first release — improved notifications, battery management, and proper multitasking — point to a fantastic update coming out later this year.