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Android N will have expanded support for virtual reality

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Android developers will be able to tap into new virtual reality capabilities in the next major version of Android, codenamed N. As noted by Ars Technica, the second Android N Developer Preview contains references to "VR Listener" and "VR Helper" apps, as well as a permissions warning informing users that a given app "will be able to run when you are using applications in virtual reality mode."

Details of this VR mode aren't yet clear, but a February report in The Wall Street Journal said that Google was tweaking Android to work better with VR devices ahead of launching its own smartphone-compatible headset, which would follow the Cardboard initiative and may be announced at the company's annual I/O conference next month. One mooted possibility is for VR apps to disable the phone's auto-lock mechanism so that it doesn't switch off after sitting in a headset for a while. Google is also said to be working on a standalone headset that doesn't require a smartphone or PC to function.

Android N includes built-in support for 3D Touch-style pressure sensitivity, a split-screen mode for tablet multitasking, and revamped emoji. Google released the first developer preview last month, and anyone with a recent Nexus device or Pixel C can sign up for over-the-air updates — though it's not recommended for day-to-day use.