At Google I/O this year, the presenters spent a solid hour talking about new services and initiatives before even mentioning Android. That’s not because Google’s mobile OS is any less important, but quite the opposite: Android is now so central and fundamental to everything Google does that it scarcely needs to even be mentioned. Like oxygen, Android is critically important to Google, but also abundant enough to be kind of boring.
Except this year’s Android N is shaping up to be rather special. It will usher in the new Daydream VR system, it will support the advanced Vulkan graphics API, and it will bring split-screen multitasking to the mobile masses and picture-in-picture to Android TVs. Now guess who gets to experience all of these novelties first.
Each year, Google releases at least one paragon Android device to best demonstrate its vision of the ideal mobile experience. Carrying the Nexus label, these smartphones and tablets aren’t huge sellers, but they appeal to the savvier user who wants to be assured of getting the latest Android updates first and to benefit from direct Google support.
The beta release of Android N is available today, but only to owners of the Nexus 5X, 6, 6P, or 9, the Pixel C tablet, or an obscure Android One device so generic as to be titled General Mobile 4G. Of course, beta software is of interest primarily to geeky tech fans, however the final version of Android N will follow the same, well established pattern. Nexus owners will get it in late summer when it’s first released, while the wicked souls that opted to buy an Android phone outside of Google’s Nexus program will have to wait — weeks for some, months for others.
The AT&T variant of Samsung’s flagship 2015 phone, the Galaxy S6, only just got the Android Marshmallow update yesterday, on the same day that Marshmallow’s N successor was being detailed. There are many great reasons to want a Samsung smartphone, and the present best Android handset is definitely one of the two Galaxy S7 variations. But to have the best of Android itself, to get it soonest and enjoy it longest, you still have to go the Nexus route.
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