It may not yet have a name, but Android "N" is already being pushed out for beta testers. However, this time around, Google has made it incredibly easy, for anyone that wishes, to kick the tires of Android "N".
In a move that not only impresses, but makes absolute sense, Google unleashed the Android Beta Program. With this new service, anyone can enroll a qualifying device to the program and get an Over The Air (OTA) update to the latest build of Android "N".Sounds great, doesn't it? Sounds like something every mobile platform should offer, right? Sort of. Although this is a great way to test out the latest iteration of Android, it should really only be considered for developers and on devices you do not count on every day. These updates are unstable and often have deal-breaking issues. But if you want to experience things like the upcoming Multi-Window mode now...the Android Beta Program is your best and simplest chance.
The big "Why?"
This is the first time a platform has offered such a program. This might lead you to wonder why Google is doing this? As many of you may already know, the process of rolling out the latest-greatest release of Android is often a very complicated and slow process. I believe the Android Beta Program was created to address this issue. Instead of all bug squashing going on internally, Google now can take advantage of a world-wide network of beta testers who can test and report on issues. This could expedite the development cycle of Android such that Google could roll it out much faster.
Of course, the only caveat to this is that it seems (at least at the moment), the Android Beta Program only works with Nexus devices. This should come as no surprise, as the Nexus line always get the latest version of Android first.
If you happen to have an eligible device, and want to get that "N" OTA update, all you have to do is log onto your Google Account, make sure your device is associated with your account, and then head over to the Android Beta Program, check to see if your device is listed as eligible, and (if your device in question is listed), click the ENROLL DEVICE button (Figure A), and wait for the update to hit.
A Verizon-branded Nexus 6 is eligible for the beta program.
What's best about this is that the program is already releasing updates. This means those deal-breaking bugs are being fixed quickly. That should also serve as a warning to anyone considering clicking ENROLL DEVICE. It may seem tempting, but if that eligible device is your only device, I'd reconsider. As the title says, this is a beta release...so you can expect issues. The last thing you want is to need your device, only to have it not function properly.
Of course, if you do opt-in to the program, you can always opt-out. If you decide to opt-out of the Android Beta Program, you user data will be wiped (consider it a factory reset). And if you do opt-in, once Android "N" is officially released, you can remain in and get early Maintenance Releases (MRs). Once the program ends, your device will start to receive regular Android "N" updates as they arrive.
Is it worth it?
If you're really anxious to see what's coming down the pike for Android "N", then yes, this program is definitely worth the price of entry (free). You'll just want to make sure you have a second device to use, should your device succumb to a deal-breaking bug. Without a doubt, this is the easiest means of getting a sneak peek at what's in store for Android. The curious most certainly need apply.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.