Android N Developer Preview lands on Sony's Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia-Z3+
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
When Google launched the Android N Developer Preview program earlier this month, it was initially limited to the company’s favored Nexus phones and tablets — you couldn’t test an Android N on a Samsung Galaxy S7, for instance, or on an HTC M9. But today, Google’s ever-so-slightly cracking open the doors of its developer program to a greater pool of users: It’s making available a build of Android N for the Sony Xperia Z3.

The Xperia Z3, at first blush, might seem like an odd choice — it’s almost three years old, after all, and two generations behind Sony’s flagship Z5 — but there’s historical precedent. Last year, Sony announced its Open Device program, a company-wide initiative aimed at granting developers greater access to the under-the-hood code on the Xperia Z3 and Sony’s bevy of other mobile devices. As part of the program, it made public the necessary configuration files, drivers, and binaries (the proprietary bits that Sony uses to adapt Android for its devices, in other words) for installing the Android M Developer preview on the Xperia Z3, and even published instructions on how to do so. It followed suit with updated files for for Android Marshmallow in the fall, and in mid-March seeded a beta release of Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow to the Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact for early adopters.

Getting the Android N Developer preview up and running on the Z3 isn’t too much more difficult than Android M, it seems. You’ll need a compatible variant of the Xperia Z3 (model D6603 or D6653), plus Sony’s Xperia Companion software for PC (version 1.1.24 or later). Assuming you meet those prerequisites, upgrading’s as simple as pairing your phone to your PC via USB, launching Xperia Companion, holding down the alt key on your computer and clicking “Software repair,” and following the on-screen instructions. If Android N’s too buggy for your liking, you can return to a factory default state by clicking the software repair button sans alt key.

The installation process may sound simple enough, but a word to the wise: While the Android N Developer Preview packs a bunch of cool and desirable features like multi-window app view, a battery-saving Doze mode, and bundled notifications, its bound to have a few kinks ahead of its official release. And the version specific to the Xperia Z3 lacks many of Sony’s additions to Android, such as the Xperia launcher. For that reason, it’s probably best you don’t install the Android N Preview on your primary phone. If you do, be prepared to put up with more than a few annoyances.

So, what’s the Xperia Z3’s Android N gain mean more broadly? Probably not much. Security concerns and carrier relationships have manufacturers reluctant to let developers install vanilla distributions of Android. While companies like Huawei, LG, and Motorola offer tools to unlock some elements of their respective devices, few have supplied the development files required to compile custom software. Barring a major shift in developer climate, Sony’s approach seems likely to the exception rather than the norm.

Business

Captain Marvel continues to soar at the box office with huge second weekend

Captain Marvel blasted into theaters in a big way a week ago, and Marvel's first female-led solo superhero movie is showing no signs of slowing down after a big second week in theaters.
Computing

Reluctant to give your email address away? Here's how to make a disposable one

Want to sign up for a service without the risk of flooding your inbox with copious amounts of spam and unwanted email? You might want to consider using disposable email addresses via one of these handy services.
Gaming

Snapchat could soon let you play games in between your selfies

If a new report is accurate, Snapchat will be getting an integrated gaming platform in April. The platform will feature mobile games form third-party developers, and one publisher is already signed on.
Emerging Tech

Don’t get burned! How to back crowdfunding projects the smart way

In the world of crowdfunding, there’s no such thing as a sure thing. There's a million reasons why a project might fail. But with this handy guide, you'll be able to spot the signs of a sketchy project and decrease your chances of getting…
Mobile

iPad Air vs. iPad Mini: Which new tablet from Apple is best for you?

Apple has unveiled two new iPad models, including a new iPad Air and a new iPad Mini. Both devices have a lot to offer. But which iPad is right for your needs? We put the iPad Air and iPad Mini to the test to find out.
Deals

The best Apple AirPods alternatives for Android, Windows, and iOS devices

Apple AirPods, nice as they are, aren't the only game in town. Other makers are offering their own truly wireless earbuds, and if you're looking to buy a pair of high-end in-ear headphones, we've got the best AirPod alternatives on the…
Mobile

Even older Apple Watches could be effective at spotting heart conditions

The Apple Watch Series 4 is known for detecting heart conditions like atrial fibrillation thanks to having an electrocardiograph feature. It turns out that older Apple Watches could be effective at tracking AFib, too.
Mobile

The Black Shark 2’s Ludicrous Mode promises the smoothest mobile gaming

Xiaomi-backed Black Shark has a follow-up to last year's Black Shark gaming phone, complete with high specs and a low price. Here's everything we know about the Black Shark 2 gaming phone.
Deals

Need a new tablet? Here are the best iPad deals for March 2019

In the wide world of tablets, Apple is still the king. If you're on team Apple and just can't live without iOS, we've curated an up-to-date list of all of the best iPad deals currently available for March 2018.
Deals

Amazon drops price on Apple Watch Series 4 with a rare deal

Since Apple first unveiled the Series 4, the price for one has pretty much held fast. This has finally started to change with a nice little $15 discount on Amazon. If you've been wanting the newest Apple Watch, now is a great time.
Computing

Sending SMS messages from your PC is easier than you might think

Texting is a fact of life, but what to do when you're in the middle of something on your laptop or just don't have your phone handy? Here's how to send a text message from a computer, whether you prefer to use an email client or Windows 10.
Mobile

Google's midrange Pixels might be called the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL

The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are considered to be two of the best Android smartphones, but it looks like Google could be prepping a midrange line. Say hello to the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL.
Gaming

Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs brings 3D demolition into your living room

Angry Birds is releasing its next entry in the spring of 2019 - with a new spin. Bringing 3D environments and destruction, Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs uses augmented reality to add a new dimension to a classic series.
Mobile

Whether by the pool or the sea, make a splash with the best waterproof phones

Whether you're looking for a phone you can use in the bath, or you just want that extra peace of mind, waterproof phones are here and they're amazing. Check out our selection of the best ones you can buy.