Most Android fans were not expecting to catch a glimpse of the next version of Google's mobile operating system until Google I/O in May, resorting to mockups of Android N to get a feel on what it would look like.

However, it would seem that Google has decided to release Android N early with the launch of the Android N Developer Preview program.

The Android N Developer Preview program provides developers with all the things that they need to test and optimize their apps in preparation for the launch of the next version of Android. Participation in the program is free and only requires developers to download the Android N Developer Preview tools.

For users that would want to try out Android N, there are two options, namely to install the Android N Preview on a supported device or to run the operating system on the Android Emulator.

The supported devices for the Android N Preview are the Nexus 5X, the Nexus 6, the Nexus 6P, the Nexus 9, the Nexus 9G, the Nexus Player and the Pixel C.

Choosing to have the Android N Preview installed in one of these devices requires a further choice of receiving over-the-air updates for the upgrade or downloading the Android N system image. To install the Android N Preview through over-the-air updates similar to how regular updates are pushed out, users can sign up in the Android Beta Program. On the other hand, to install the preview through its system image, a more complicated process will be needed, in addition to needing to back up all the data on the device as everything will be erased. Further updates to the Android N Preview will also not be automatically received, so further system image downloads and installations will be required.

Testing the Android N Preview through the Android Emulator will require users to download the SDK of the operating system and create a virtual device through the AVD Manager tool.

The Android N Developer Preview program will eventually lead to the final release of the operating system, which is expected to be some time in the third quarter of 2016. Google will be incorporating the feedback that it receives over the course of the preview program into the development of Android N to have the operating system work as great as possible upon its final release.

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