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Android 7.0 or Android N is expected in the second half of 2016 Reuters

Even as users remain excited about receiving the latest Android 6 Marshmallow updates on their smartphones and tablets, Google is gearing up for the launch of Android 7.0 or Android N version expected in the latter half of the year. With Google announcing the dates for the Google I/O address — from 18 to 20 May — it is one step closer to the latest Android OS as I/O is normally where the first look or the developer's version is showcased. The full version will only be launched somewhere around September or October.

As we gear up for the developer preview in May, here is what we know so far of the most anticipated features and changes for the Android 7.0 OS.

Android N and Chrome OS - Merging?

Is the Chrome OS going to be killed off? This rumour has been doing the rounds for some time, although there are conflicting reports surrounding the issue, as Google had announced that it will launch several Chromebooks in 2016, which essentially run on Chrome OS. A detailed Wall Street Journal report in October 2015, however, stated that engineers at Google have been working for roughly two years to combine the Chrome and Android operating systems.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who led the development of the Chrome OS, in one of his analyst calls in 2015 had also stated, "Mobile as a computing paradigm is eventually going to blend with what we think of as desktop today."

While it is not clear which way this merger will head, many tech analysts say the Chrome OS will be done away with. According to IDC, while Android is the world's most widely used operating system powering more than one billion devices, the Chrome OS accounts for less than 3% of PCs. This can be a major reason why the company may be looking to integrate these two.

Currently, Android runs on an array of devices starting from smartphones, tablets, watches, TVs and even car systems. PCs are the only missing link here that could potentially increase Android's user base and Chromebooks could even run on this new OS.

New messaging app based on RCS adoption

The buzz is that Google is working to erase the SMS/MMS functionality in Google Hangouts entirely and instead focus on a new messaging app that could rival iMessage and WhatsApp. A Phandroid report in December 2015 had cited sources in the company confirming this.

It is not certain what the new messaging platform could look like, but from the looks of it, Rich Communications Services (RCS), the platform that enables the delivery of communication beyond voice and SMS, is tipped to be at the forefront of this development. RCS builds upon legacy SMS messaging and adds new capabilities that are better supported by providing consumers with instant messaging or chat, live video and sharing of heavy files.

In September 2015 Google acquired Jibe Mobile, a company that has worked with carriers on implementing RCS. The company issued this statement on Android blog regarding RCS development: "Deploying RCS to create an even better messaging experience on Android will take time and collaboration throughout the wireless industry, but we're excited to get started."

The RCS platform, however, is dependent not merely on app or smartphone software development but also on carrier support. Currently, there are only a handful of operators that support RCS.

Split Screen

One of the features of the upcoming Android N that has been widely reported is the split screen similar to the one iOS 9 has for iPads. This allows users to access multiple applications on the screen at the same time. The Samsung Galaxy S6 also includes split screen multitasking. Google itself released an update for Chrome in iOS with multitasking support where users could browse web content while accessing some of their favourite apps on an iPad.

In a Reddit AMA in December 2015, Andrew Bowers, Google's director for consumer hardware had also said, "We're working on lots of things right now for N but we'd spoil the surprise of N if we shared all of them. But yes split screen is in the works!"

N stands for?

Although Google will not reveal the full name of Android N until the second half of 2016, there is no dearth of speculation. Google CEO Sundar Pichai, while visiting India, said the company was mulling the possibility of an online poll to select the name for its upcoming OS.

With the exception of KitKat, the naming convention followed for all previous Android OS updates has included sweet treats rather than brands. Nutella, Nectar, Neopolitan and Nougat are some of the names being churned out by rumour mills for the new Android version.