Google has made a developer preview of the next version of Android, named Nougat, available for Nexus devices.

Google typically announces the next Android preview during its Google I/O developer conference held annually in May. This year - for the first time - the preview was made available early as an over-the-air update for those enrolled in the Android Beta Program.

But there are actually a couple of different ways to getting hold of Android Nougat way before the official consumer release later this year.

Here are two different routes you can take...

A developer preview is a "work in progress" build that is released to developers prior to a consumer rollout of the final software. Google offers a preview to collect and incorporate developer feedback. The preview includes an updated a software development kit with system images for testing on the official Android emulator and on Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Nexus 9, Pixel C and Sony Xperia Z3 devices.

Google has warned that the developer preview release is for developers only and not intended for daily use or consumer use, although with the third update, Google is now saying it's stable enough for daily use.

Traditional system image

The first way to get the Android Nougat developer preview is to go the system image/manual flashing route. You can download images from Google and then flash them onto your device. Here's the site where you can download them, or you can use the direct links below for specific devices. This page details how to flash while also providing step-by-step instructions that'll get you going.

Keep in mind flashing a system image will wipe all the information off your device, so ensure you back up important data beforehand. Also, flashing additional Android Nougat preview images will cause more data wipes, and if go this route, you will not get automatic OTA updates like you do with the Android Beta Program (continue reading to learn more about the beta program).

The arrangement for the Sony Xperia Z3 is slightly different and you'll have to download the Xperia Companion and follow the flashing instructions that can be found here.

Android Beta Program

Google wants to make it easier for you to try Android Nougat on your development device, so it's also offering an Android Beta Program that allows anyone enrolled to update their Android devices to the developer preview and receive ongoing, over-the-air updates. It's very much like Microsoft's Windows Insider programme.

By enrolling in the beta, you can get the Android Nougat developer preview via an over-the-air update as you would get any standard update. You'll also automatically get any other updates that won't require you to wipe your data every time they come down the pipeline (and that includes the update that'll bring you to a stable Android Nougat build prior to the release of the consumer version).

You will receive a preview update every 4 to 6 weeks until the public launch of Android Nougat. Google has opened enrolment at this site, which also provides information about how the beta program works.

If you want to find out what to expect, head over to our Android Nougat preview for a look at what Android 7.0 changes.