Encryption is an important feature, but it can also be annoying. Phones have a tendency to reboot on their own every now and then, and for folks with encrypted devices this means notifications of incoming calls or texts and notifications from other apps can’t get through because the apps don’t function until you decrypt the device.
Android N will change that, it seems. One of the most undersold features of the new OS upgrade is Direct Boot. It uses file-based encryption to allow developers to grant access to specific data within an app before a device has been decrypted (which means before the user logs in with his passcode).
That means alarm clocks can continue to annoy you after your phone suffered a spontaneous reboot, and call + messaging notifications can come in just fine. A developer can choose to display specific information, and that info is called upon when the “LOCKED_BOOT_COMPLETED” intent (which listens for reboots while the device is locked, ie a random reboot) is triggered. All other info is kept encrypted.
It’s a very nice feature that’ll make it less of a headache to deal with a phone when it goes off the deep end, and Google even says it’ll help speed up boot times, so even if the main benefit isn’t important to you you’ll probably still be happy it’s there.