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Android’s latest update is upon us, but while you might be interested in Android 7.0 Nougat, there’s a good chance that you’re pretty happy with Android 6.0 Marshmallow. So why would you want to upgrade?
Well, mainly there are interface tweaks that keep Android looking fresh (some of which can be installed on Marshmallow). And then there’s everything else — a list of improvements so long you’d be here all day reading about them.
If you’re familiar with Android already, one of the things you’ll notice about Android Nougat’s new features is that many of them aren’t all that new. In fact, most can be traced back to Samsung and Sony phones from the past few years.
To make it easier on your eyes, and to celebrate Android 7.0’s release, we’ve grouped the new features into seven categories, each giving you a strong reason to upgrade.
1. Improved Notification Area
Notifications are all-important, but for many users they can be a pain. Android Nougat does a good job of fixing this by introducing some revisions to the notification area.
The ability to quick reply to message notifications is probably the most notable change. This is such a simple idea that it’s a surprise stock Android hasn’t introduced it sooner. All you need to do is tap the Reply link and send your message directly from whatever screen you’re on, rather than going into the app.
Notifications also have individual quick settings, which you can access by long-tapping or swiping slightly to reveal the gear icon. Here, you can specify priorities for your apps, which will prove useful for determining what sort of notifications appear and whether or not they appear on the lock screen.
2. Quick Switch Multi-tasking
One of the most important aspects of Nougat is the ability to quickly switch between apps. So, say you’re using the Twitter app and want to quickly switch back to the Gmail app. If that was the last app you used, double tapping the Recents button (the square) would bring Gmail back up.
3. Multi-Window Mode for Productivity
Another aspect borrowed from custom ROMs is the new multi-window feature, which allows you to run two apps at the same time. In fact, Samsung introduced its own multi-window feature way back in 2011.
In Android Nougat, a long tap of Recents will split the display in half — your current app on the left and the app switcher on the right (in landscape mode). All you need to do is cycle through those recent apps, choose the one you want, and you get split-screen multitasking. It looks a bit like Windows 8’s snap feature. Sadly, it doesn’t work well across the board yet, as developers need to make some changes to their apps and games to support it.
What is particularly impressive about this feature, however, is the ability to drag and drop images and text between panes. While this only works initially in some apps, it is expected to be widely adopted.
Other productivity features in Android 7.0 Nougat include the support for multiple locales and the setting of primary and secondary languages.
4. Improved Performance
Faster gaming graphics arrive with Android 7.0 Nougat thanks to the Vulkan Graphics API, which should result in a smoother and better-rendered gaming experience.
Android Nougat also tweaks the Android Runtime compiler, introducing Just in Time compilation in order for devices to boot up quickly. This is all about avoiding the slow boot issues of Lollipop and Marshmallow, and it seems to be a good solution.
5. Security and Updates
Security is a growing issue for Android, so it’s good to see some new ideas being introduced to help users manage their devices more effectively.
Meanwhile, updating has been streamlined with the new seamless updates feature. All future phones will have support for this, which essentially downloads the Android OS update to a secondary partition. This will happen in the background, and when you restart your phone, Android switches partitions, and you’ll be painlessly introduced to the new update. Though this won’t solve all of Android’s slow update issues.
Along with file-based encryption, which enables you to protect your files and folders from hackers, Android 7.0 Nougat introduces granular controls over what directories your installed apps can access.
Rather than granting permission to everything as before, this means you can prevent a particular app from accessing your files. Whether the app is suspicious, or you simply have privacy concerns, this is an important addition.
6. Interface Tweaks
As ever, various tweaks have been made to the visuals of the user interface in Android Nougat. Most of this is largely information-based. For instance, it displays which Wi-Fi network you’re connected to in the main Settings screen.
Staying with Settings, there is also the introduction of the hamburger menu in the upper left, which should be familiar since it’s used in most Android apps. It seems likely that this will eventually permeate every app on future Android versions, so get used to it!
Meanwhile, notifications now take up the full width of the screen, giving them a cleaner, more modern look.
7. Improved Doze Mode
A big feature of Android 6.0 Marshmallow was Doze mode, which saved battery if your phone remained untouched for quite a while (such as when you sleep). With Android 7.0 Nougat, this has been enhanced, with Doze now kicking in any time the screen is off. Whereas before the phone had to be laid flat, now it can be in any orientation — ideal for saving battery power while your phone is in your pocket.
Essentially, Doze now works on two levels. A phone in your pocket, screen-off, will periodically sync data. But it will only disable other battery-draining aspects such as wakelocks when it remains stationary for a while.
Remember, however, that this kind of sleep mode could delay important notifications (though you can set priorities for this in Settings).
Where Is Your Android 7.0 Nougat Update?
If you want to get a taste of Android 7.0, you’re probably either going to have to wait for an update to download, or go out and buy a new phone. Thinking about the latter option? Then try the Google Pixel phone. You might even like the Google Pixel C tablet, which was one of the first tablets to be given an Android 7.0 Nougat update.
Meanwhile, recent phones in the Nexus range also have Nougat updates available or coming soon, if you prefer to download. For other manufacturers, check the relevant support page for your device.
There is another option for updates, though. If you have a custom recovery (such as TWRP or ClockworkMod) installed on your device, then you’ll probably find that there is an unofficial Android 7.0 ROM available. For instance, if you use the 2013 Nexus 5 phone, there is an AOSP version of Android 7.0. To find out, head to forum.xda-developers.com and search for your device.
What Are Your Favorite New Features?
As with any list of new features, there are always going to be some that get left out. But it would be wrong to overlook the new ability to force apps to run from your microSD card, whether they support that function or not.
Meanwhile Night Mode appeared in preview releases, a blue-light filter that saves your eyes in low-light, but it apparently isn’t on every Android 7.0 Nougat device. Meanwhile, Daydream has been co-opted — it’s no longer a screensaver for docked mode but the name for Google’s foray into virtual reality.
But to underline the spread of Android from smartphones and tablets into other types of devices, there’s another new feature. This one is specifically for Android TV, and it brings picture-in-picture functionality to Android TV boxes. Oh, and there’s DVR support too.
Will you be upgrading to Android 7.0 Nougat? Have you already upgraded via the developer previews, or do you own a compatible Nexus handset? What features would you have liked to see? Tell us in the comments.