Android Nougat: Four super features that you’ll want to upgrade for
Update: The latest additional feature for Android N users? Google Assistant. Originally, Google’s AI helper was earmarked for Pixel phones only, but now Google has revealed that the feature will begin to be rolled out to devices running pure versions of Nougat and Marshmallow.
Meanwhile, Android N continues to reach more smartphones, but it’s still installed on just over 1% of all Android devices at the time of writing. People were expecting it to have reached Samsung’s 2015 flagship the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge by now, but according to the company’s Twitter account, it has been delayed while they “review its quality.” It should be available “at the earliest opportunity”, whatever that means.
Carry on reading to discover why Android N is indeed worth the wait.
Android N – or Nougat to its friends – is the latest and greatest version of Android. But before you rush to your setting menus to get that update started, you should know that the chances are it won’t be available to you yet. Unlike iOS updates which tend to roll out together, there are so many Android devices out there that different handset manufacturers validate the update at their own pace. Here are our guesses as to when your handset will get Android N.
So right now, it’s only Google’s own Nexus devices that have Android Nougat. But it’ll be worth the wait, folks: here are four features that are going to make you want to get that update as soon as Samsung/Sony/HTC/Motorola/Huawei/LG make it available for you.
1. Vastly improved notifications
Notifications, in their simplest form, are designed to make your life easier. They’re supposed to alert you to breaking news, or important messages coming through.
Somewhere along the way, their well meaning intention got hijacked by free to play games and pop-up adverts in all but name. Firstly, Google is fixing that, by allowing you to control how you’re contacted right from the notification. Long press the notification and you can choose to silently display future messages from the app, or block it from bothering you altogether.
Secondly, even the notifications you want – text messages, or Whatsapp conversations – can be disruptive. If you want to reply to something you have to switch apps, respond and then carry on with what you’re doing. In-line replies fixes that, allowing you to fire off quick replies right there in the notification. Simple, but oh-so-handy.
2. Multitasking is here
If you’ve used certain handsets from the likes of LG and Samsung, this won’t be anything new, but Android Nougat opens up split screen multitasking to all Android handsets. Simply hold down the task-switching button and your screen will split into two, allowing you to work with more than one app at once.
For me personally, this is still a little too fiddly on a small screen (though handy if you like to tweet along to TV shows), but for those with larger handsets and for serial multitaskers, it’s a Godsend.
3. Better battery life
Every version of Android promises better battery life, and to be fair it delivers – we just don’t tend to notice, either thanks to the natural deterioration of our batteries over time or because we’ve upgraded to something more power hungry and the gains are invisible.
Android Nougat makes the promise again, and it does so in two ways. Project Svelte – first introduced in 2013 – sees a couple of important updates regarding how power hungry apps can be. You can read more about them in Google’s official technical notes, but the long and short of it is that apps will be forced to be less battery intensive.
The second is an important update to Android Doze. Have you ever noticed that an unattended Android phone’s battery drains a lot slower at night than during the day? One of the reasons for that – aside for the obvious fact you’re not using the screen – is Doze kicks in on Android Marshmallow devices only when three conditions are all met: the screen is off, the handset is unplugged and it’s not moving. That would save battery by reducing background activity when you weren’t using it.
That’s all well and good if your phone is on your desk at work, or unplugged by your bed – but not so perfect if you were carrying it in your pocket, when Doze would refuse to kick in due to constant jiggling. In Android Nougat, this is fixed by two Doze states: one where the phone is motionless, and one where the phone is unplugged with the screen off. It’ll still have regular maintenance windows to check for notifications, and be woken by calls or texts, but other than that it’ll be in a low power state, ready to spring into action when you actually need it.
4. Control of your data
Android apps can sure be data hungry, and not everyone has particularly generous data plans to compensate for that. But in previous versions of Android we were given an all-or-nothing approach to data management: either your apps can be as greedy as they like, or they won’t connect to the internet at all. For all kinds of reasons, that’s not an ideal solution.
In Android N, this is considerably less rigid. It lets you throttle data by individual basis, either temporarily or permanently. Just hit the switch next to an app, and Android will kill its background data hunting, as well as reduce how much it eats through when you actively want to use it. By letting you differentiate between apps, you can prioritise what’s important to you: in other words, you can still get high resolution Netflix shows, but prevent Facebook from constantly calling home.
You can read more about how these features are in practice in our Android Nougat review, here.