Google has announced the name of its next mobile OS as Android Nougat. Here are the 8 most exciting features you can expect from the latest version.
The choice of Nougat over Nutella surprised some, but then there aren’t too many sweet products starting with the letter ‘N’. With a launch expected some time over the next three months, it feels like an important moment nonetheless.
So what kind of sweet treats does Google have in mind for its new mobile OS? Allow us to chew it over.
1) BETTER UI AND NOTIFICATIONS
The most obvious enhancement to Android Nougat is its tweaked UI. Nowhere is this more apparent than in its notification menu.
You now get instant control toggles when you swipe down from the top of the screen, so you’ll be able to activate Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and more much quicker.
Notifications themselves are now more space-efficient, occupying the width of the screen and sporting smaller fonts. They can also be made to arrive in stacks according to the app, so you won’t have your entire notification menu filled with (for example) separate WhatsApp messages.
These can then be expanded and dealt with from within the notification menu. Yes, Google has enabled quick replies for third party app developers.
2) QUICK SWITCH AND MULTI-WINDOW
Android has long been excellent at handling multitasking, but it’s set to get even better. Quick Switch will enable you to instantly switch to your last app used by double tapping the Recent button.
There’s also a Clear All button in the Recent menu. Believe it or not, this isn’t present in stock Android Marshmallow.
In addition, Google is bringing its own multi-window feature to Android Nougat through the Recent menu. Simply press the Recent button from within an app and you’ll be able to select a second app to open alongside it, in a split-screen view.
On the large-screen devices that are pretty much the norm with Android right now, this should be a major productivity aid. You’ll be able to surf the web while simultaneously messaging people, for example.
It will even be possible to drag items between the two open apps. Nifty.
This one’s aimed more at Android TV users than mobile or tablet users, but Android Nougat supports the ability to watch video in a pinned window in the corner of the screen while another activity runs in the background.
If you’ve ever seen this feature in the YouTube mobile app, you’ll understand how it works. Now it’ll be available to all third party app makers.
4) VULKAN API SUPPORT
Android Nougat will adopt Vulkan API support, which should improve the quality of gaming, VR, and other graphically intensive apps considerably on mobile.
Vulkan is designed as a replacement for OpenGL, and promises to make cross-platform game development much easier and more streamlined.
The end result will be more timely, power efficient, and just plain better looking games on Android smartphones and tablets.
5) DAYDREAM VR
Android Nougat will be the OS where Google fully unleashes its VR plans. What, you thought that started and ended with Cardboard?
Meet Daydream. Daydream is Google’s new VR platform – a set of VR headset and controller hardware standards allied to an Android Nougat-based UI that aims to make discovering and consuming VR content much easier and smoother. Ultra-low 20ms latency should make for a much slicker mobile VR experience than we’ve seen before.
Compatibility will be limited to brand new handsets, so your current phone probably won’t be able to run Daydream, but Google’s new 2016 Nexus phone should.
Google’s really gunning for a tightly controlled hardware environment here, but from 2017, expect most new flagship phones to support Daydream.
6) ALLO AND DUO
In spite of all the tweaks and enhancements to Android Nougat, two of the most notable additions will be the standalone Allo and Duo apps.
Allo is Google’s new messaging app which incorporates the company’s formidable search, machine-learning and security technologies. With it, you’ll be able to conduct web searches and make bookings from within conversations.
Allo can also suggest replies to messages, based on what it understands from the words and pictures that have been sent to you.
For the tinfoil hat brigade, there’ll be a mode called “Incognito Chat”, which activates end-to-end encryption for your messages, and you can also set messages to expire after a certain time, Snapchat style.
Duo, meanwhile, is Google’s new video calling app, which promises to make video calling as easy as possible. Think of it as Google’s FaceTime. You’ll be able to do things like get previews of callers before you pick up (a feature called Knock Knock), while calls will be optimised for usage on limited bandwidth connections.
7) TIGHTER SPECS
Android Nougat isn’t just about clever new features. Google has also tightened up the operating system’s core components, to the point where the system requirements have actually dropped.
As a continuation of Project Svelte, which launched with Android 4.4 KitKat, Android Nougat should be able to run faster on lower end hardware than previous versions.
In addition, Google has worked on the Doze feature it introduced with Android Marshmallow. Doze figured out when your phone wasn’t being actively used and scaled things back accordingly. This resulted in a dramatic improvement to battery life during less busy periods.
In Android Nougat, Doze now works whenever the screen is off, not just when there’s a prolonged spell of inactivity.
App makers will also be able to reduce the amount of background power they consume in Android Nougat. Apps will install 75 percent quicker, and take up 50 percent less space.
All in all, Android Nougat should be a lot less of a system hog than previous versions.
8) BETTER UPDATES
Android apps are constantly updating in the background, it seems. This can actually prove quite disruptive if you’re in the middle of something – especially when you’re using the app that’s being updated.
In Android Nougat, Google is introducing Seamless Updates. This will enable two system images to be run simultaneously, essentially allowing you to update an app in the background whilst you’re using it.