Android 7 Nougat review
Android 7 Nougat is out now, but should you upgrade to Android N? We take a look a the best Android 7 N features in our Android 7 Nougat review. Also see: How to get Android N now.
Android 7 Nougat review: Will my device get the update?
It’s hard to be too specific but we do know some things for sure, partly because Google has announced expiration, or lifecycle, dates for current Nexus devices. The Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P are the most recent and will both be upgraded to Android N, and the Nexus 9 should get it too considering you can get the Developer Preview for it, as you can for the Pixel C and Nexus Player. Older devices have already passed the date of a guaranteed Android update.
We’ll have to wait for more details when it comes to third-party Android manufactures but if you’re device was launched this year or late 2015 there’s a good chance you’ll get Android N. For information on when Android 7 Nougat will arrive on other devices, see our release date article.
Android 7 Nougat review: Multi-window support
One of the best new features of Android N is Multi-window support, even though this is something which has been available for a while on devices such as Samsung and LG. Nevertheless, we’re pleased that it will now be a standard part of the Android OS.
As the name suggests, the feature means you can run two apps at the same time in a side-by-side view. This works on phones and tablets and you can drag the dividing line which separates the two to adjust how much you see of each app. it works really well on the Pixel XL with the only real downside being that not all apps support it.
On TV devices like the Nexus Player, users will also be able to take advantage of a picture-in-picture view so you can carry on watching something while you browse the interface. An optional thing which manufacturers can enable for larger devices is freeform mode which lets the user resize each app similar to using Windows.
Even more useful in some cases is the ability to drag and drop things between the two apps such as text and images, thus negating the need to faff around with copy and paste.
Android 7 Nougat review: Better multi-tasking
As well as being able to run two apps side-by-side, Google has added a feature which we've been wanting for a long time - and we didn't even know it was there for a while.
You can finally double tap the recent apps button (the square) to go to the last app you used. This means you can switch between two apps over and over really quickly which, in some situations, is beyond handy.
Android 7 Nougat review: VR
Virtual reality is one of the biggest new things in tech right now and Google has made note of this with Android N. The OS has been optimised for VR throughout the Android N stack (elements of the system).
Performance enhancements include single buffer rendering and access to an exclusive CPU core for VR apps. Developers can take advantage of smooth head-tracking and stereo notifications for VR.
Google says that most important is that Android N provides low latency graphics stating that ‘motion-to-photon latency on Nexus 6P running Developer Preview 3 is
Importantly, Nougat adds Daydream VR support to phones with the relevant hardware requirements such as the Moto Z. With support, you can use your phone with the Google Daydream View VR headset (above) which is just £69, giving consumers an affordable way into the immersive world of virtual reality.
See also: Android VR.
Android 7 Nougat review: Notifications
Another feature which has been on some devices already but not stock Android is advanced notification handling.
The main feature in Android N in terms of notifications is called Direct Reply which simply means you can reply to a message straight from the notifications. There’s not need to open the associated app and you can also use shortcuts to archive or snooze.
There’s also a new way of show multiple notifications called ‘bundled notifications’ which works in a similar way to Notifications Stacks in Android Wear. Android does it already but notifications for the same app will be grouped together in a nicer way visually and we you open the group, you get more information.
Android 7 Nougat review: Performance, productivity and security
With any new version of an OS, consumers expect improvements and Google says it has performed some ‘pretty deep surgery’ to achieve a ‘new level of product excellence’ focusing on performance, productivity and security.
Two key elements to this are the new JIT compiler which improves performance, means apps install faster and helps them take up less storage. Secondly, the Vulkan API delivers high performance graphics thanks to 3D rendering.
Seamless updates, like on Chromebooks, means that Android system updates can install in the background so no more interruptions.
We've been using Android 7.1 Nougat on the Google Pixel XL for this review and can report that it's extremely smooth in operation and able to do things like switch between apps with the new double tap (see above) almost instantaneously. Bear in mind that this is partly down to the high-end specs of the device such as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor.
Android 7 Nougat review: Data saver
There's a small but potentially lifesaving addition in Nougat which many of you out there will want to make use of and the Data Saver does pretty much exactly what you'd expect.
Instead of simply switching your mobile data on and off (whether it's 3G or 4G), you can now control which apps on your phone have access to background data. So if you often find apps like Facebook using up your data allowance when the screen is off, you can stop it being able to.
To access this feature head to Data Usage in the settings menu and select Data Saver to switch it on and choose the apps.
Android 7 Nougat review: Google Assistant
As part of the 7.1 Nougat version launched on the Pixel phones, Google introduced the Google Assistant. On the phones it's 'built-in' which means it's pre-loaded and you can access it any time by long pressing the home button.
In essence it's just an app and will be available to other Android phones, too. It's also not something completely new from Google and is a sort of evolution of Google Now but in a chat bot style of interaction which can be likened to Siri on the iPhone.
While it can be quick and helpful to do certain things like get an answer to a question, ask for directions or call a contact, there's a lot you still can't do with it. Google showed off abilities such as finding and booking a resaurant near a venue for a concert but you can't actually book the table in the UK which is a shame.
Find out more in our how to use Google Assistant article.
Android 7 Nougat review: Instant Apps
It’s not specific to Android N but an interesting new feature from Google is Instant Apps. In a nutshell, it’s a way of using an app without having to go and download it from the Play Store and then wait for it to install.
For example, if you try and open something which requires an app but you don’t have it, Instant Apps means you can access the content as if you had the app without actually installing it. The feature works by only downloading using the modules of code you need for the particular task rather than the entire thing. You also get the option to download the full app if you want.
This will not only make things quicker and easier but also avoid the hassle of downloading an app for something you’re only going to do once.Google suggests you might be able to tap on parking meter and use the app to pay without needing to actually install it.
It’s easy for developers to upgrade existing apps to support Instant Apps so should be something we see a lot of.
Although many of the new features in Android 7 Nougat have been around on other user interfaces for a while it's great to see them finally built into stock Android. There's nothing that will majorly change your usage here but all are welcome and beneficial. We can see no reason not to upgrade once Nougat is available for your device.