Android Nougat 7.x vs Android Marshmallow New Features
Google may be planning to release Android Nougat update for Huawei Nexus 6P and LG Nexus 5X on August 22, as per a latest report. This may hint about Android Nougat update possible roll-out on the same day by Google to Nexus devices in other regions.
Android Nougat vs Android Marshmallow New Features
Hands-on Video Demo of new features & changes
Anyone that saw the Android N developer previews will no doubt see a lot of familiar Android Nougat features here. The builds are so similar that if you were running Android N dev preview 5, the official OTA for the Android 7.0 update was a tiny 49.5 MB, compared to 1.1 GB if you updated from Marshmallow.
While some of us may have seen large parts of Nougat already, we’ll be approaching this Android 7.0 review from the perspective of a new user – someone who hasn’t “seen it all before”. We want to provide a sweeping overview of Android 7.0 features, but we’ll also draw comparisons to Marshmallow where relevant and provide context with discussion of features that appeared in the pre-release versions of Android N but that didn’t quite make it to the final version.
Nougat in a nutshell
If I had to sum Android Nougat up in a nutshell, I’d say that it’s Android putting its roots down. The general feel of Android has become increasingly stable since Lollipop, with less feature flip flopping, fewer performance issues and a greater focus on polish. Nougat is all about extending functionality, improving pre-existing features and further expanding what’s possible in stock Android.
As you know, Marshmallow largely maintained the overall look of Lollipop but baked in some big new features like Doze Mode, the fingerprint API and granular permissions. One year on and Nougat follows suit, maintaining the home screen and app drawer design of Marshmallow, but digging even deeper, laying the fundamental groundwork for what is yet to come.
There’s way more exciting background stuff going on in Nougat than you see on the surface.
There are some new visual features to be sure, with a redesigned Settings menu and notifications area. But there’s also a lot more enhanced functionality and exciting background stuff going on in Nougat than you see on the surface.
This section will be devoted almost entirely to Nougat’s multi-tasking and split screen functionality. These are arguably the biggest ticket items in Nougat and the ones that will rightfully garner the most attention – and likely cause the most confusion. That’s because as good as Google’s implementation of multi-window mode and other multi-tasking features in Nougat are, they are a little complicated and bound to leave more than a few people behind.
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Split-screen mode: how it works
Nougat finally delivers split-screen mode to stock Android, a feature that has been around in manufacturer skins and custom ROMs since forever. Android Nougat’s built-in version is in some ways better than what we’ve seen before, but it can also be a little… over the top. Now, take a deep breath as I walk you through how it all works.
Split-screen works in both portrait and landscape mode, with the two ‘windows’ only being resizable in portrait mode. App developers can set their own minimum app height, but in landscape mode you’re stuck with a 50/50 width split, which actually makes sense.
Split-screen works in both portrait and landscape mode, with the two ‘windows’ only being resizable in portrait mode.
Split-screen mode can be activated by long-pressing the app overview/recent apps button while in an app proper. It can also be activated by long-pressing an app preview card in the app picker and dragging it to the top of the screen. You can even enable a gesture action so it launches when you swipe up on the overview button. So far, so many options.
That first app will then appear in the top window (or on the left if you’re in landscape mode) and you’ll be able to choose your second app from the app picker which displays automatically. Or, when the app picker is displayed in the secondary window, you can tap Home to launch an app from your home screen or open the app drawer.
Think of it like this: the app up top (or on the left in landscape mode) is the primary app, the other app is secondary and it is the one that can be changed easily. With this in mind, you’ll always want to start multi-window mode with the app you’re less likely to want to change.
Quick switching apps is the best
The quick app switching action is possibly my favorite Nougat feature of all.
Quick switching is basically just shuffling between the two most recently used apps. It works system-wide, so you can quick switch whenever you’re in a full-screen app and you can also use it in the secondary window of split-screen mode.
Simply double tap the app overview button and you’ll switch between your two most recent apps in your secondary window. (The same gesture flips between full-screen apps when not in split-screen mode.)
The presence of the quick switching action – possibly my favorite Nougat feature of all – thus means you can triple task in multi-window mode. For example, you can be watching a YouTube video in the top window and quick switch between two social feeds in the bottom. Or you can be composing an email in the top pane while simultaneously switching between a note app and a web page in the bottom window. It’s actually pretty awesome.
Working with split-screen mode
Speaking of writing, multi-window mode is pretty smart when it comes to the keyboard. If you have two evenly-spaced windows up and need to type into one (say, a URL or search term), the windows will automatically resize to accommodate the keyboard and then automatically switch back when the keyboard is off screen again. You can also cleanly drag and drop text between the two windows although this doesn’t work with every app.
Split-screen mode is a mix of intuitive and useful ideas mixed with inconsistency and confusion.
Exiting split-screen mode is quite intuitive also: just drag the black divider all the way up to go full screen with the app on the bottom or drag all the way down for the app on the top. Alternatively, you can long-press the app overview button again and your primary app will go full screen.
Hitting the Home button while in split screen mode pushes your apps off screen but you’ll always know you’ve got split-screen mode activated because your status bar will retain the color of the primary app and the overview button will change to a split-screen icon. Double tapping the overview button will return you to your current split-screen setup while tapping it once will bring back your primary app and replace the secondary app with the app picker.
When split-screen mode gets weird
One final comment on multi-window mode might give you an idea of how good, but slightly odd, this Nougat feature is. When you have a Chrome tab open in split screen mode, tapping the overflow button provides a new option called ‘Move to other window’ which will then open a second Chrome tab in the other split screen pane – this is really great.
But, depending on the size of your two split-screen Chrome windows, opening up the tab view will either cascade your tabs vertically or horizontally – and this is just kinda weird. It makes sense, I guess, but it’s definitely strange. Not being able to consistently drag and drop text with all apps, not having all apps support split-screen mode and inconsistencies like this Chrome example (and other bugs I’ve found) show it is still not quite polished.
Google clearly also has a few remaining issues with split-screen content resizing too. Now, the font size and width changes depending on how tall each window is. This is fine. But, for example, opening Gmail first followed byGoogle Play leaves parts of the Play Store search bar cut off (which you can see in the screenshot below).
Resizing the windows fixes this visual glitch but it’s a bug that should have never made it to the final release, especially after months and months of developer previews. (The some-have-it-some-don’t Night Mode is another example of how Google seems to have slightly run out of time with Nougat.)
The million dollar question
If you’ve managed to follow me this far you’ve probably got a pretty good idea of just how useful split-screen mode can be if only you take the time to actually learn how to use it (there are no pop-up tutorials or anything for the feature). The question is though: will it actually catch on?
Unfortunately, the vast majority simply won’t ever take the time to figure split-screen mode out properly.
Unfortunately for Google, the vast majority of Android users simply won’t ever take the time to figure it all out. Furthermore, the usefulness of split-screen mode on a 5.5-inch smartphone display is debatable and dwindling tablet usage means Nougat’s split-screen mode may never get as much use as it rightfully deserves. If you are rocking a tablet with Nougat though, you’re in for a treat.
Not everything in Nougat is so convoluted though. Some features are plain, simple and intuitive. From new feature additions to tweaks on Marshmallow staples, Nougat does a lot of things better than its predecessor.
Notifications: redesigned, bundled and Quick Reply-able
The notifications area in Nougat has received a slight makeover, doing away with the Google Now-esque cards from Marshmallow and going super flat and full-width. You get more information and less wasted space in them too, which is exactly what you want from a notification. Likewise, bundled notifications and Quick Reply are so obvious and so useful it’s surprising they haven’t appeared in stock Android until now.
Bundled notifications and Quick Reply are so obvious and so useful it’s surprising they haven’t appeared until now.
There are basically three views to Nougat notifications: the super-compact lock screen view, the slightly-more-information notifications shade view, and the expanded view with ‘quick actions’, which you access by swiping down on a notification or by tapping the top part of the notification itself. Quick actions are what I’m calling Nougat’s sexy new Quick Reply feature and other similar functions.
Quick Reply is simply the ability to reply to a message directly from its notification without having to open the app fully. It’s a fantastic feature and one that will save you a lot of time and endless app switching.
But quick actions go beyond just replying: you can also share, delete, archive and more directly from a notification. These actions make Nougat’s notifications area a much more active and responsive place. But again, not all apps support this functionality yet either.
You can still swipe to dismiss notifications and tell Android how much notification information to display on the lock screen in the Notifications area of the Settings (Sounds also has its own dedicated section in Nougat). But you can also long-press a notification to access its priority settings or swipe it a little to the side and tap the gear icon to access your options.
You can choose to show notifications silently, block all notifications or don’t silence or block.
The choices are simple: show notifications silently; block all notifications; don’t silence or block. You can also enter the full app settings page where you have even more control, including whitelisting the app to notify you even when Do Not Disturb mode is on (but more on that later).
Multiple notifications from the same app will now get bundled together too, saving more space and allowing you to dismiss them en masse or expand them for individual attention.
System UI Tuner is back
For those of you that preferred the ‘sliding scale’ for setting the importance of app notifications from the developer previews, you can easily enable it in System UI Tuner via Power notification controls.
To add System UI Tuner to your Settings menu, just tap and hold the gear icon in the Quick Settings until it spins and your device vibrates. You’ll now find it at the bottom of the Settings menu. System UI Tuner also contains the toggle for the split-screen swipe-up gesture and toggles for which icons are visible in the status bar. You also find some Do Not Disturb options there.
Customizable Quick Settings
Quick Settings in Nougat have also been updated. For starters, you’ll now always have a handy list of five toggles at the top of your notifications shade. You can edit the order of this list to make sure only the most important shortcuts for you are present. The small arrow on the right hand side will take you to the full Quick Settings page, which you can also access with the familiar two-finger swipe-down gesture from the top of the screen.
Nougat introduces a handy list of five toggles that are always present at the top of your notifications shade.
You can now have multiple pages of tiles too. Some of them instantly toggle a setting on or off, like the flashlight, Do Not Disturb mode and Location. Other tiles, like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, can be tapped to access a mini menu right in the Quick Settings.
The ability to turn Bluetooth and Wi-Fi off must now be done from the mini-menu, even after the uproar about removing the tap-to-toggle functionality in the developer previews. Fortunately though, you can toggle Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on or off via the ever-present Quick Settings toggles at the top of the notifications shade. Long-pressing a tile will take you to its full Settings menu screen.
In the full Quick Settings list you can also tap the Edit button at the bottom right to rearrange the tiles or replace them with others. The optional extras list is pretty minimal: just Cast, Data Saver, Invert colors and Hotspot. But developers are now able to create custom Quick Settings tiles for their apps, which will definitely make things a lot more interesting in the coming months.
Doze Mode on the Go
Some of you might remember how happy I was when the battery shortcut appeared in the developer previews, which meant a long-press on the battery icon would instantly take you to the full battery section in Settings. That’s here and I’m happy. But that’s not the most exciting battery feature in Nougat by a long shot.
Doze Mode now works not only when the device is stationary for a while but also when it is in motion.
Doze Mode has now been beefed up to work not only when the device is stationary for a while but also when it is in motion. Your screen needs to be off, obviously, but you’ll now get to enjoy varying degrees of Doze whenever your phone isn’t being used. It’s a little too early to say just how much better Doze is in Nougat, but the expanded functionality alone is appreciated.
The new two-layer system essentially means that a phone left in your pocket or bag while you’re on the move will shut down network access and only periodically sync data and run tasks. When a device is completely stationary for a while, it will slip into an even deeper hibernation, with no syncing, deferred jobs, no wakelocks and no GPS or Wi-Fi scanning. In this mode, the maintenance windows are even further spread out.
Multi-language support, emoji and app links
Nougat now lets you set multiple locales as well as a primary and secondary language – and switch easily between them – which is obviously a huge deal for bi-lingual Android users and frequent travelers. You also have full control over how much information is displayed on-screen with the addition of a simple DPI changer in the Display settings.
Slide to the left to fit more stuff on screen and to the right to make everything bigger. This is another simple but excellent feature to have in stock Android, previously requiring an edit to the device’sfile. It’ll come in extra-handy on big-screen phones and tablets.
There’s 72 new emoji in Nougat including various skin tones courtesy of Unicode 9 and the wallpaper picker allows you to set an image as a home screen wallpaper, lock screen wallpaper or both. But perhaps best of all, you can now pin your favorite apps to the top of the share picker. Just long-press them from the share picker menu.
There’s 72 new emoji in Nougat including various skin tones and over 1500 emoji total.
You can still pin apps to your screen (great for when temporarily sharing your phone with someone), define which apps open particular types of links (now known asOpening links in the Apps section of the Settings menu), and manage individual app permissions as you could with Marshmallow.
Android Nougat isn’t just about making things better or more complex though. A lot of work has been put into speeding Android up, a far greater project you can see Google-wide, from Chrome optimization and Accelerated Mobile Pages to Google Fiber and the Wing drone delivery project.