Every year Apple and Google each push out new versions of the world's leading mobile operating systems. Until 2016, for the past few years the tradition was that Apple outed the new iOS release first, in September, while Google followed with the latest Android treat in October or November. However, this year things have been different, for the search giant decided to make Android 7.0 Nougat available in August, while Apple hasn't changed its schedule.
Like Marshmallow in 2015, Nougat got an extensive beta testing phase, during which Google released five Developer Previews, one each month from March to July. These should have been useful to developers, allowing them to test their apps against the new Nougat APIs and make sure the new functionalities in the OS are added in. Yet despite having months to prepare, some apps still don't fully support everything that's new in Android 7.0, while others have only been updated for that purpose mere days ago.
As usual, the new Android release went out to supported Nexus devices first (as well as the Pixel C tablet and the General Mobile 4G Android One phone). If your handset or tablet doesn't get its updates straight from Google, then you're still in for quite a wait before you'll see Nougat on your device - if ever. As always, software updates are a pain point in the Android ecosystem if you don't buy Nexus, and there's still no adequate solution to this mess, unfortunately.
Key upgrades over Marshmallow
- The redesigned and heavily improved notification system now lets you act on every individual notification even when you get a few from the same app;
- Direct replies inside the notification area are now an OS feature, so there’s no more need to use hacky third-party apps to get this function;
- Split-screen multitasking is finally here (on both phones and tablets), baked right into Android, and should at some point work with most apps;
- Double tapping the Overview button (the square one) quickly takes you to the previous app used, like Alt-Tab in Windows;
- Doze on the go promises to further improve idle battery life;
- Apps install and update faster for every device running Android 7.0, and the last time you see the infamous “Android is upgrading…” screen will be when you make the switch to Nougat - it will be gone for every subsequent update;
- Devices shipping with the new Android release preinstalled get seamless OS updates that download and install in the background, with only a quick reboot needed afterwards;
- The Vulkan API will show you much nicer game graphics if your hardware supports it;
- Upcoming Daydream-certified devices will use Android’s new VR mode to make experiencing virtual reality smoother than ever.
What we’re still missing
- Google Assistant - this was announced at I/O and is going to represent the rebranded and enhanced Google Now experience. It still won’t have a proper name like Siri or Cortana, but at least ‘Assistant’ conveys a lot more information about what it is than ‘Google Now’ ever did;
- The leaked redesigned (and animated) navigation buttons;
- A new launcher - this was also leaked this summer and it features a pretty big revamp compared to the now-stale Google Now Launcher that’s still the default in Nougat;
- Some of the new features in Android 7.0 will only work on devices shipping with this OS version, so, for now, we’re also missing those - phones and tablets launching with Nougat from day one, fully taking advantage of everything it has to offer;
- Some polish and much more third-party developer support, especially for big new features such as split-screen multitasking and direct replies from notifications. The lack of these is quite baffling after five full months of developer previews having been available.
Whether you're waiting for Nougat to make it to your device, or if you have one of the few supported products and can already taste it, join us onto the next pages as we take a look at everything that's new in the latest iteration of the most successful operating system in history.