It’s not Nutella, it’s not Nectarine, and it’s not any of the several other names for Android 7.0 suggested and guessed by people. Google has announced via Snapchat that the latest iteration of its mobile platform will be named ‘Nougat’ – a chewy candy used in popular items like the Snickers bar. The fifth and final Developer Preview of the upcoming Android version is also out, with the stable release expected in the second half of August. In what follows, we will deliberate a bit on the choice of name, some key features, and many other things related to Android 7.0 Nougat:
- What’s in a name? – Well Android 7.0 is Android 7.0 – but when a mobile OS has a whopping 85% market share across the globe, every little detail matters. The reactions of the general public to ‘Nougat’ – the name finally chosen – has been mixed till now, with many feeling that it is a relatively lesser-known tasty treat (particularly outside Europe). The Android Nougat statue has also received a fair bit of flak, with lack of creativity being the biggest criticism against it (it’s a big Android drone standing on a large ‘N’, that’s all!). There is a general feeling among fans and Android app developers alike that Google wished to stay away from choosing a brand name (a la KitKat) and related license issues. Nougat was the next best possible solution. Oh, and it is pronounced as ‘NEW-GAT’.
Note: There is a feeling that the name ‘Nutella’ was not chosen as it sounded rather uncomfortably similar to Nadella (Satya Nadella is the CEO of Microsoft, a direct competitor of Google).
- What’s new in Nougat? – In the Developer Preview 5 of Android Nougat, several interesting new features have been added. These include the final set of API level 24, an efficient emulator for mobile app testing, and Nexus system images. The new Android version also brings with it as many as 72 new emojis and quicker, more streamlined notifications. More on some of the other new features of Nougat later.
- What’s the early adoption rate going to be like? – On the lower side, just like the case with all the earlier versions of the platform. Unlike iOS iterations, Android versions are never ever off to a fast start. Last year’s Android Marshmallow has crawled up to a measly 13.3% adoption rate this month, with Lollipop and KitKat still being the two most popular versions of the platform (with 35% and 31% adoption rates respectively). To put things into context, the adoption rate of iOS 9 is inching towards the 85% mark. The rollout to the various Android vendors is expected to be uncertain as usual, and it won’t be surprising if Nougat takes a year (or two) to register a significant overall adoption rate.
- Will Nougat finally have native virtual reality support? – Yes, and according to professionals from the domain of mobile software and app development, it is going to be one of the biggest highlights of the version. The new VR platform in Android 7.0 is named ‘Daydream’, with built-in support for stereo notifications and head-tracking features. Third-party app makers will get the opportunity of adding true mobile-quality VR experiences in their applications (e.g., the option of single render buffering). In the third developer preview of Android Nougat, the latency graphics of the platform was tested (device: Nexus 6P) – and the motion-to-photon latency was found to be less than 20ms. To put it in another way, Android Nougat is well-equipped to provide users a uniformly immersive app-experience. It will certainly be an upgrade over Google Cardboard.
- What’s the news on the Direct Reply feature? – Direct Reply will be a feature that will debut on Android Nougat. With the help of this, people will be able to reply to notification popups – as and when they appear. The ‘Recent Applications’ feature has also been overhauled, and users can simply double-tap the ‘Overview’ button to move to the most recent app. The need to browse through several active app windows has been done away with.
Note: The build number for the Android Nougat update is NPD90G.
- Project Tango in Android 7.0? – Tango technology (‘Project Tango’ was the earlier in-house name) will be yet another interesting implementation in the upcoming version of Android. The new technology will allow handsets – those with compatible hardware, that is – to identify locations, without having to fall back on the GPS support. The Tango technology works by incorporating computer vision in tablets and smartphones. It did not make the cut in Android 6.0 Marshmallow, but will be definitely present this time.
- Better battery performance in the new version? – Android users and mobile app developers expect Nougat to show improvements in battery performance. The much-appreciated Doze Mode – which arrived with Android 6.0 – has been tweaked around. Whenever the screen of a device goes off, the active apps are automatically moved to a special low-power mode (exceptions are made for important notifications). Earlier on, Doze used to kick in only after a handset had not been touched for a certain time-span.
- Optimized, stacked notifications panel? – The notifications panel in Android 7.0 Nougat will be more clutter-free than ever before. System updates will happen seamlessly in the background (as they happen in Chromebooks), and notifications from apps can be classified under as many as 6 different settings (Min, Low, Normal, High, Urgent Importance, apart from the ‘Blocked’ option). To access this, users have to go to ‘Settings’, toggle the ‘System UI Tuner’ to on, and then navigate to Other → Show Full Importance Settings → Apps. There is a slider that lets people alter the importance levels of notifications from different applications.
Note: In Android Nougat, a single-tap on the battery icon displays the remaining battery juice. A double-tap, on the other hand, shows the apps that are causing the highest battery drainage. Third-party applications will include a ‘Quick Settings’ tab.
- Will Multi-Window mode actually be present? – Reports about the arrival of Multi-Window feature in Android N have been buzzing ever since it was announced at Google I/O 2016. Users will be able to simultaneously operate two different Android apps – something that should add considerably to the convenience factor. What’s more, the relative screen sizes of the active apps will be customizable too (if supported by the device). Apps can be placed either side-by-side or on top of one another. This feature will be more than useful on tablets.
Note: Multi-window mode is coming to stock Android well after Samsung had introduced it with TouchWiz (earliest version: 3.0 Lite; latest version: 6.0).
10. A boost to mobile graphics too? – OpenGL will be making way for the high-end Vulkan API in Android 7.0 Nougat. The new 3D rendering tool will allow Android game developers to deliver really high-end graphics, and bolster the engagement levels of their apps in the process. At the Mobile World Congress this year, Epic Games displayed the power of Vulkan with Unreal Engine. While OpenGL is not being stopped or anything, experts feel that Vulkan (or DirectX 12) support will be more in demand among game developers.
11. Looking beyond Google Hangouts? – Again, those who make software for Android do not expect Hangouts to be discontinued anytime soon. However, the arrival of Allo and Duo on the Android Nougat platform (Google’s riposte to iMessages and FaceTime, respectively) does indicate that Google has plans to gradually phase out Hangouts. Allo will have both voice and SMS support, and will complement the already-efficient Google Now assistant. Duo, on the other hand, is being billed as a ‘video-calling app for everyone.’
12. What’s uncertain and what misses out? – While the 3D Touch feature (like the one present on iOS) was mentioned in the early Preview documents, it will not be present in the final release of Android Nougat. Google has been working on Project Svelte (for smoother performance of newer versions of the platform on older, underpowered devices) since the days of KitKat – but that is unlikely to be implemented in the upcoming version either. Since ‘Picture-in-Picture’ is being presented primarily as a feature for Android TV, it remains to be seen whether it arrives on smartphones and tablets too.
Note: Night Mode is likely to be present in Android Nougat. It will bring down the screen brightness with the help of a red filter, easing the strain on the eyes (when the background is dark).
Android 7.0 Nougat will bring in several important improvements in terms of productivity and security. The seamless updates will work with a robust file-based encryption, to make devices more secure than ever before. The ‘Clear All’ feature (a productivity enhancement), will let users close multiple app tabs at one go.
The new Nexus phones by HTC – Sailfish and Marlin – will be the devices Nougat will debut on. LG and Samsung are likely to get it next up, while a clear picture of when the update will be available for other vendors is not yet available. One thing is for certain though – Android Nougat will launch soon enough, but its rollout is likely to continue well into 2017.
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