5 Things You've Got to Try in Android Nougat

By Tom Pritchard on at

Did you hear? There's a new version of Android that's started making its way into the big bad world. It's an exciting time! Unless you're an iPhone user, in which case it's time to start justifying your choices for the many incoming internet arguments.

Anyway, back to the point at hand. As you already know, Android 7.0 is called Nougat and it comes with a bunch of new features and tweaks that google hopes will improve its mobile ecosystem for the better. Once it's actually available on non-Nexus devices, that is.

In case you don't know where to begin, here are five new things you should try as soon as your Nougat-flavoured update arrives.

1. Multi-Window Support

Split-screen has been available on iPads and Samsung devices for a while now, and Nougat brings that feature to all Android devices.

Activating it is simple – just hold the square Overview button and wait for the screen to split up by itself. From there all you have to do is pick a second app from a rotating carousel. You're not limited to  a 50/50 share of screen space either. If you need more room for one window, all you have to do is drag the divider until you get to the required size.

Just be warned, multi-window mode literally splits your screen space. That means the more screen space you have, the more useful it'll be. The smallest of phones will be rendered almost completely useless as there won't be much screen real estate to work with, so bear that in mind.

Multi-Window mode has more to it than just dividing the screen between two different apps though. For starters it can be used to view two different Chrome tabs at the same time by hitting the menu button and 'Move to other window'. It's also possible to drag and drop text and images between the two windows, saving you the hassle of having to copy and paste things. Just highlight what you want, and drag it across the screen.

Multi-Window support isn't the only tweak/feature designed to make multi-taking easier. It's also possible to quick switch between your two most recent apps by double tapping the Overview button. So if you dislike sharing screen space, or your device feels too small to make it worthwhile, it's still easy to get around.

There's also picture-in-picture support, though this is dependent on third-party developers implementing it in their apps.

2. App Shortcut Launchers

Seasoned Android users will know that some apps lets you pin certain app-icon-like widgets to your homepage that are basically shortcuts to a specific feature or function. For example, Google Translate has a widget that opens up with pre-set language translation, and Soundhound has one that opens up the music identification page. The problem is these shortcuts required the developer to implement them, and were few and far between as a result. With Nougat that's changed.

Nougat users can create their own shortcuts to certain parts of their apps, all to save you having to navigate through all the menus to get there. So, for instance, you could create shortcuts that take you to the Compose Message screen in your favourite communications app, or another that takes you directly to the bookmarks in your browser. Those are just a couple of examples, but with shortcuts now built directly into Android you should be able to make it much easier to get to the places you need to be.

3. Improved Notifications

Notifications have been in need of improvement for quite some time, and with Nougat it's finally happening.

As anyone who's ever made a bit of a storm on social media will know, that notification bar can fill up incredibly quickly. Thankfully Nougat now bundles all your notifications together. That does already happen in a way, but in older versions of Android you just end up with a notification saying you have X emails, X twitter notifications, and so on. With Nougat you can swipe down to see the details of each notification from specific apps, and see what's what.

As we've seen before, notifications have a very handy new feature the kids are calling Quick Reply. This means with compatible apps (like Facebook, Hangouts, and so on), you can respond to messages directly from the notification bar. No more ditching what you're doing to respond to your mum whenever she needs help with her computer.

Finally Nougat gives you more control over the importance level of your notifications, meaning you're not just stuck with regular, priority, and blocked. By long-pressing a notification and hitting 'More Settings', you're shown a little slider that adjusts the importance level for notifications from that app. The slider explains what each level means as well, so you know exactly what should be coming through.

4. Data Saver

Data saving isn't exactly new in Android, but, in the past, cutting down on background data usage required going into each individual app and playing with the settings. Nougat makes it a million times easier and faster.

Find the Data Usage menu in settings, and tap Data Saver. From there you'll be given a long list of all your apps, with the option to toggle background data on and off with a single tap. Nougat cuts off the data supply completely, so any apps you toggle in Data Saver won't be able to access one measly bit of data unless you're using it.

While it's not actually part of the Data Saver feature, Nougat also has the option to cancel downloads from the Notification Bar. In the past you had to cancel each item individually from the source (usually Google Play). This is much easier, quicker, and can save your precious data whenever a download starts at the wrong time.

5. Improved Doze

Doze was a welcome part of Android Marshmallow, but there was always room for it to be improved. Nougat expands upon what we first saw last year, bringing some welcome improvements to the battery-saving feature.

Marshmallow's Doze only had one setting. If the phone was still for long enough, Doze would activate and send your phone to sleep. The problem is that phone's don't tend to stay very still, even if they're not being used – jostling in your pocket, for instance. So Nougat's Doze has an extra setting. It still has the same 'deep' sleeping function that activates after the phone is stationary for a set period of time, but there's also a lighter setting that's more like a nap. That activates whenever the screen is switched off, regardless of how much movement is going on. It also functions in much the same way, switching off constant background activity and checking up on things during set windows.

Nougat also comes with better memory management built in, particularly when it comes to apps running in the background. That means unnecessary stuff won't be happening, and since the phone will be doing less work it'll draw less power as a result.

Coming Soon: Built-In VR Mode (aka Daydream)

Daydream is Google's latest improvement to the world of mobile-powered virtual reality. It's a new set of hardware standards coupled with a Nougat-based interface designed to make creating and sharing VR content easier and more pain-free than ever before. There's also the über-low 20ms latency, which should make the whole experience much more enjoyable.

There are some downsides. First of all compatibility will be limited to the newest of handsets, and apparently "existing phones" won't support it. The only phone we know lined up for it right now is the ZTE Axon 7, presumably because the other phones won't be announced until they're ready to go on sale. Unfortunately we don't know what sort of specs a Daydream-compatible phone will need, but there's no doubt that a powerful CPU will be essential. Good screens would be beneficial as well.

Google has confirmed that it will be working with manufacturers to produce Daydream-ready devices, and those confirmed include Samsung, HTC, Alcatel, Xiaomi, ASUS, LG, and ZTE.

The other problem of course is it's not available just yet, even if you have the one compatible phone that we know about. The Daydream website says it will be launching in 'Fall 2016'. So that means we could see it anytime from next week to early December.