Android Nougat launched
Google’s latest mobile operating system is here. Marie Brewis looks at what you can expect
Compatible Google devices
On the day of its release, the Android blog talked more about the rollout: “Today, and over the next several weeks, the Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus 9, Nexus Player, Pixel C and General Mobile 4G (Android One) will get an over the air software update to Android 7.0 Nougat. Any devices enrolled in the Android Beta Program will also receive this final version.”
It went on to say that the LG V20 (see page 16) will be the first Android phone to ship with Nougat out of the box, which is another surprise, since many were expecting the new operating system to be the first preinstalled on the new Nexus 5 and 6 phones for 2016.
If you have a recent flagship phone or tablet from a well-known maker such as Sony, Samsung, HTC or Motorola, it’s likely you’ll see the update rolled out within the first few months of 2017. However, before you can get the update both the hardware manufacturer and mobile operator must be ready to roll it out, which can slow down things.
Sony has already confirmed that its most recent Xperia devices will get Nougat, including the Z3+, Z4 Tablet, Z5 series and X series. However, the Z2 and Z3 series will not receive Android Nougat.
HTC has also confirmed which devices will get Nougat, quoting the HTC One A9, HTC One M9 and HTC 10. It has a 90-day guarantee, which means those devices should get Android N in Q4.
It’s telling that even a year and a half after its release, Lollipop has only recently become the most popular Android operating systems. Often only the most recent flagships get an update to new Android operating systems, and even then nothing is guaranteed. With thousands of people still using Android phones that are entry-level models, from less well-known manufacturers or simply old, there are still people out there running Froyo and Gingerbread .
On 1 August 2016, Android Developers published the following breakdown of the mobile operating system’s platform adoption:
Froyo: Android 2.2 to 2.2.3, 0.1 percent Gingerbread: Android 2.3 to 2.3.7, 1.7 percent Ice Cream Sandwich: Android 4 to 4.0.4, 1.6 percent Jelly Bean: Android 4.1 to 4.3.1, 16.7 percent KitKat: Android 4.4 to 4.4.4, 29.2 percent Lollipop: Android 5.0 to 5.1.1, 35.5 percent Marshmallow: Android 6.0 to 6.0.1, 15.2 percent
Performance For performance Google is focusing on graphics and runtime in Android Nougat. It has introduced the new Vulkan 3D graphics API, which has a much lower CPU overhead than OpenGL and allows developers to squeeze much more graphical detail into frames. It’s also introducing the JTI Compiler, which speeds up app installs by 75 percent and reduces the compiled code size by 50 percent.
There are also new platform features aimed at optimising battery and memory consumption, such as Doze and the new background optimisations.
Security For security Android Nougat introduces file-based encryption, media framework hardening and seamless updates. The latter means new updates to the operating system will be downloaded silently in the background, ready to use on the next restart. Unfortunately, seamless updates are likely to be available only on phones sold running Android Nougat out of the box – it works by each phone having two system images, and one is updated in the background while you use the other. Today’s
phones, of course, have only one system image. ZDNet has also reported how Android Nougat will stop password-reset ransomware, stating that: “The new operating system will no longer allow users or software to invoke a command that clears already-set passwords.” However, in order to protect your device it notes that you will need to set a password in the first place.
Productivity The most exciting area for consumers is productivity. We’ve already heard about Android Nougat’s new Direct Reply feature, which allows you to directly reply to messages, emails and more
from the notification bar, and now we’ll be able to change a notification’s visibility by long-tapping it and selecting an option.
When we do reply to a message there are loads of new emoji at our fingertips. The professional women emoji that leaked before the OS’s launch are among 72 new Unicode nine emoji glyphs, which are more realistic and support different skin tones. Google has also redesigned the navigation buttons, which are animated and change their colour when long-pressed.
Even better are the new multi-tasking improvements. Google has finally added a Clear all button to the top of the recent apps menu, and it has reduced the number of apps shown here by automatically removing those you haven’t used in a while. You will also be able to switch back and forth between your current and last-used app with a double-tap of the recents button.
Multi-window is a feature we’ve seen previously on Samsung phones, and it’s finally going to be built into the Android OS. There are two variations – Split Screen and Picture in Picture – with the first designed for phones and tablets and the latter for Android TVs. You can long-tap the recents button to select a second app to display onscreen.
The final new feature is Daydream, which is Google’s new VR platform. Although it is producing a dedicated Daydream headset, it is also building support for a VR Mode into N that supports low latency (under 20ms) and a VR system UI. It will mean hundreds of Daydream-ready phones will be available, with the first coming later this year from the likes of Samsung, HTC and LG.
Other new features include:
Bundled notifications: multiple notifications from the same app can be grouped together. Efficiency: Doze now also saves battery whenever the screen is turned off. Improved Java & language support: Java 8 language features are coming to Android.
The Google Keyboard app in Google Play has now been updated to the Android Nougat version. There are new emoji, new coloured themes, new background images and a new keyboard toggler.
Will Nougat use Swift?
Nope. There are rumours that a future version of Android will go some way to replace Java with open-source Swift as its first-class language, but it won’t be Nougat, since it will require a lot of re-writing of Android’s core code. According to The Next Web, the OS would first need a runtime for Swift, to make its entire standard library Swift-ready, to support the language in APIs and SDKs, and to re-write some low-level C++ APIs and high-level Java APIs, which Swift can not currently bridge to.