Something to look forward to Android 7.0 Nougat review


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.

Look and feel:

The first new thing you'll see after you take the plunge and install the Nougat update is the new Google logo. This has been a staple of the company's various online properties for quite a while now, so it's good to finally have it in the Android boot sequence too. The actual Android boot logo is unchanged from Marshmallow, on the other hand.

Once the first boot is complete you'll notice that you have the exact same Google Now Launcher with the exact same features and looks as before. That's because no big update to the built-in launcher has accompanied the Android version bump. So you get the same homescreens as before, with Google Now taking hold of the leftmost pane. The app drawer is a tap away as usual, and still shows your most used apps up top straight beneath the search field. Under those is the familiar vertically-scrolling alphabetically-ordered list of everything you have installed on your device.

Same old looks: Lock screen - Android 70 Nougat review Same old looks: Google Now - Android 70 Nougat review Same old looks: Home screen - Android 70 Nougat review Same old looks: App drawer - Android 70 Nougat review

The lock screen is the same too, with the voice assist shortcut on the left and the camera shortcut on the right. To unlock you need to swipe up as before. But there is a new feature here, though it may not be immediately obvious: different wallpapers can be selected for the home screen and the lock screen. Yes, really, it took Google this long to implement this functionality in its stock UI.


Other accessories come into play too. The phablet's 3,500mAh battery is paired with two new power saving modes and can use an optional wireless quick charger for quick cable-free top-ups. Active users have the Gear IconX wireless headphones and the Gear Fit 2 smart band to look forward to (and you can score the Fit 2 for free!). Also, the S Pen works underwater, so activities are not limited to dry land.
Yes, the Galaxy Note7 is the first Note to get waterproofed - it holds an IP68 certification.

New Settings with glanceable information and a navigation drawer - Android 70 Nougat review New Settings with glanceable information and a navigation drawer - Android 70 Nougat review New Settings with glanceable information and a navigation drawer - Android 70 Nougat review New Settings with glanceable information and a navigation drawer - Android 70 Nougat review

For whatever reason, Google has also added a navigation drawer to Settings, which slides in from the left. Oddly (or thankfully, depending on your perspective), there's no accompanying hamburger button as you might have expected. The navigation drawer helps you quickly jump from inside one setting to another without going back to the initial list.


Undoubtedly one of the headline features of Android since its inception, the notification area has been revamped in Nougat. Not so much that you won't recognize it, but enough that it will obviously be different from the get-go. There are many new features inside notifications, which all work toward basically requiring you to jump inside apps as rarely as possible. This is meant to encourage a more fluent workflow - instead of tapping on a new notification to go into the corresponding app and then taking some action there, you can do a lot of things straight within the notification itself. That's the theory, and it works well enough in apps that support the new features. Hopefully, third party developers will be quick to update every app that can take advantage of the new functionality.

Bundled notifications are just that what they seem. Let's take Gmail as an example. Instead of showing you one separate notification for every email you receive, you'll first see only one notification containing all of them. That's hardly new, but what follows is. See, in the aforementioned case of getting many emails, you can 'unbundle' each individual notification from the stack and then act on it - delete the email or reply to it, for example. And when you expand a notification you can now see a lot more text than before, which will give you a much better idea about the content of each of those emails.

Bundled notifications - Android 70 Nougat review Semi-unbundled - Android 70 Nougat review Unbundled notification - Android 70 Nougat review More than one can be unbundled at the same time - Android 70 Nougat review

All of the above ties in nicely with what Google calls Notification Direct Reply. Just hit Reply on any expanded notification, and you can instantly compose a reply right there, in the notification shade - no need to load the full app. For chat apps the intended behavior here is to see every message you get in its entirety. What's more, once you reply your messages go into the notification's thread, so conceivably you might find yourself looking at any such app's UI a lot less than before. This feature has been spotted before in certain apps, but now it's part of the operating system so it's a lot easier for developers to add. In case you're wondering, Gmail doesn't yet have this working, and neither do most other apps.

Direct Reply lets you continue the conversation inside the notification - Android 70 Nougat review Direct Reply lets you continue the conversation inside the notification - Android 70 Nougat review Direct Reply lets you continue the conversation inside the notification - Android 70 Nougat review Direct Reply lets you continue the conversation inside the notification - Android 70 Nougat review Direct Reply lets you continue the conversation inside the notification - Android 70 Nougat review

You can choose to show notifications silently or block all notifications on a per app basis. You'll also find that notifications have a new look now and they extend, horizontally, all the way to the edges of the screen (on phones) or of the notification area (on tablets). What's more, they're vertically stacked too, and don't appear as separate cards. All of this might make you miss the old design, at least at first.

Quick Settings

Traditionally, to get to the Quick Settings pane you needed to pull down the notification shade twice - the first pull would give you the view of your notifications, while the second one took you to see the Quick Settings tiles. This is still the case in Android 7.0, but with one very important modification. There's now a row of tiles visible above the list of notifications. This row is thus there on the first pull down of the notification shade, and the icons in it are all actionable. Such solutions have been employed in third-party Android UI skins for years, and now this is finally part of the stock experience.

Quick Settings editing made its debut in Marshmallow, but the option to rearrange the tiles was hidden in the System UI Tuner menu which needed a special trick for activation. In Nougat, Quick Settings can be edited easily, with no additional trickery required. When you do rearrange your tiles, keep in mind that the first five are those that show up in smaller form above the notification list.

Quick Settings: New small tiles above notifications - Android 70 Nougat review Quick Settings: Edit button for easy re-ordering - Android 70 Nougat review

A rather annoying thing here is that if you swipe down from the top on the lock screen, you might expect to see those five mini-tiles, since this is what happens everywhere else in the OS. But instead, you're presented with the full Quick Settings pane. Anyway, this area has horizontally-swipeable pages now because developers have access to an API through which their apps can create new tiles.


Nougat clearly isn't a huge update. Instead, Google's focus with this release seems to have been all about polishing existing things while adding many little changes here and there, all adding up to a neat overall package. The user experience is obviously better than it ever was, and some under the hood additions promise an intriguing future - be that in gaming with the Vulkan API, or immersing yourself into virtual reality with Daydream. Useful day-to-day stuff hasn't been forgotten either, with Doze on the go improving upon the already quite good Doze mode from last year (if only marginally so) and Data Saver doing just what its name implies. So despite its lack of one (or many) jaw-dropping new features, Android 7.0 is definitely a worthy update.

However, if you're not part of the Nexus crowd (or own a Pixel C or a General Mobile 4G), it's tough to tell how many of the new things in Nougat you'll actually get to see. The low-level stuff that doesn't need dedicated hardware support should make it to every single handset or tablet getting Android 7.0.

On the other hand, when it comes to software features the rule of thumb is that the more a company likes to 'customize' Android on its devices, the less likely it is that most of what you've just read about will make it into its releases. With products from Motorola, OnePlus, and even HTC and Sony you're probably going to be graced with most of this stuff (though how long you'll have to wait and which phones and tablets will even get the update is another story).

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the likes of Samsung, LG, and Huawei change so much of the core Android UI that it's really impossible to tell if they'll ever implement any of Nougat's user-facing features in an unaltered way. This is the reality of the Android world, and it's actually described very well by Google's own slogan for its mobile OS - Be together. Not the same. There's certainly enough choice for everyone.

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