Android Nougat: 6 features that will improve your Android experience

/ Updated: August 25, 2016 7:45 AM PDT
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Android Nougat is here.

Version 7.0 of Google's operating system for Android phones has been a long time coming. We've spent all summer with the developer build, and now the final version has already started rolling out through over-the-air updates to the first wave of devices.

If you're registered for the developer's build on your Nexus device, you'll likely try the mobile OS first, followed by folks who have any of these Nexus models: the Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus 9, Nexus Player and Pixel C. There's no word on when everyone else will upgrade from 6.0.1 Marshmallow to 7.0 Nougat; that's a case by case schedule determined by your phonemaker and possibly your carrier.


(Manufacturers have to test the new Android build to make sure it works with any custom software they layer on top of the base operating system. Carriers run additional tests on phones they sell through their networks to make sure Nougat works smoothly with its services.)

If you're still waiting for Nougat -- or even if you're not -- check out the coolest new features you'll see once the update rolls your way (which could take as long as a week).

Android Nougat's new split screen mode on a Google Nexus 6P.

Stephen T. Shankland/CNET

Google Assistant

Ok, so "Nougat's" best visible feature (we think) isn't technically part of Nougat at all. But it is part of Google's general efforts to improve its mobile software and get a leg up on Apple's changes to its Siri assistant.

The Google Assistant software coming this fall will let you engage in more natural back-and-forth dialogue with the Android device than you can with Google Now, the current digital and search assistant. It'll get better at doing things like researching a restaurant and then seamlessly making a reservation through OpenTable -- with your voice alone.

Instant Apps

Timed with the release of Nougat but also available on phones running Android versions as old as Jelly Bean, Instant Apps lets you access or use certain apps without having to download and install them. This is especially useful for digital payment transactions, where you can pay with Android Pay instead of whatever system the app would have made you use.

Multiwindow

Looking at two apps at once will become standard on Android phones and tablets. With multiwindow, you can see apps in a split screen. This feature has been available on Samsung and LG phones for a few years, and now it'll come to many more Android devices. It's also very similar to what the Apple iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 4 and iPad Pro can do, thanks to Apple's latest OS, iOS 9.

Google's adding a picture-in-picture option for apps that play video, too, similar to what we've seen on the iPad Air. That means you should be able to watch a YouTube video while also browsing Twitter, or perhaps check email while watching a movie through Google Play.

Android 7.0 Nougat will roll out to Nexus devices first.

Stephen T. Shankland/CNET

Reply in a notification

Brought over from Android Wear watches, Google now lets you reply to text messages from the notification shade. When you get a new message, a little alert will pop up at the top of the screen and you can type your reply right there and go back to what you were doing. iOS has had a similar feature for awhile, so it's great to see it come to Android -- and it fits right in to our workflow.

Bundles of notifications

If your notification menu is a mess of alerts, this feature helps big time. Developers can group notifications for a single app. You'll see these grouped together in the menu; just tap (or pull down) to expand it and see each individual alert.

Again, iOS has something similar in its notification menu (you have to manually toggle it on), so it's a welcome addition to Android too.

Doze on the Go

Android 6.0 Marshmallow was the first to get Doze, a battery-saving setting that halts background computing and kicks in when your phone is not in use and sitting still. Doze on the Go does the same thing, except your phone can be in motion (like if it's inside your pocket sitting idle). Google's also working on Project Svelte, which aims to reduce the amount of memory Android needs. The goal is to bring the latest versions of Android to more devices, especially those with lower-end specs.

This story originally published May 20, 2016 and was updated August 22, August 23 and August 25, 2016.

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