What's new in Android 7 (Nougat)

by Thomas Rutter

About Android version updates

Not all of the new features listed below will appear on all devices. Manufacturers of Android devices usually apply their own modification and customizations to the Android operating system. As a result, some Android features may not be present on some devices, or may look or behave differently.

Upon upgrading to a new Android version, you may be surprised by how little you notice that is different. Most of the more noticable changes to how Android works come in the form of app updates, which become available on their own schedule, or additions to the Android system that are supplied by your device manufacturer. A large number of the updates to Android itself tend to be to the underlying system, providing new functionality that apps can later use, but which don't affect the look or behaviour of the device.

New features in this version

Split screen display mode

A new split screen display mode allows two apps to appear side-by-side on Android phones. Some Android phones have already had a manufacturer-specific version of this feature prior to Android 7.

Redesigned notification pull-down

The notification pull-down or "shade" has seen some re-design. It will be possible to send a reply "in-line" in some notification items - that is, upon replying the box allowing you to write your reply will appear within the notification item itself instead of a separate window.

Additionally, you will be able to "group" multiple notifications by the same app.

Battery-saving Doze mode expanded

New extensions to the "Doze" mode now allow for battery saving measures while the phone screen is off and the phone is in motion, such as when carried in a pocket or bag. When Doze mode was introduced in a previous version of Android, it only saved battery power when the phone screen was off and the phone was stationery, such as when sitting on a table.

The Doze mode is configurable on a per-app basis, allowing you to restrict the battery usage of certain apps when the phone screen is off and the phone is idle. No configuration is required to take advantage of Doze, as all eligible apps will be configured to Doze by default.

Support for seamless system updates

Android 7 introduces support for system updates with less waiting, as they can be applied to the system while you continue to use your device normally, and then activated immediately the next time it is rebooted. Previously, updates could be downloaded while using the phone, but then the phone had to halt and boot into a special update mode in order to begin applying the updates to the system, which took some time.

This feature is only available to some new devices featuring Android 7 out of the box, and cannot be applied to existing devices which upgrade to Android 7 as it requires changes to the way the internal storage is organised.

Minor new features

  • Unicode 9 support allowing the use of new emoji including skin-tone emoji
  • Support for Vulkan, a new 3D rendering technology to complement the existing OpenGL ES
  • Many features aimed at improving security
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