SureshJoshi.com ▼

Android 7: Why Couldn't They Call It Nutella?


2017-03-30

Even though Android 7 (Nougat) was officially released over 6 months ago, it’s only now reaching about 3% of the Android market share. So, I figured it would be a good time to cover some highlighted features.

For iOS users, 6 months after a new version, and not being at 50-75% platform market share must be a strange concept. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who you are), Android doesn’t do forced updates - the updates are rather benign. Also, Android updates only support certain phones (Google phones) until the manufacturer - in conjunction with the network provider - decide to roll them out. This can take months or even a year (or… never)!

Android Nougat, also known as Android N and Android 7, comes with a number of changes over the previous major release, Marshmallow (Android 6).

The official release of the Nougat was on August 22nd and is the default OS for Google phones (e.g. the Pixel), as well as several new, high-end phones. Android Authority discusses the Android 7 rollout in more detail, but amusingly Nougat was launched before the majority of smartphones even received the Marshmallow update.

Android 7 comes packed with lots of new features and promises better performance than Marshmallow - so let’s cover a few of those features.

Split-screen Mode

A multi-tasking feature was added to the previous versions of Android, but multi-tasking with two apps opened simultaneously in a split-screen mode is what Nougat brings to the table. Split-screen has been around in some custom ROMs, but stock Android now officially supports it.

Split-screen operates in both portrait and landscape mode, with the option to resize both the windows available only in portrait mode.

You can activate multi-window mode by long-pressing the app overview button or the recent apps button while in an app proper. You can also activate this mode by long-pressing an app preview card in the app picker and then dragging it to the top of the screen. A gesture action can also be enabled to launch split-screen mode when you swipe up on the overview button.

That first app will then appear in the top window or on the left when you’re in landscape mode and the second app will be chosen by you from the app picker which displays automatically. You can tap Home on the app picker to launch an app from your home screen or open the app drawer.

When developing or upgrading apps, be careful as split-screen puts your app through a weird lifecycle that you might not already be testing (a lot of apps still crash when put into this mode).

Until you’ve tested this out, your best bet is to disable multi-window mode by putting this into your AndroidManifest.xml:

android:resizeableActivity="false"

File-based encryption

Not just for iOS anymore!

Marshmallow has mandatory full disk encryption, but Nougat has kicked it up a notch with file-based encryption.

Full disk encryption means encrypting your phone as one singular partition (think Bitlocker for Windows, or FileVault for Mac). You should absolutely, always do this on any platform that you use. It does mean, however, that nothing is accessible on the platform until you enter your key to unlock it (which can include non-private system files required by the OS to operate).

Nougat’s file-based encryption means that each file is individually encrypted with it’s own set of keys. What this now allows from the platform-perspective is that Android can selectively decrypt files required to boot the system without requiring a user’s password, while maintaining security over the rest of the user’s data. This is a part of how direct boot functions.

The new Nexus devices support file encryption automatically, but the other devices will have to enable Developer options and then select Convert to file encryption, to enable the file-based encryption (heads up, this will wipe the data in your phone).

Doze Mode

A pretty handy and largely unknown feature of Android Marshmallow was the Doze Mode, which is Google’s crafty way of saving battery life whenever your smartphone/tablet is stationary. It takes your device into a deep standby mode when a certain set of checks and balances are met (basically, screen off, not charging, and not moving the phone).

Nougat is stepping up here as well by introducing energy-saving techniques by expanding Doze Mode so that whenever the screen is turned off, the Doze Mode limits background tasks. Essentially, Nougat took Marshmallow’s doze mode - and made it more aggressive.

The hope here is that your phone’s battery life can be extended as a result of being in sleep mode more often.

It’s not all fun and games though… If your app needs to periodically do something in the background, or wake-up at certain times - you need to take doze mode into account.

Faster

Google claims Android Nougat will take a huge step forward in graphics with the introduction of Vulkan (a replacement for OpenGL ES), giving game developers lower-level APIs to control the GPU. This will in turn result in even better graphics and overall smoother, faster performance.

If you don’t use your phone for gaming, this is (largely) irrelevant to you.

New Settings Menu

Google is introducing a new quick settings menu to the notifications curtain that you slide down from the top. It’s quite similar to the one Samsung, LG and many other Android manufacturers seem to use.

Now the quick settings toggles are here as soon as you slide downward once (unlike the previous versions, where you had to slide down twice) to see notifications. The best part being, the buttons are small and unobstructed leaving sufficient room for notifications to appear.

DTEK50

So, I guess the only remaining question about Android 7 is… When will it be available on my DTEK50?

Not soon enough…

Feature photo credit: portalgda / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA