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22 February 2017

Android Nougat: Google's sweetest OS yet?

Android 7 has landed, and could be coming to a device near you. Here are all the new features and benefits you need to know about.

Google has already refined its mobile operating system so obsessively that they are halfway through the alphabet (this is number 14), and true to form, Nougat, or Android 7, carries some very nifty features.

Here are all the things you need to know about Android Nougat.

Will I be able to get it on my device?

While Nougat is technically here, release is staggered to different brands of smartphones and tablets, depending on each manufacturers' speed at pushing their own version out to users. But never fear - most newer Android device will be able to upgrade soon.

So far, we know that the Samsung S7 and S7 Edge, and the S6 and S6 Edge can upgrade, but unfortunately the S5 and earlier models won't be able to (Google gives a cut-off date of two years between a phone's release and being able to upgrade to the latest OS). However, newer mid-range Samsung phones such as the new A series can upgrade.

If you have an LG G5, a Motorola Moto Z, a Sony Xperia X , a Huawei Mate 8 or a Huawei P9, you're also in luck.

But if your phone isn't on this list, just sit tight and wait a month or two until the manufacturer has rolled out their own version of the firmware. 

Once it's available for your device, you will receive a notification to update - Google pushes Nougat to users as an 'over the air' software update. But you can also check for updates manually by going to Settings -> About device -> Software updates.

How do I upgrade?

Is your phone one of the lucky ones that can be updated right now (you've received a notification or seen that it's available when you checked manually)? Here's how to instal Android Nougat:

1. First make sure you back up your device, just in case something goes wrong during installation.
Here's how:
Settings -> Back up and restore 
Check that both Backup My Data and Automatic Restore are 'on' or checked.

2. Plug your phone into the charger so that it doesn't go dead when the installation is halfway through.

3. Make sure you're connected to Wi-Fi, or buy a data bundle. Also, wait until a time when you won't urgently need your phone because it may take a while to update.

4. Follow the on-screen prompts.

5. Wait for it to be finished!

Why is Android Nougat such a treat?

Here are some of our favourite features of the new operating system.

  • Notifications: 
    Google has changed the way users receive notifications, and what they do with them.
    1. You can now tap and hold on a notification to silence future notifications from a particular app, or turn notifications off completely, which is great for those of us who prefer not to be disturbed while working or exercising.
    2. With Android Nougat, you can reply to a chat message or text directly in the notification at the top of the screen, so you don't have to navigate away from the window you're in to open the app itself.

  • Multitasking:
    1. You can now have more than one app open at a time on your smartphone. Yip, this means you can watch a video while sending a WhatsApp, or read an article online while writing a shopping list in a Memo.
    2. You can also quick-switch between apps with a double tap.

  • Battery life 
    Previously, when you had your phone in your bag or pocket while you moved around, the Doze function would be off, meaning the apps on your phone would be drawing power from the battery, even if you weren't using them. Nougat introduces Doze on the Go, which puts your phone into low power usage, switching off non-essential functionality, even while you're on the move, saving you power so you can keep on keeping on.

  • Emojis
    This may seem like a little thing, but we love that Nougat gives us new ways to express ourselves with 72 brand-new emojis. Plus, Google has tackled gender inequality by including new male and female counterparts for 33 existing emojis. They've also expanded the options for different skin tones and ethnicities.

  • Data Saver
    We think it's pretty sweet that Nougat lets you limit how much data your phone uses by switching on Data Saver mode, so that apps running in the background don't use any of your mobile data.

  • Security
    A less exciting but essential update to the OS is that Nougat now offers file-based encryption to protect your documents, images, videos and personal data, even if you lose your phone.
     
  • Smart Storage 
    Old photos and videos are automatically removed from your device and stored in Google Photos in the cloud (it also automatically converts some of your pics into really cute animations and collages that you can choose to save). This frees up storage on your device for new files!

  • Nice to haves (only available with compatible devices)
    1. With Vulkan API on Nougat, you'll get high-performance 3D graphics and amazing special effects, a feature beloved by gamers everywhere.
    2. Daydream VR will transport you to new worlds with the Daydream View headset and controller. Google boasts that this offers simple, high-quality virtual reality experiences. Currently, the only phone in SA that is 'Daydream ready' is the Motorola Moto Z .

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