Google's unveiled its latest edition of the Android OS for tablets and smartphones, Android N or "Nougat". Available free to users of compatible devices, Android N provides a bevy of new features, from conveniences like better multitasking to life-savers such as scaling icons and text size or putting the brakes on data usage. Nothing it adds is chaff on the surface – quite the opposite – and so everything it adds deserves an in-depth look.
Android Nougat provides a solid number of new features. It's not feature-packed, expanding on the Android base in many ways no one could have expected. But neither is it a slim and prim update, focused on less tangible matters like responsiveness or security. (Although as we'll discuss later, Nougat does improve Android's security)
The first pack of features Nougat brings to the table is multiples. Multiple new emoji: as other emoji libraries expand, Google's does as well. If you've ever enjoyed finding out what is or isn't an emoji, Nougat will provide the same experience.
Multiple locale settings, as well: you can type and work in two languages at a time. And finally, multiple tasks. By double tapping, you can switch between apps, and certain apps can be run side-by-side. This allows you to watch a movie while working or texting, for example, or to change songs while keeping an eye on how many kilometres you've jogged. Overall, this feature is one of the biggest functionality improvements Android has seen in recent years.
The same Android flavour
But on the whole, Android N is the same operating system as its predecessors. This is ultimately a good thing: no one wants to re-learn how to use their phone. While moving from, say, Ice Cream Sandwich to Nougat may cause a brief shock, users of recent Android versions should feel right at home.
This is partly because many of the largest improvements in Nougat are under the hood. While you've been able to turn off background data for specific apps for a while now, there's a new "Data Saver" option that lets you turn background data on or off for all apps with a tap. Meanwhile, specific apps might benefit from the Vulkan 3D API, which makes Nougat a leaner, meaner gaming machine. Some users might appreciate being able to shrink or enlarge icons or text OS-wide. And of course, everyone benefits from Direct Boot's boot-time app security improvements, or better encryption – whether or not they know it.
More than a single nougat of goodness
Overall, users will probably find Android N to be a modest improvement at worst, and a great improvement at best. Because it's being released free for use with any devices which can run it, there's really nothing to lose except time potentially spent waiting. If even a single feature of Android Nougat interests you, then say no more: Nougat doesn't remove anything, or even modify most of what already exists (the way Gallery was replaced by Photos with Android Lollipop, for example).
At the end of the day, one thing is clear: you should whet your palate for Android Nougat.