Google has formally announced Android 7.1 Nougat, the next version of its flagship mobile platform. As you can surmise from the version number, Android 7.1 is a minor update to the original Nougat, but it promises some useful functional improvements.
“Android 7.1 Nougat is the latest version of the platform,” Google vice president Dave Burke writes in a new post to the Android Developers Blog. “You probably saw a sneak peek of it at last week’s event. It’s an incremental update based on Android 7.0 but includes new features for consumers and developers.”
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I’m a bit confused by the timing here. Android 7.1 Nougat was widely expected to ship with the new Pixel and Pixel XL handsets that Google just announced. But those devices are shipping in late October, and Mr. Burke says that the open Developer Preview will arrive “later this month,” which is the same timing as “late October.” This leads me to believe that the Pixel devices will either ship with Android 7.0 or some early version of 7.1, and that they will simply be updated as 7.1 is completed.
Regardless, Google says that the following new features will ship with Android 7.1:
App shortcuts. This long-awaited feature will let Android apps provide a feature much like Windows phone’s deep links. That is, apps can “surface key actions directly in the launcher and take your users deep into your app instantly.” Each app can have up to five shortcuts, each with its own home screen icon.
Circular app icons. The Pixel handsets will uniquely support round app icons, and now developers will be able to add support for this feature to their apps.
Enhanced live wallpaper. Apps that provide live wallpaper will be able to display more meta-data about those images in file pickers, including label, description, author, and a new context URL and title to link to more information.
Image keyboard support. — Users will be able to express themselves with custom stickers, animated GIFs, and more in third party apps.
Storage manager intent. Android apps use something called an intent to display other screens, whether they are part of the app or functionality (like email or loading a page page) provided by another app. With Android 7.1, a new Storage manager intent will let apps navigate directly to a new Settings screen where they can mange storage settings, like clearing unused files or freeing up storage space on the device.
In addition to delivering Android 7.1 Nougat on new devices like Pixel and Pixel XL, and to unlocked devices like the Nexus 6P and 5X, Google says it is “working with partners” to bring this release to more devices in the ecosystem over the months ahead. But I wouldn’t get your hopes up.