Android 7.1 Nougat Tip: Do More With App Shortcuts

Posted on October 23, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 5 Comments

Android 7.1 Nougat Tip: Do More With App Shortcuts

With Android 7.1 Nougat, Google has introduced a feature called app shortcuts that will seem familiar to fans of Windows phone and the iPhone. But this feature goes well beyond similar functionality on other mobile platforms.

Yes, we’re getting into the weeds a bit here.

As I write this, only those lucky few with a Google Pixel or Pixel XL smartphone, or the even smaller crowd with a Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, or Pixel C enrolled in the Android 7.1 Developer Preview program can experience this and other new Android 7.1 features. Sorry about that. But as I’ve done for over 20 years now, the focus remains on the new and cutting edge and, for many, the future.

In any event, Google is finally introducing its app shortcuts feature, tying together two major functional advantages of competing mobile platforms and, in doing so, creating something that is both unique and superior.

So what does that mean?

Back in Windows Phone 7 “Mango,” Microsoft introduced a platform feature called deep linking, which allowed apps to create secondary tiles that users could put on their Start screens to access specific functionality. The Weather app is an obvious example: While you can access the through its normal entry point using the standard tile or the app icon in All Apps, the app also lets you create secondary tiles for individual locations. So, you can “pin” special weather tiles for places like Dedham, Paris, and Amsterdam, for example. You do so from within the app.


Apple, meanwhile, added a feature called 3D Touch to iOS 9, though this functionality requires a newer iPhone. Working in tandem with an unnecessary haptic effect, 3D Touch lets the user press and hold on an app icon on the Home screen and display a context menu of options.


It’s like right-clicking on icons in Windows, yes, and while all mobile platforms have supported a “press and hold” action for some time now, displaying a context menu off an icon has been unique to iOS. Until now.

Android 7.1’s app shortcuts work like 3D Touch in iOS in that you can now press and hold on compatible app icons to display a context menu of app shortcuts. But they also improve on that idea by incorporating the deep linking functionality from Windows phone. That is, you can drag any app shortcut in an app context menu to the home screen and create a new shortcut icon, a new entry point, for that app.


The App shortcuts feature also doesn’t require haptic hardware or a newer phone because Google doesn’t treat its users like ATM machines. You just press and hold on an icon and it works. (Assuming that the app supports this feature.)

It is, in other words, the best of both worlds. And I feel that, by adding the deep linking functionality directly to the app shortcuts that appear when you press and hold on an icon, Google has made this feature easier to discover. Now, you don’t even need to dive into an app to discover the available app shortcuts.

App shortcuts are available on many of the Google-made apps that are included in Android 7.1, of course. Google Play Music provides shortcuts for such things as Recent Activity, My Library, and I’m Feeling Lucky, for example. And since I pretty much always want to go right to my own music collection in that app, using a My Library icon on my home screen may make more sense than using the stock Google Play Music icon.


Some built-in apps do not include any context menu at all, and perhaps some never will. But we’re already starting to see third-party apps support this feature. For example, Evernote now displays an app shortcut menu on Android 7.1.


In short, app shortcuts are nice because they provide a handy way for switchers coming from iOS or Windows phone to utilize functionality they’re used to in an even better way. And because this feature really helps you customize your phone in ways that will be meaningful to you and really help make it yours.

I just wish more people could experience it.


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Comments (5)

5 responses to “Android 7.1 Nougat Tip: Do More With App Shortcuts”

  1. 5539

    How fortuitous. My Pixel arrived yesterday, and this showed me this cool feature. It actually works quite well. I almost feel like I am force touching an iPhone. Note that force touch and tap and hold are distinct actions on an iPhone resulting in distinct responses. On the Pixel tap and hold does bring up this 'right click' menu, but then sliding the icon allows you to rearrange/delete/uninstall as allways. It works very naturally, once someone points it out. Probably would have found it myself fairly quickly, but I have added almost no apps to the start screens yet. Just playing with all the settings and options so far. It's a nice device, about the same size as an iPhone 6s. Not sure why there is such a big bottom bezel, with there being no button there at all. Symmetry I suppose. The iphone at least uses that space for something. Mine's on Fi, BTW. What a neat service. (P.S. my daily phone is still my Lumia 950, but I keep my mind and options open)

  2. 7135

    Action Launcher 3 actually lets you enable this feature on any Android device that the launcher supports. I'm on a 2013 Moto X, which will be perpetually on Lollipop, but the launcher allows me to have this Nougat feature. It is really nice to have for the apps that it works on, I will say. But I just thought I'd throw it out there that if you want this feature and are not on Nougat, you can use Action Launcher 3 (paid app) to enable it. On top of this, Action Launcher 3 is easily my favorite launcher, and Chris Lacy (the developer) does a great job at keeping it up to date to match the latest and greatest that Google throws at us. You can even make it look just like the Pixel Launcher if you wish. It's really neat ^_^

  3. 2006

    After just switching from Windows Phone to the Pixel XL, i am looking forward to this for the Outlook App so i can have an icon for each mailbox (i really can't stand the gmail app and miss outlook mail app from Windows Phone.

  4. 1775

    >I just wish more people could experience it.

    I'd be happy if I could experience 7.0.  I'm still waiting for my Nexus 6 upgrade.

  5. Vegeta Prince

    Why can't my phone do this? I have 7.1.1 and none of my apps seem to be round