Android Nougat release date: when you'll get it and why you'll want it

Ready for Android 7.0 Nougat from Google? It's in beta right now

Android N update release date news and features

Update: If you've downloaded an app on Android 7 from another source that isn't the Google Play Store, it'll now tell you where it came from so you check in if you have any phone issues. Plus here's everything we know today, as of Developer Preview 4.

Android Nougat is Google's next phone and tablet operating system update that's been so thoroughly refined that the company is officially more than halfway through the English alphabet, letter 14 of 26.

You can now download Android Nougat Developer Preview and test its new features that didn't make the cut in last November's Android 6.0 Marshmallow launch alongside the Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X.

Here's how to install it on your compatible device

The shocker is that the company didn't wait to announcing Android Nougat at Google IO 2016. The reason behind this is it gives developers more time to tinker with the update, according to Google.

That's fantastic news for anyone who is brave enough to update their phone, tablet or streaming box with the unfinished and sometime buggy build. We did just that to tell the rest of you what's inside.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? The next version of Google's mobile OS, Android Nougat
  • When is it out? "Later this summer," according to Google
  • What will it cost? Free

*when - and if - you get it depends on what phone/tablet you own though

Check out our video walkthrough of the Android Nougat Beta

Android Nougat release date

The official Android Nougat launch date is weeks away, meaning it's been moved up from the usual late October timeframe we've become accustomed to since Android KitKat in 2013.

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"Late summer" is the official release date window announced by Google at its IO conference. Whether or not a new Nexus 2016 phone will also break from tradition and launch then is anyone's guess.

Google's official timeline indicates that the Android Nougat beta is nearing completion. It's currently at Developer Preview 4 with one more, Developer Preview 5, slated for later this month.

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Once that 5th "near-system final image for release makes its way to developers, there's only one step left on the timeline: Final release. The one-a-month update scheme puts the Android Nougat release date at late July (or early August if Google decides more testing is in order).

Echoing that time frame we've now seen an update schedule from Rogers (a Canadian mobile network), which claims Android Nougat is "coming soon" to the Nexus 9. Given that its specific dates for updates only cover until the end of July it's entirely possible that we'll see it in August.

Nexus devices are always first in line to get new Android updates, so your brand new Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge will have to wait. Manufacturers and carriers have to rework their own version of the software and push it out to users - and that can take months.

What phones will get Android N?

Best phone

We can hear you out there screaming, "when is Android N update coming to my phone?!". If you've got a recent flagship phone, you should be in luck. Most phone and tablet makers try and push the software to devices that are less than two years old, but it may be quite a wait.

Each manufacturer can take time to tweak the updates. Take Android Marshmallow for example, some phones still don't have the update. If you want the latest software, it's best to get a Nexus device, as the newest version of Android will always be pushed to that first.

If you own a Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus 6, Nexus 9 or a Google Pixel C you can test out the Developer Preview 4 right now.

HTC has confirmed it will be bringing Android Nougat to the HTC 10, One A9 and One M9 - although there's no time table yet.

Motorola has also confirmed the Moto G4 Plus will get Android 7 software in the future. The strange thing is, Motorola also confirmed the phone will be updated to Android O when it comes around as well. That's software Google hasn't even announced yet and there's no guarantee Android 8 will be named after the letter O.

Even the little known Nextbit Robin is confirmed to be getting the Android Nougat update. Stay tuned, as we're going to continue prodding each manufacturer for information until they fess up to their complete Android N plans.

Android Nougat compatibility

Android Nougat Beta is now available from android.com/beta for newer Nexus devices from the last year and a half, which first and foremost means Google's star players, the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P.

Android Nougat

The giant Nexus 6 also gets some beta action, but the weaker Nexus 5 has been left out. The Android Nougat beta also works with Google Pixel C and its recently discontinued tablet brother Nexus 9 as well as the Nexus Player.

In a shocking twist, there's one random outlier in the Android Nougat compatibility matrix: Sony Xperia Z3. It can tap into the current Developer Preview 4 as a way to test speed and apps on Sony's popular phone.

Android Nougat
Shocker: Even Sony Xperia Z3 is included in the beta

Non-Nexus phones aren't typically able to be a part of the beta and have to wait weeks if not months for the update after the finished version makes its debut on new Nexus phones.

Android Nougat VR

We've tested out a bunch of existing Android Nougat features below, but there's one exciting new tools that isn't part of the developer beta: Google Daydream.

Android Nougat

A buried menu for VR helper services in Android N Developer Preview 4, and an equally buried release note for "Android VR" in Unreal Engine 4.12 beta hints at a big push for a Google Cardboard successor - and Google confirmed its VR intentions during IO.

The Play Store, StreetView, Photos, YouTube and Play Movies will all support VR, allowing you to jump into games, locations and videos - all via Google's Daydream VR platform. Daydream is due to be released in the fall, so it's unlikely to be included in the initial Android N launch.

Expect Google Daydream to be part of a future maintenance update, but phones like ZTE Axon 7 (the first Google Daydream phone) to launch ahead of time.

Multi-window support

True multitasking support is finally arriving as expected, and Split Screen is deservedly the highlight of Android Nougat on phones and tablets. You're going to be able to open up two apps at once on your Nexus phone or tablet.

Android Nougat

It's a popular feature Samsung and LG phones have incorporated into their Android skins years ago, so it's nice (and about time) Google is including the same functionality in its own software. It's easy to launch too - just long press on the recent (multi-tasking) button in the nav bar.

Multi-window support could increase enterprise interest in Android tablets and the Pixel C. It's a bet that Apple recently made when it launched a similar split-screen and picture-in-picture feature for iOS 9.

Meanwhile Android TV gets picture-in-picture mode, allowing you to continue watching your show in a smaller screen while performing another task.

Direct Reply Notifications

You won't have to navigate away from your current window (or, now, windows) just to answer an incoming message. You can just reply within the notification that appears at the top of the screen.

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It worked well enough for the iPhone and iPad when the same idea made its debut with iOS 8 under the name Quick Reply. But Apple's approach to messages worked strictly with its iMessage app.

Google is opening up Direct Reply Notifications beyond Hangouts, and that could mean popular apps like WhatsApp could take advantage of this convenient inline messaging feature.

New quick settings menu

Google is adding a new quick settings menu to the notifications shade you pull down from the top. It's a lot like the one Samsung, LG and every other Android manufacturer seems to use.

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Sure, Google stock Android software has had switches for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Airplane mode and so forth, but it required pulling the notifications bar down a second time to reveal the quick settings menu.

Now the quick settings toggles are here as soon as you gesture downward once to see notifications. The best news is that all of the buttons small and unobstructive. It leaves room for notifications to flourish.

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Longtime Nexus users will also be happy to hear that the quick settings switches can be sorted to your liking, much like they can on other Android phones. You won't need the System UI Tuner to meddle.

For example, I often use MiFi more than Airplane Mode, so Mobile Hotspot icon get promoted to be one of the five icons along the top of the initial quick settings on my Nexus 6P.

That little airplane icon is still there for my takeoff and landings needs, but it got the bump to the second swipe menu. Sorting is finally up to you, which is really what Android is all about.

Bundled notifications

Google's not done with the way Android N changes notifications. It also announced that notification cards will be grouped together if they're from the same app.

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All messages from a specific messaging app, for example, are bundled together in the notification shade. These grouped alerts can then be expanded into individual notifications using a two-finger gesture or tapping the all-new expansion button.

This is basically the opposite of what Apple did in the jump from iOS 8 to iOS 9, switching from grouping them by app to lining them up chronologically. We'll see which method works best this autumn.

There's more control over your notifications in Android Nougat too, as now you can long press on a notification to either silence future notifications, or turn them off completely.

Android Nougat multi-tasking

There are two handy new features in multi-tasking on Android Nougat. First up is a Clear All button at the top of the multi-tasking menu - a feature Google says has been one of the most asked for. This allows you to close all applications running in the background with a single tap.

We've seen manufacturers add a clear all button in their Android interfaces, but the stock version has been crying out for the same function. Finally, we're getting it.

Secondly, Google's added Quick Switch to Android Nougat. This lets you jump back to the previous application with a double tap of the recent (multi-tasking) button in the navigation bar.

Doze Mode 2.0

One of the (literal) sleeper hits of Android Marshmallow has been Doze Mode, Google's crafty way of saving battery life whenever your device is stationary. It's amounts to a deep standby mode.

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Android Nougat is going to step up the company's energy-saving software techniques by expanding Doze Mode so that it thoroughly limits background tasks whenever the screen is turned off.

That's ideal for throwing a phone in your pocket or your tablet in a backpack, and then retrieving it the next day or next week without having to recharge it right away. Your "I can't even" face when you pick up your dead Nexus phone the next morning will be a thing of the past.

Android Nougat performance

Google says Android Nougat will provide its biggest leap forward in graphics with the introduction of Vulkan, giving game developers much-needed control of the GPU.

That in turn will result in even better graphics and smoother, faster performance.

If you've downloaded apps from other sources that aren't the Google Play Store, you'll now be able to identify where the app came from by going into your Settings, App Info and then Package Installer.

There's also been a number of Android runtime improvements, including optimizations to the JIT compiler which has seen task speeds increase between 30%-600% compared to the previous version.

Updates are also more seamless, with security updates automatically downloaded and a simple fresh boot up of your device will see you run the latest offering. It's also got rid of that annoying "Android is updating" pop up when you restart after an update.

Other features

Google has confirmed the new "Launcher Shortcuts" feature that debuted in the second beta for Android Nougat is ready for pressure-sensitive display technology.

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It will make it easier for Android manufacturers to bring 3D Touch-like technology to Android handsets, as it's baked directly into the operating system.

Android N will also bring support for Unicode 9, which among other things will see the introduction of 72 new emoji - such fun!

Will it be Android 7?

It will indeed be Android 7.0 Nougat, according to Google. There had been some serious doubt given the fact that the company sometimes opts to do smaller iterations for the updates.

For example, Android 4 had 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, 4.1 Jelly Bean and 4.4 KitKat. However, two things clued us in on the exact version number for Android Nougat.

First, Samsung mistakenly hinted at the Android 7 number. Within its source code for its MultiWindow SDK 1.3.1. It reads "This version has been released with Android N (7.0) compatibility."

Google didn't confirm this at Google IO, it did finally unveil the version number with one simple sentence on its YouTube video: "On June 30th, 2016 we unwrapped our latest treat, Android 7.0 Nougat."

This confirms our suspicions, but it's clear that, More than ever, Google is to be steering more toward the sweeter name, Android Nougat, and away from version numbers

  • Android Nougat challenger? How about Apple's iOS 10 update

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