Mmm...Nougat. What better way to start a new year than with a fresh flavor for your favorite Android phone?
Google's latest major Android release may have officially launched last fall, but if you're like most folks, you'll probably be getting your first taste of Nougat -- also known as Android 7 -- in 2017. If you want timely Android updates, Google's own Nexus and Pixel phones are the only way to go -- all other devices depend on third-party manufacturers to prepare and provide rollouts. And as we see time and time again, that tends to result in slow and uncertain progress.
Once you've got the software, though, there's plenty to be learned about Google's most recent mobile efforts. Here are some practical tips to help you get the most out of Android's newest features -- both the marquee additions and the less obvious little touches.
(Note that these tips are written specifically as they apply to Google's core Android 7.0 and 7.1 software. Many device manufacturers modify the operating system to put their own spin on the features and interface, which could result in some elements looking different or even being absent altogether on certain devices.)
1. Nougat makes it easier than ever to move between apps: Just double-tap your device's Overview key (the typically square-shaped icon next to Home) to snap between your two most recently used processes. Think of it like Alt-Tab for Android.
2. Speaking of the Overview key, it gains a new function in Nougat: The native-to-Android ability to split your screen in half and view two apps on-screen at the same time. While you have an app actively open, press and hold the Overview key -- or alternatively, tap it once to view your most recently used apps, and then press and hold any app and drag it to the top of the screen to initiate the split-screen view. When you're ready to go back to a regular single-app view, press and hold the Overview key to exit.
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3. Want to copy text from one app to another while using Nougat's split-screen mode? Select the text you want, then press and hold your finger on the screen for a second and drag it to the other window. As long as the apps you're using allow it, the text will automatically paste over.
4. Little-known fact: You can use Nougat's split-screen mode to view two different Chrome tabs side by side. Open a new tab in Chrome, press and hold the Overview key and then tap Chrome's three-dot menu icon (in the upper-right corner of the screen). Look for the option labeled "Move to other window."
5. One more Overview-related tip: You probably already know you can remove any recently used app from the list by swiping it to the left or right. As of Nougat, Android also has a native command for clearing all of the apps away at once (something many third-party manufacturers have implemented in their versions of Android for some time now). Scroll all the way up to the top of the Overview list to find it.
6. If your device has Android 7.1, try pressing and holding an icon on your home screen. That'll cause compatible apps to pop up shortcuts to commonly used functions -- like calling a favorite contact in the Phone app or opening a new tab in Chrome. (If you have Android 7.1 and aren't having any luck, try installing and using the Google Now Launcher.)
7. Need to jump between sections in your system settings? Nougat has a new quick-navigation menu for that very purpose. Swipe inward from the left of the screen or look for the three-line "hamburger" icon in the upper-left corner to find it.
8. If you ever find yourself in the Apps section of your system settings, take note: As of Nougat, you can quickly scroll through the list of installed apps by moving your finger downward on the very rightmost edge of the screen. That'll cause a letter-driven fast-scroll interface to appear.
9. The Quick Settings panel on Nougat has some subtle but significant new features. First: When you swipe down once from the top of your screen, you'll now see a series of quick-access icons for things like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and airplane mode. Tapping any of the icons in that area will toggle the associated function on or off.
10. When you swipe down twice from the top of the screen -- or swipe down once with two fingers -- you'll see an expanded list of larger tiles. Tapping an icon in that area will open more detailed controls for the associated function (if such controls are available).
11. In either section of the Quick Settings panel, you can long-press any icon to go directly to the associated area of your full system settings.
12. Nougat's Quick Settings tiles are fully customizable. Swipe down from the top of your screen twice, then tap the edit command -- which may be either the word "Edit" in the lower-right corner or a pencil icon in the upper-right corner -- to rearrange the icons and add or remove functions from the list.
13. When editing your Quick Settings, pay careful attention to which icons you place in the first six positions. The icons in those spots will appear as the quick-access toggles in the smaller (single-swipe-down) view.
14. If your phone is managed by a workplace, look for a tile in your Quick Settings called "Work Mode." Tapping it will switch between a work profile -- with work-related apps and settings -- and a personal profile that has your own personal apps and none of the company stuff.
15. You can add even more tiles into your Quick Settings by way of third-party apps. Weather Quick Settings Tile, for example, will put the latest local conditions into your panel, while Ringer Modes will give you a simple one-touch toggle for changing your phone's sound profile. (Want even more options? I assembled a detailed list of Android's best Quick Settings add-ons.)
16. Android 7.1 supports a new native night mode, but it's available only on select devices with compatible hardware. If your device has it, you'll see a tile called Night Light in your Quick Settings area. Tapping that tile will tint your screen to make it easier on the eyes in dim lighting.
17. Save yourself a tap and tell your device to activate Night Light on its own when needed. Just navigate to the Display section of your system settings and tap the item labeled "Night Light," then tap "Turn on automatically" and select either "Sunset to sunrise" or "Custom schedule." (As you'd expect, this setting will show up only on devices where Night Light is supported.)
18. Notifications in Nougat are bundled by app -- so if you have, say, three new email alerts from Gmail, they'll all appear within a single card in your notification panel. You can tap any such card to fan it out into individual mini-cards with more detailed info, and you can tap on any of those mini-cards to expand it and gain access to action-performing buttons (like commands for archiving or replying right then and there).
19. Feel like an app is pinging your phone a little too frequently? Press and hold one of its notifications (or slide the notification slightly to either side and tap the gear icon that appears). That'll give you controls for silencing all future notifications from the app or even blocking them entirely.
20. Android's Do Not Disturb mode scores a handy new trick in Nougat: The ability to keep your phone quiet at night and then automatically turn your sound back to normal when your alarm goes off in the morning. To set it up, go into the Sound section of your system settings and tap "Do not disturb" followed by "Automatic rules." Use the on-screen command to add a new rule, then select "Time rule" and name it whatever you'd like. Set up the days and times for whenever you want your phone to stay silent, then be sure to set the "Do not disturb" setting to either "Alarms only" or "Priority only" and activate the "Alarm can override end time" option.
21. Stop squinting! For the farsighted folks among us, Nougat introduces a long overdue option to increase the size of everything on your screen. Look for the "Display size" line in the Display section of your system settings.
22. Prefer to enlarge just the words on your screen without affecting anything else? The Display section of your device's settings has a second option called "Font size."
23. If mobile data usage is a worry for you, check out Nougat's new Data Saver mode, which limits how much data apps can send and receive (both in the background and when they're actively being used). Go to the "Data usage" section of your system settings and then tap "Data Saver" to get started.
24. Parlez-vous plusieurs langues? Android 7.0 and 7.1 allow you to set multiple languages as your system default so you can move between different dialects seamlessly. Just look in the Languages & Input section of your system settings. Select "Languages" and then follow the on-screen prompts to add new dialects into your list.
25. In case you're ever in an emergency, make sure first responders have the info they need by filling in Nougat's new emergency info section -- which puts everything from your blood type to allergies and emergency contacts onto your phone's lock screen. Look under the Users section of your system settings to find the form.
26. Nougat lets you morph your device's system voice into a Harvey-Fierstein-esque growl or a helium-infused squeak (which are equally amusing to hear). Open your system settings, then look under Accessibility for the "Text-to-speech output" option.
27. Ever find yourself wearing a single earbud and wishing you could hear both channels of audio from your phone? Wish no more, for Nougat makes it possible: You'll find the command, called "Mono audio playback," in the Accessibility section of your system settings.
28. You might never know it from looking, but Nougat lets you customize the order of apps in Android's system-level Share menu. The next time you share something from anywhere on your phone, press and hold any app in the list and select the "Pin" option that pops up. That app will now always appear at the top of your Share list. (You can pin multiple apps, too, and they'll appear in alphabetical order at the start of the list.)
29. If you ever need to browse through your phone's storage or manually move and copy files, check out Nougat's newly enhanced native file manager. Open the Storage section of your system settings, then scroll all the way down to the bottom of the list and tap the unassuming option labeled "Explore" to launch it.
30. Feeling especially adventurous? Unlock Android's secret System UI Tuner by pressing and holding the gear icon in the upper-right corner of the Quick Settings screen for several seconds. When you let go, you should be able to scroll to the bottom of your system settings to find a new section called System UI Tuner. There, you'll see power-user tools for tweaking things like the appearance of your status bar along with an intricate five-point system for controlling how different types of notifications behave.