When Google announced its new Pixel phones at a hardware event last week, we only got a fleeting glimpse at Android 7.1. Now, Google has taken the wraps off for real, and if you’re in the Android Beta program you’ll get it this month.
Google describes Android 7.1 (which will still be called Nougat) as an “incremental update”, so don’t expect a ton of new features. However, it will bring support for Google’s new VR platform Daydream, and an awesome feature with a boring name: A/B system updates.
A/B system updates are how Chrome OS applies updates already. Put simply, the device has two separate system partitions. For daily use, you’ll use partition A. When you get an update, it will be applied to B in the background while you use it. Then, the next time you restart your device, it will switch to using partition B. Then partition A will be updated in the background.
The result is that you never have to sit around waiting for updates to be applied ever again. The only downside is that it uses up extra space on your phone, but since it only duplicates the necessary system information it shouldn’t be too big of a hit. Unless you have a small amount of storage already.
The update also brings a couple of smaller features like app shortcuts, which let you jump into parts of an app easily. For example, long-pressing (we assume, but the mechanism isn’t clear yet) a messaging app on your home screen might show your five most frequent contacts. Android 7.1 will also support circular launcher icons like the Pixel sports.
If you’re currently enrolled in the Android Beta program, Google will roll out 7.1 to your device later this month. The company is targeting December to release it to the general public, though it may take much longer for manufacturers to push it to any non-Nexus devices.
Coming soon: Android 7.1 Developer Preview [Android Developers Blog]