Besides multitasking, the other notable interface change comes with notifications. Nougat finally has a system-level way for apps to let you quick-reply to messages right inside their notifications. It works as you’d expect: when you get a message, you can drag down on the card, tap reply, and then type and send — all without opening the app.
Notifications are now full-width on the screen and stacked right atop each other instead of appearing as separated cards. You can do more with them, too: apps can “bundle” multiple alerts into a single notification, which can then be expanded by dragging down on it. It’s a smart system that I like using: you can triage notifications quickly or interact with them one by one, depending on your needs.
A long press brings up notification options for that app, which makes it much easier to quiet noisy apps. You can still dismiss notifications by swiping them away, of course. And Nougat also continues one of Android’s best notification features: they act exactly the same whether you’re in the notification drawer, the lock screen, or seeing them drop down from the top of your screen.
Those last two things — swiping to dismiss and consistent behavior no matter where you’re seeing the notification — are features that Apple still hasn’t figured out on iOS (even in the upcoming iOS 10 beta). Android has long had an advantage in useful and consistent notifications, and now that quick replies are standard on it I don’t see that lead diminishing.
Tweaks: for better and worse
The other thing to say about notifications is that Google has finally figured out that everybody wants to just see the quick settings panel at the top of the notifications tray right away. So now there are buttons across the top for your most-used settings toggles and you can customize their order, too. This is also where you’ll find Nougat’s Easter egg, a little game that lets you put treats out for virtual cats.
There are lots more nips and tucks throughout the new Android OS. The settings app is a little more informative now — it shows key details right on the main screen. There’s a Data Saver feature for limiting what apps can do when you’re on a cellular connection. Google’s keyboard — not technically tied to Nougat — can be themed with different colors or even a photo. There are more emoji with proper support for multiple skin tones. The camera app has been cleaned up a bit — and now you can twist the phone like a screwdriver when the camera is open to quickly swap between the front and rear camera. All of these tiny changes move Android in the right direction, making it more functional without adding too much visual complexity.
Weirdly, my biggest gripe about Nougat is related to the thing you’d expect Android to be stupendously good at: Google search. It’s kind of a mess. Google Now doesn’t really seem to be getting any better at figuring out what information will be useful to me. Google Now On Tap is still pretty frustrating: it’s supposed to figure out what’s on the screen and return relevant results, but usually returns no results or, at best, not very good ones.
But even setting that aside, the Google search app itself just seems lost and disconnected from the rest of the operating system. When you search, it puts the results into its own custom browser window that feels custom-designed for one-off searches instead of persistent research. When you Google, how often are you opening results in tabs? I do it all the time, but it’s a huge hassle on Nougat. I wrote last month that Google’s apps seem better on the iPhone than they do on Android, and the Google app itself is the prime candidate.
It’s worst on the Pixel C, because hitting the search button on the keyboard now just brings up Now On Tap. Which means it reads the screen, fails to figure anything out, and then forces you to tap the search field to start typing. Then, when you do, it pulls up the Google app for search results. And, incredibly, the Google app doesn’t support split screen — which means that every time you search, the windows you have open are banished to the multitasking screen.
Android 7.0 Nougat review: great, but does it matter? – The Verge