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Android N 7.0 - 7 things we'd like to see

Expert Reviews logo Expert Reviews 12-02-2016 Expert Reviews Staff
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We're big fans of the latest version of Android, as you'll see in our /r/Android discussion. Here goes:

1. Multi-window support

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014© Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014

This is a big one, but also a big challenge. Being able to run any app side-by-side with another would be brilliant, especially on today's huge phones and tablets. Samsung has done this for some time on its larger tablets, but only certain apps are compatible. By adding a split screen API to Android N, the operating system would at least start to allow app makers to develop their app with split screen in mind. Ultimately it will be down to device manufacturers as to whether they'd actually allow this feature on their devices - it'd be a resource hog - but by at least putting an API out into the wild Google would stimulate a genuine game-changing feature.

2. Night mode and blue light reduction

Available through the Twilight app for some time, a mode that automatically shifts your screen's colours to the warmer end of the spectrum would be handy for those of us who stay up far too late on our devices. Studies (although their accuracy is still up for debate) have shown that cooler (blue) colours on screen make you more alert, giving merit to the theory that tech is keeping us awake. By redu

cing the amount of blue on screen (and making the whole screen darker, too), we'll all have a better chance of a good night's sleep. Apple beat Android to the punch on this one, introducing Night Shift in iOS 9.3.

3. Better notifications

Android's notifications were well ahead of their time when the OS was introduced, but frankly times have moved on and notifications still feel just a little too static.

For example, properly interactive notifications would be brilliant. Android already supports action buttons in notifications (such as Reply and Snooze) but there's still work to be done. For example, you'll want some notifications to stick around even when you've cleared the rest of your notifications. Pinning a notification would be a great way to make it part of your workflow, a sort of mini to-do list in your notifications area.

We'd also love to see built-in text boxes in notifications, which is something iOS already offers. This allows you to compose quick replies to messages without having to delve into the app that fired the notification.

This final notification suggestion will appeal to anyone who's ever left an Android device switched off for a week: cloud-synced notifications, please. Right now, if you switch on an Android device that's been off for a while, every single notification that was waiting to be fired will come through at once, bombarding you with literally hundreds of messages all at once. If Google's cloud-based notifications system simply kept track of where notifications had been seen - for example on a different device also used by the same Google user - this would be solved.

4. 3D Touch-style peeking and contextual actions

Apple's 3D touch tech, currently available on the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, is brilliant. It lets you perform actions on apps and objects without having to open that app or object. For example, you can 3D touch an email message or link to see a preview of said item without having to commit to opening. 3D touch is also useful for quick actions, where you'll tap on an app's icon and get it to perform a function without opening it.

An elegant example of this is already available on Android in the form of Action Launcher, which lets you swipe up on an app's icon and open a corresponding widget. It's not a perfect solution, since widgets weren't designed for this purpose, but it's a great example of how this sort of software update could be used. Adding an API for a action shortcuts on app icons would be a great start, but fully-fledged 3D touch-style support would be much appreciated.

An example of a recent phone that's actually tried this is the Huawei Mate S, which incorporates Huawei's own TouchPress tech. It's not massively useful because only Huawei's apps support it, but it's a great example of what's possible with more developer support.

5. SMS backup

This one's simple: allow SMS messages to be backed up to Google Drive. This can be done using third-party apps and many manufacturers have their own phone backup serice, but integration directly into Android and Drive would be handy.

6. Edge-screen swiping controls for back and forward commands

Android apps are fairly inconsistent in how they handle swipes from the very edge of the screen. Some apps open side menus, while others do nothing. More consistent handling of this extremely basic gesture would make the whole operating system flow better and also free up room at the bottom of the screen, as you'd no longer require a permanent on-screen 'back' button. 

7. Better OLED support

OLED screens are a great way to save power because each pixel is individually lit, meaning when a pixel is black, it's switched off. This is unlike LED backlit phones where the backlight is always on, even if most of the pixels are only displaying black.

Phones with OLED screens have been around for a while, so a setting that prioritises completely black screens would not only save power, but also be useful in other applications such as bedside clocks and notifications fired while the phone is in standby.

Got any other ideas? Post them in the comments below.

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