As expected, Google began rolling out Android 7.0 Nougat today, starting with its own Nexus devices. But the company is already talking about what’s next for the OS, including a major change to the way that it delivers updates.
Dave Burke, VP of Engineering, said on the Android Developers Blog that Google is “moving Nougat into a new regular maintenance schedule over the coming quarters”.
He added that Google has “already started work on the first Nougat maintenance release, that will bring continued refinements and polish” to the OS. The company is aiming to deliver its first developer preview of that maintenance release “this fall”. These ‘maintenance updates’ will apparently be separate from the monthly security patches that Google already offers.
Android 7.0 Nougat is barely out the door, and here we are already talking about its first Maintenance Release, a.k.a. MR1. That, however, is to be expected, as the fresh new Android dessert apparently didn’t come with all the new features we’ve seen in leaks, like a redesigned Nexus Launcher, Google Assistant, Dark Mode and slightly different navigation bar.
The transition to regular quarterly updates for Android is a notable departure from how the company has managed interim releases of the OS so far. Google has previously shipped ‘minor’ updateswhenever they happen to be ready, and without any regularity to their arrival. Android 6.0.1, for example, arrived two months after it released Android 6.0, and it was the only update that Marshmallow ever received.
Many questions remain about Google’s plans, but one of the key issues is that of how the company’s hardware partners will deal with a more demanding schedule of more regular updates in the future.
Over ten months after Marshmallow’s release, just 15% of active Android devices are now running that version. Some manufacturers still haven’t got around to updating devices that launched after Android 6.0’s rollout began.
While this is just speculation on our part, it does seem rather coincidental timing of the next major update and also the launch of the Nexus devices, which last we heard was set for a launch in October.
And when would that be? Google’ has not yet publicly committed a date for either event, but all signs are pointing to an October launch. For one, it gives LG some leeway to boast about how the LG V20 is the first new smartphone to come with Nougat. Secondly, it would match Google’s announced regular quarterly updates for Android Nougat. However we have also heard the rumors that Google could have their own Google-branded handsets that might debut next month, so we’re not sure if they are one and the same or if they are different.
As for those still expected features, Google Assistant is the company’s second take on a smart, personal assistant beyond what Google Now offers. The new app launcher, on the other hand, introduces a curious new way to pull out the app drawer, as well as add a “pull tab” visual for sliding the Google Now screen. Finally, the navigation bar was leaked to have a new, quad-color and animated home button in the style of Google’s color motif.
Either way we guess we’ll keep our eyes peeled for more information, but in the meantime if you own the newer Nexus handsets, with the Nexus 6 being the oldest (sorry Nexus 5 owners!), do check out the OTA update zips here.