Get the most out of Android 7.1 Nougat with these tips and tricks
Android 7.1 Nougat is here, and that means you must get acquainted with a new version of Android. While not much has changed since the last beta, we’ve put together a list of Nougat tips and tricks to help optimize your experience with Google’s latest flavor of Android.
More: When is your phone getting Android 7.1 Nougat? We asked every manufacturer
Not just anyone can download the new update, however — that honor is reserved for Google’s Nexus devices, specifically the Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6, Nexus 6P, Nexus 9, Nexus Player, Pixel C, and Android One’s General Mobile 4G. You can read more about availability, and when your device will receive the update here. Otherwise, read on to learn how to make the most of Google’s latest mobile operating system.
Edit tiles in the notification drawer and enable night mode
One of the most significant changes to Android Nougat involves the Quick Settings and notification shade. Unlike the older, static iteration of Android versions past, the new notification window lets you hide the settings tiles you don’t use all that often. If you don’t use the Hotspot tile, for example, you can remove it by tapping the Edit button on the bottom right of the drawer, pressing and holding the tile, and dragging it until it disappears from view. You can do the same thing to the other tiles to rearrange their position.
Thanks to Nougat’s Quick Settings API, you can install third-party apps that add new shortcuts to the fore. Caffeinate, for example, keeps the display on for a few mintues longer than the default setting. Camera Quick Settings tile lets you instantly shoot a selfie with the front cam or a photo with the rear cam. And ScreenFilter adds a customizable filter that suppresses colors.
More: We noshed on Nougat, and Android 7.0 is Google’s sweetest update yet
Android Nougat’s other big add is an experimental Night Mode that automatically switches the display’s color calibration to remove blue hues. It’s better if you want to get a good night’s sleep — viewing devices emitting blue light at late hours can have serious health effects. And in addition to displaying warmer tones, the Settings app also swaps its typically bright color pallete for a darker alternative so that you’re not blinded when you open it in the dark.
Problem is, enabling Night Mode’s isn’t exactly a walk in the park. If you enrolled in the Android beta program, you likely had a tile for Night Mode in the notification drawer that lets you turn it on and off whenever you want. If you’re coming from an older version of Android, though, you’ll need to download this app — Night Mode Enabler. It adds a Night Mode tile to the Quick Settings drawer on compatible devices, and automatically toggles Night Mode on after sunset and off after sunrise.
Trigger System UI Tuner
Android Nougat is all about more control — like changing how your status bar, for example. It’s the top-most area you of the display that shows incoming notifications and details like battery status, Wi-Fi and data connectivity, the time, and more, and Android 7.1 lets you customize its appearance via the System UI Tuner.
It’s as simple as pulling down the notification drawer and tapping and holding the gear icon in the top-right corner. Once it starts animating, the System UI Tuner will be unlocked, allowing you to access customization options at the bottom of your Settings menu.
When you’re in the Tuner, you’ll see toggles for Auto-rotate screen, Hotspot, and Volume. Tapping each individual setting removes them from your status bar. Don’t want anything but notifications in your status bar? You can do that, too.
There are slightly more granular options for the battery and time indicators. You can choose to show the percentage of battery remaining, the percentage left to charge, or hide both percentages from view. The time icon can be similarly be hidden, or shown in minutes, hours, and seconds, or just in hours and minutes.
Prioritize your notifications
Android Nougat allows you to set a priority level for every notification that appears on your device. To do this, tap and drag an individual notification a little to the right or left. Tap on the gear icon that appears, and you’ll see an Importance tab with a slider of priority levels.
There are six in total:
- Level 0: Blocks all notifications from an app
- Level 1: Prevents full-screen interruption and never vibrates or makes a sound
- Level 5: Always allows full-screen interruption and appears at the top of the notification list; and so on.
For more information about each level, head over to Settings > System UI Tuner > Other > Power notification controls.
You can swipe the bar all the way to the left for Level 0, or all the way to the right for Level 5. Which you choose depends on how highly you’d like to prioritize notifications from it. You can also find the controls for each app by heading to Settings > Notifications.
Save your data
Have a limited data plan? Google wants to help conserve some of the data apps use with a new Data Saver tool baked into Android Nougat. Head over to Settings > Data usage > Data Saver to turn the feature on or off. When you turn it on, it will tell you how many apps are allowed to use unrestricted data when Data Saver is on.
Data Saver essentially limits apps from sending or receiving data when in the background — it doesn’t completely stop them from accessing data, but these apps will do so less frequently. If you’re particularly close to hitting your data limit, this tool could prove useful. You can tap on Unrestricted data access to toggle which apps you don’t want Data Saver to restrict.
Add a new language
Good news for polyglots: While previous version of Android offered the ability to swap the primary system language, Android Nougat lets you to add multiple languages. If you speak Spanish and French in addition to Mandarin, for example, you can add all three to Android’s system menu.
It’s pretty straightforward. Open the Settings menu, tap Language & input, select Languages, and select Add a language. Then, pick a language from the list. To switch the system default to another language, press and hold a language from the list and drag it to the top.
To remove a language, select the menu button from the top-right corner, select Remove, and tap the language you want to remove. Then, select the the “trash” icon in the top-right corner and tap OK to confirm that you want to remove it.
Switch between apps quickly and multi-task in Split-screen mode
Split-screen is one of Nougat’s highlights. Similar multi-tasking features have long been present in smartphones made by third parties like LG and Samsung, but Android Nougat brings a native, slightly more polished experience.
To trigger split-screen mode, simply launch an app and press and hold the Recent apps button (the square-shaped icon in the right-most corner of Android’s navigation bar). The app will shrink to fit the top half of the screen, and in the bottom half, you’ll see a few recently-used apps from which to choose.
Rather than pressing and dragging the Recent apps button, you can also swipe up on an app to launch split-screen mode. But you may need to enable the option Android’s System UI Tuner menu.
You can move the middle bar separating the top and bottom screen to adjust the size of each app, and if you swipe it all the way to the bottom, you’ll exit split-screen mode and the top app will take over. If you drag it the opposite direction, to the top, the bottom app will grow to fill the screen.
Split-screen also lets you split two different Chrome browser tabs. Just open Chrome, trigger split-screen mode, tap the three dots on the top-right corner of the Chrome app, and select Move to other window. The tab you choose will move to the bottom, and the previous tab will replace the topmost app.
You can also quickly cycle through the two most recent apps you were using via Nougat’s Quick Switch feature. So if you just left the Dialer app and are currently using the SMS app, you can double tap the Recents button to quickly switch between the two.
Change the DPI
Smartphones come in all shapes and sizes these days, and Android N lets you change the display size to your liking. Head over to Settings > Display > Display Size to change the size of all the elements on the screen — not just the fonts. You can switch from small to large, larger, or largest.
Nougat lets you enlarge or shrink fonts without changing the size of Android’s other UI elements — head over to Settings > Display > Font Size.
Add your emergency information
These days, you’re more likely to have your smartphone on you than a driver’s license, and Nougat lets you store personal information that could prove useful in the event of an emergency. In the Settings menu, head to User > Emergency Information. You’ll see a form asking for information like your name, your address, your blood type, what allergies you have, and more. And once you fill it out, the data can be accessed by a family member or good Samaritan by tapping Emergency Call in the lock screen, and tapping Emergency Info.
Pin your favorite apps to the top
When you tap the share icon in Android, a menu of apps will appear from the bottom. It can be hard to find the right app, but Nougat makes it easier by letting you pin your favorites to the top. In the share menu, tap and hold on an app to pin it, and in the future, they’ll appear at the top of your list for easier access — just press and hold on an app icon and tap unpin if you want to remove it.
Enable “Do not disturb” mode
“Do not disturb” has been a bit of a confusing mess since it arrived with Android 5.0 Lollipop. Thankfully, Android Nougat makes the feature easier to understand and accessible from more places. When you hit either of the volume buttons, you’ll see a Do not disturb toggle.
Settings > Sound > Do Not Disturb offers more robust controls. Here, you can set up Automatic Rules that allow you to schedule times when your phone will enter “Do not disturb” mode — like weeknights or when you’re asleep. You can tap on one of the preset options, or create a new one. And you can set what days you want “Do not disturb” to activate, the time it starts, the time it ends, and which notifications come through. You can also set Alarms to override the end time.
It takes some fiddling. But once you have “Do not disturb” mode configured properly, your alarm will always bring the device out of the mode and you won’t be disturbed by those pesky middle-of-the-night notifications.
Block those pesky numbers
Nougat bakes call blocking into the system, which means it’ll continue to block numbers even when you switch devices or factory reset your phone. Even better, other apps and service providers can access the call-blocking list to provide more robust features.
To block a number, open the default dialer app, tap on the three dots on the top right, and select Settings. In Settings, go to Call blocking to add a number. You can also press and hold numbers in your call log to block them.
Alternatively, you can block numbers from the messenger app. Within the app, tap the menu button in the top-right corner, tap Blocked contacts, and select Add a Number. Then, enter the phone number you wish to block.
Don’t forget about Screen Search (formerly Now on Tap)
Screen Search (formerly Now on Tap), the AI powered visual assistant introduced with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, hasn’t changed that much in Nougat. In fact, it’s been hidden away from the default menu — now, accessing it requires launching the Google Assistant and scrolling slightly down. (Alternatively, you can wait approximately five seconds for it to appear automatically.
Screen Search, as the name implies, scans whatever’s on your screen and identifies images and text. It can also trigger quick access to other apps — if someone mentions hanging out at Central Park on Saturday, Screen Search will serve a link to the default calendar app and offer to create an event. And a recent update lets you to use Screen Search to identify objects and buildings your phone camera’s pointing at.
Set a separate wallpaper for your lock and home screens
Sometimes, you just don’t want to use the same image for your lock screen and home screen. It’s a feature that’s been available from a number of OEMs, but finally made its debut in Android proper with Nougat. It’s also relatively easy to use — just long-press the home screen to change the wallpaper image. Once you choose the picture you want to use, select whether you want to make set it as your home screen, lock screen, or both.
This article was originally published on August 28, and updated on March 15 by Kyle Wiggers to include directions on how to set the wallpaper in Android Nougat.