As announced and arriving just in time for the Pixel’s release, the Android 7.1 Developer Preview is now available for the Nexus 5X, 6P, and Pixel C. With Google customizing the software on the Pixel, there were some questions as to what’s exclusive to the new phones and what features are a part of stock Android.
After loading up the developer preview on a Nexus 5X, we’ve found some nice improvements to Android. Keep reading for our complete list of all the changes in Android 7.1.1…
Compared to the first Android N developer preview earlier this year, Google notes that the upcoming previews are of “beta quality” due to 7.1 already being “launched on Pixel.” The developer preview is meant to test out device-specific issue, with updates coming for other supported Nexus and Android One devices later on.
Google notes that users might encounter system instability and higher than expected battery drain when the device battery is low. There are also some freezing issues when playing videos in multiple windows and changing the volume. Fortunately, the Developer Preview is Compatibility Test Suite (CTS) approved and therefore Android Pay should work.
The most obvious user facing feature of Android 7.1 is app shortcuts. At the moment, first-party Google apps are the only ones to support them. Accessible from both the launcher and app drawer, the shortcuts can be dragged out as individual homescreen icons for much quicker access. Unfortunately, they cannot be reordered.
Unlike 3D Touch on the iPhone, a generic long press to access the shortcuts means there is no way to move an icon without first initiating the shortcut. With the Android 7.1 APIs finalized, developers can begin updating their apps with shortcuts and round icons for the Pixel Launcher. Unfortunately, the Nexus 5X even with the Pixel Launcher sideloaded does not feature circular icons.
Reworked Quick Toggles
The next major UI and UX change in Android 7.1 are reworked Quick Settings that add another toggle to the row. The Quick Toggles screen now features a Settings shortcut and next to it a button that slides down the full panel. Previously, the Settings icon was only accessible after another swipe. Overall, I think this will be the most useful day-to-day change in 7.1.
Restart option in Power menu
Settings adds a Support tab
Sound and volume panel features text above icons
Like on the Pixel, Settings now features a Moves screen that includes the double-twist gesture to switch in and out of selfie mode in Google Camera. Additionally, the Ambient Display setting is now listed here.
Redesigned Check for Update screen
Google has finally removed the button that users frequently and futilely smash to receive new updates. The update screen now lists the Android version and security patch level.
New gender equal emoji with dedicated key
As is now typical in releases, Android 7.1.1 includes emoji that will improve gender equality by representing males and females in various professions. In total, there are 100 new emoji with 11 new professions available in both genders and various skin tones, as well as new male and female versions of 33 existing emoji.
The additions were approved by the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee in July, but have just made their way into Android. Additionally, emoji is now more accessible on the keyboard with a dedicated button that opens the picker to the left of the space bar.
Google Keyboard GIF search in Messenger
One of the tentpole features in Android 7.1 is the addition of Gboard-like features to Android keyboards. Unlike iOS, image keyboards are enabled on an app-by-app basis and requires developers to tell the keyboard that GIF entry is supported.
To access, first press the new emoji button and then ‘GIF’ to the right of the space bar. There is a frequently used section on the left and a carousel of other terms populated with popular GIFs. A search bar at the top allows users to look for GIFs with auto suggestions enabled. At the moment, Google Messenger is the only app to support the GIF keyboard.