As any Android fan can tell you, you don’t need to own Google’s Pixel smartphone to have the latest Android operating system on tap. Though, it has to be said, we’re talking Android 7.1, and not the software the LG V20 will be shipping with, which is based on an earlier version of Nougat.
Google today reiterated its preference for Pixel, Nexus, and Android One devices by announcing plans to release a public beta of Android 7.1, first to the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, and Pixel C and then to the full lineup of supported phones and tablets.
As has been the norm recently, the prerelease software can be downloaded by users who sign up for the Android Beta program, though Google hasn’t specified the exact timing of the roll-out.
Willing guinea pigs Beta testers should get the preview update “later this month.”
It would be fair to say, however, that it could arrive as early as the week of October 20, or days after the Pixel and Pixel XL arrive in hands of U.S. customers.
An incremental update over the current Nougat release, Android 7.1 will bring support for Daydream VR, circular app icons, and app shortcuts, which allows users to jump straight to a certain action or feature of an app from the home screen. The complete list of changes can be found below.
App shortcuts API — lets you surface key actions directly in the launcher and take your users deep into your app instantly. You can create up to 5 shortcuts, either statically or dynamically.
Circular app icons support — lets you provide great-looking rounded icon resources that match the look of Pixel and other launchers.
Enhanced live wallpaper metadata — lets you provide metadata about your live wallpapers to any picker displaying the wallpapers as a preview. You can show existing metadata such as label, description, and author, as well as a new context URL and title to link to more information.
Image keyboard support — expands the types of content that users can enter from their keyboards, letting them express themselves through custom stickers, animated gifs, and more. Apps can tell the keyboard what types of content they accept, and keyboards can deliver all of the images and other content that they offer to the user. For broad compatibility, this API will also be available in the support library.
Storage manager Intent — lets an app take the user directly to a new Settings screen to clear unused files and free up storage space on the device.
If you’re wondering why Google Assistant, the company’s take on Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, isn’t included in the mix, know that it’s not an oversight, and that it’s intended to encourage buyers to purchase or upgrade to a Pixel handset. Other Pixel-specific features on Android 7.1 Nougat include live customer care and the Pixel Camera and Pixel Launcher.