Android, Google, Nougat

At the launch event in San Francisco thi week, Google officially killed the Nexus brand and unveiled its sleek and super-expensive ‘premium’ Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones. The company boasted about its new feature additions and took a straight jab at Apple by laying immense focus upon the simplicity of the devices. But, did you notice that presenters steered clear off the topic of ‘new version of the Android operating system’ ?

Well, as it turns out, there’s a particularly solid reason for the same. The best features of the Pixel smartphones are product-specific and won’t ever make an appearance in the official Nougat release. This includes features such as, the super-smart Google Assistant, the Pixel Launcher, built-in 24X7 customer support, and unlimited backup storage for full-res photos and videos, among others.

With the release of Pixels, Google has now forayed into hardware manufacturing and added another feather to its already flooded hat. Details of which features are Pixel-specific were initially reported by Android Police, who’ve got their hands on the software changelog. But, Google has now confirmed the authenticity of the product-specific changes to TechCrunch.

While one can accept the availability of certain add-on features to Pixel owners, but some of these ommissions just make me cringe a little more each time. Let’s start with the most dishearting news!

Google Assistant, the badass virtual assistant, is a Pixel-only feature and won’t be available to other Android 7.1 users with the latest update. Alongside home-brewed hardware, the Assistant can be seen as Google’s answer to the infamous Siri, rapidly growing Alexa, and somewhat popular Cortana. It is much more interactive and robust when compared to Google Now(or even the basic Google Search), available at the back and call of the user.

Google Assistant is omnipresent and will constantly be available, like always available for fulfilling all your needs. Being a better and upgraded version of Google Now — which was already quite powerful, the Assistant has retained all of its features and added a layer of features on top of it. It is already pretty capable and can do stuff like calling cabs, image captioning, translations etc. with a fair degree of accuracy.

It can also hold a conversation and offers even more utilitarian features, such as adjusting device functions, sending texts and emails, placing calls, or creating reminders. It allows you to control your media streaming Chromecast devices, and also brings in the ability to control smart home devices. Though the complete functionality of Assistant is available only on Pixel devices, you can still try out a preview build of the quirky assistant inside Google’s newly released chat app ‘Allo’

With regard to the same, a Google spokesperson says,

Our goal is to make the Google Assistant widely available to users, and we’ll continue to launch new surfaces over the course of the next year.

In addition, the Pixel smartphones, as reported earlier, will ship alongwith a new ‘quick switch’ adapter that’ll make it easier for you to get rid of your iPhone, and easily transfer data to Android. This ‘hardware’ addition being specific to the Pixel makes absolute sense because Google is directly targetting Apple with this launch. The Pixel also features a Sensor Hub processor with tightly integrated sensors for better connectivity options.

The new Pixel camera application is also tied to the phone’s hardware capabilities, hence it won’t be available for use on other Nougat devices. The Pixel, however, sports a 12.3-megapixel rear shooter with an f/2.0 aperture which lets you shoot auto-stabilised 4K videos, capture photos using smart burst, and HDR+.

While boastign about the camera features of the Pixel smartphones, Google might have packed in a good marketing deal with the inclusion of free and unlimited storage of RAW photos on the cloud. This is one of the complimentary additions that could make the Pixel a worthy choice for users looking to switch from Apple, or just simply buying a new Android device. The Pixel also packs in smart storage capabilities that automatically deletes any instances of old backups.

And finally, the redesigned Google launcher, now known as Pixel launcher, is also restricted for use on Pixel devices. In terms of cosmetic updates, only the Pixel smartphones will feature the new solid navbar icons with home affordance for Assistant, SysUI accent color theming, new wallpaper picker, and finally the dynamic calendar date icon.

But, there is no need to feel dishearted. The next update for Nougat will come packed in with some new features as well. These will inlcude a night light setting; touch and display improvements; opt-in feature of using the fingerprint sensor to open and close the notification shade; seamless A/B system updates; Daydream VR mode; circular icon support; manual storage manager; and support for a multitude of new APIs for developers.

Android 7.1 is expected to be made available as a developer preview later this month.

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