Android Nougat update hits a home run on Samsung’s flagship phones
By Chong Jinn Xiung February 7, 2017
- New Android update offers multi-window support and more power-saving options
- A refreshing new look that offers users practical benefits
THE distinction of running the latest Android operating system usually falls to Google devices like the Pixel and Nexus smartphones.
However, Samsung released its Android 7.0 Nougat update to Galaxy S7 Edge and S7 users in early 2017, allowing them to enjoy the sweet goodness of the new features offered by the operating system.
To be perfectly honest, I was a bit worried when I was notified that my S7 Edge was eligible for the Nougat update. Normally I would jump at the chance to upgrade to the latest firmware but I have been burnt in the past when my phone performed less optimally after the update.
Fortunately, after using Nougat for the past two weeks, I am happy to report that I have no performance issues with my device.
Here is my impression of the Galaxy S7 Edge post-Nougat update and how it has changed my experience with the device.
Over the years, Samsung has made many changes to the TouchWiz interface that it overlays on top of regular Android. TouchWiz was notorious for its heavy handed customisation and Samsung has since eased up on the wacky colours and proprietary apps that it used to include in its phones in the past.
That has all melted away in Nougat as Samsung has opted for a more minimalist look and feel, with an emphasis on a clean white interface with faint hints of a blue accent in the text.
I wouldn’t say that the interface has been cleaned up so much that it feels like vanilla Android but it does look very fetching in its own right. Even the core apps like the dialer and messaging app adopt this look.
The home screen looks very much the same and I found myself checking the system settings after my device rebooted to make sure it was indeed updated to Nougat.
Within the Settings page, I noticed the first signs of Nougat’s complete overhaul. Everything is so much more simplified now as all the various settings are grouped together into categories like Connections, Display and Applications.
I do however, miss the colour coded settings and favourites that you could set at the top of the settings page in Marshmallow, but the handy search bar on top lets me get to the settings I want quicker.
On the whole, I felt my phone was more prudent in power management as it automatically notifies me if an app is consuming too much power when I set it on Power Saving mode.
There are a wealth of settings you can customise such as tweaking the brightness level as well as a speed limiter to lower the CPU speed and limit background network usage.
Interestingly, you can now set the screen resolution lower than its full Quad HD resolution of (2,560 x 1,440) to regular full HD (1,920 x 1,080) and plain HD (1,280 x 720).
Nougat actually defaults to full HD resolution at the start, so I did not immediately realise that the screen resolution was toned down. Having been used to a full HD screen on my previous phone I did not mind the slightly lowered resolution as I would gladly trade it for more battery life.
I do, however, draw the line at HD quality as it severely degrades picture quality. I would, however, consider using at a pinch, for example, I was travelling and had no power bank.
Though some may dispute that the battery performance may not be as great as Marshmallow, I thought it was an improvement.
A typical day’s worth of usage for me involves answering messages, sending emails, checking Facebook, watching Youtube and playing the occasional game in between.
Between 9 am to 6 pm is when I would be heavily using the phone for all the above activities. I noticed that by the end of the day at around 6.30 pm, I would have drained the phone’s battery down to 50% while it would have been about 45% in Marshmallow.
You could say that the slight increase in power is nothing noteworthy, but every bit of power saved counts, especially if you are always on the go.
I found it interesting that there is a new Device Maintenance option in the settings. I initially mistook it for the power settings but was soon greeted by an interface that “checked” on my device’s performance by giving it a rating based on its battery efficiency, storage, RAM and security.
It functions much like other free optimising apps like CC Cleaner and while it is questionable whether it truly “boosts” your device’s performance, I thought it was a nice touch to have this function built in.
There is, of course, Nougat’s most recognisable new feature, Multiwindow. Samsung users have already been enjoying multitasking on their phones for several years now, particularly on the Note series of phones.
While it may not be super exciting for Samsung users, the benefit of having native Android support for Multiwindow means that there can be more apps supporting it in the future, opening the possibility of better multitasking.
The split screen mode works seamlessly as you merely have to hit the App Switcher button, look through the available apps that support multi-window mode and enable them by hitting the little double window icon.
At the moment, there are still far too few apps that support Multiwindow to make it truly useful. In the right situation however it really helps. The combination of Chrome and Google Maps in Multiwindow mode saved me during a recent trip down to Port Dickson.
Helping to navigate to an unfamiliar restaurant, I had to quickly look up the address and location of the restaurant on Chrome while keeping Google Maps active as we drove, subsequently punching in new coordinates.
In line with Nougat’s aesthetics, the drop down notification menu has been drastically cleaned up. The Quick Toggle icons are much smaller now, leaving you more room to read your messages and other app prompts.
Speaking of notifications, I love the way Nougat neatly bundles notifications from similar apps together so your panel doesn’t get flooded by every message you receive.
Even better, there is a direct reply function that lets you type and send your WhatsApp or SMS reply without opening the app itself.
By far, I found this to be the most useful feature in Nougat as I spent less time switching between apps and actually replying quicker within the notifications menu.
But I must admit that when I receive several WhatsApp messages in rapid succession I still need to open the app to read all messages in the thread.
If there is one word to describe the overall Nougat experience, “simplified” comes to mind. Everything from the way you navigate to replying messages and switching camera modes is so much easier.
Contrary to popular belief that new firmware updates typically drain battery performance, I found my device lasting longer by half an hour compared to the previous firmware.
Replying messages quickly directly from the notification window was another big benefit of Nougat that I found thoroughly useful.
Simply put, Android Nougat makes the Galaxy S7 Edge a better device and I can’t now imagine using an older operating system with it.