It’s not exactly a secret that Android 7.1 is coming, thanks to the Google Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones. But now Google is formally acknowledging that fact, and shares a few tidbits of what’s to come. Of course, it isn’t coming immediately just yet, with an open developer preview only starting later this October, and a wider rollout probably still months afterwards. That said, given the proximity of the 7.0 and 7.1 releases, it will inevitably skew the rollout schedule of Android Nougat to OEM devices.
Google isn’t yet sharing the full changelog for Android 7.1, but we already got an idea thanks to a leak last week. For now, the Android maker is content to share a few user-facing new features. App shortcuts is pretty much Android’s version of iOS 3D Touch, offering users up to 5 key actions on an app icon. Android 7.1 also brings official support for circular icons, which might simply be a minor aesthetic change for some.
Of course, a new Android version also comes with goodies for developers. Stickers are all the rage nowadays, so Android is getting image keyboard support for stickers, animated GIFs, and more. The platform is also getting a direct, built-in feature for freeing up storage space and cleaning up unused files, functionality previously only found in OEM and third-party apps.
Naturally, Google isn’t talking about the features that Android 7.1 Nougat won’t have that will be exclusive to the Google Pixel, like Google Assistant for example. That, however, has already been unofficially ported to other devices, though it requires a lot more work than a simple firmware upgrade.
Google is opening the preview of Android 7.1 for developers enrolled in the Android Beta program. The open beta will, however, be limited to the Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, and Pixel C tablet. Of course, others will be included in the final release, like the Nexus 9, Nexus 6, select Android One smartphones, and even the Nexus Player.
Although it its definitely good news that Android 7.1 is on its way, the timing could mean that it will take longer for devices to get any version of Nougat. Android 7.0 has been out for only 2 or so months, and, other than the Nexus devices and the LG V20, no other commercially available smartphone officially has it yet. OEMs might decide to simply just jump into 7.1 directly, which means a longer wait for users.