Android’s Nougat Update Isn’t Flashy, But Still Pretty Handy

Nougat, Google's latest update of its Android smartphone software, isn't particularly flashy; you might not even notice what's different about it at first. But it offers a number of practical time-saving features, plus a few that could save money -- and perhaps even your life.

You'll be able to switch between apps more easily and do more without opening apps at all. New settings also let you block apps from eating up cellular data in the background.

Nougat is starting to appear on phones, including new ones expected from Google next week.

Some of these features may seem familiar because individual manufacturers such as Samsung and LG have built them on their own. But now they are officially part of Android, which means they should work with a greater range of apps and phones.

Multitasking

To switch apps in the past, you had to tap a small square at the bottom and scroll through your open apps. Now, just double tap that square to go directly to your most recently used app. Keep double tapping to toggle between them -- for example, if you want to switch back and forth between email and map.

Or just have both of them open at the same time, one on top of the other. Instead of double tapping that square, press and hold it until the app you have open moves to the top half of the screen. You can then choose another app for the bottom. But some apps won't work properly -- or at all -- in split screen, at least until their makers update them to support the feature.

Going Appless

Nougat will let you reply to messages directly from a notification; for chats, you can also see recent sent and received messages from both sides, not just the most recent incoming note. And when apps such as...

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