Android 7.1 Developer Preview announced, coming soon

7.1 brings support for Daydream VR, the app shortcuts API, and several other features, but the Assistant is still just for Pixel and Allo.

Android Nougat is full of great new features, but it’s not even available on most phones yet. That doesn’t mean Google is slowing down. There will be a few point-releases over the coming months, beginning with Android 7.1.

Google just announced the Developer Preview of 7.1 on the Android Developers Blog. It’s not quite available just yet—the blog says it’s coming “later this month.” Google says it has been working with hardware vendors on 7.1 for some time, but it needs to make sure app developers can test and update their offerings before release.

What’s new in 7.1

Some of the nifty stuff you see in the Google Pixel phones is part of Android 7.1, and some of it is exclusive to the Pixel phone (for now). We break down the differences here.

Google’s new blog post details a few of the new features and tools developers and users will get in 7.1:

For developers, Android 7.1 adds new capabilities to help you drive engagement in your app and deliver an improved user experience, such as:
  • 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 wallpaper metadata — lets you provide metadata about your 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.
Android 7.1 also adds these much-requested developer features to the platform:
  • 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.
For carriers and calling apps, the platform includes new APIs to support multi-endpoint calling and new telephony configuration options.

Google’s just-announced Pixel phones will ship with 7.1 on October 20, but it will probably be at least a month or two before it’s available in general release for most Android developers, and surely most phones won’t get updated for months after that. Nexus owners excepted, of course.

If you have a Nexus device and want to try out 7.1, you can easily enroll on the beta program.

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