Google's Nexus smartphones were known for the fastest updates of the stock Android operating system. But now the search giant has gone a step beyond, with its newly released Pixel phone. The Pixel has all the goodies included in Android Nougat 7.1 and, in addition, has extra exclusive features. Let's first look at the major features offered by Android Nougat and then we'll take a look at exclusive Pixel features.
One of Android Nougat's most noticeable features is the fully baked support for split screen apps. While Samsung mastered that in the Note series and Google introduced half-cooked support in Android Marshmallow 6.0, this time the job has been done completely.
You can open the multi-tasking menu and drag one of the apps to the upper or lower part of the screen to start the split screen. Double tap on multi-tasking takes you to the previous app that you were using. Think of it as the 1-2 button on the TV remote.
Also, the notification feature can now be interactive, as in the messaging apps where you can reply quickly to a text.
Now, in Pixel you'll see a tighter integration of these features. One of the biggest exclusives to the newest Google flagship phone is unlimited photo and video storage at the original quality. This is a very big deal given the number of high resolution pictures we shoot everyday. And, this includes 4K videos shot from the Pixel as well.
There is a smart storage option as well. So, when the phone is running out of space, Google will automatically determine the large and the least seen photos and videos from the phone, so there will be free space for you to use. The images will still be stored in the cloud.
The Pixel launcher has a new style of presenting apps. The bar on the top is gone but you can still swipe left to open Google Now and search. A swipe from the bottom up will open the new app drawer, where on the top there is an app search window and your most recently used apps. Then there are the apps, listed vertically, so that you have to scroll down to see them all.
Another thing baked into the Pixel settings menu is 24 x 7 support for the phone. This includes chat, call and more. Since customer service is a sore point for most smartphone users, this is a very welcome feature. Google has tied up with HTC in India to provide customer support.
Apple introduced force touch in Macs and the Apple Watch, and that was later introduced into iPhones as '3D touch'. Now, Google has incorporated the same functionality with the help of software rather than the hardware. You just have to long press and menu options pop up. Right now these are enabled for Google's apps, but other apps should also have this feature soon.
One key Nougat differentiation between Pixel and other phones is the built-in Google Assistant. Google introduced it through the chat app Allo. But in the Pixel phone, it replaces the Google Now. You can long-press the new animated home button and the Assistant shows up. After that, you can start asking questions.
The Assistant is quite quirky and does a very good job of doing tasks such as searching for restaurants, setting reminds, telling you scores and even telling you jokes. It is certainly in its early stages of development but it is going to be a part of the core experience provided by Google.
Google Pixel has a few gestures as well, called Moves, under the settings menu. There is the famous shake-to-switch-on-the-camera gesture 'borrowed' from Motorola. You can also pull down the notification tray by swiping down on the fingerprint sensor. That is pretty useful when you want to quickly check a notification that has been lying around without adjusting the grip. And then, there is the double clicking on the power button to open the camera, which is not particularly new.