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With over a decade under its belt, Android has built a long history as Google's mobile operating system. And in that history are dozens of little features, changes, and updates that have added, removed, or modified aspects of that OS in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. But for every new option Google brings to Android, we're probably forgetting one that been in there for years that we've simply not bothered to use in a while. And in some cases, these are pretty genuinely useful things!
Remember you can use two fingers to swipe down for quick settings? Screen pinning? Lock screen messages?
Now that a large portion of our daily lives is spent staring at a screen, we've started becoming more and more concerned that this behavior may impact our circadian rhythms and the quantity and quality of our sleep. The hypothesis goes that humans have evolved to sync their sleep cycles to the cycle of the Sun, and that shining the pale blue glow of a phone screen into our eyes at night throws that sync off-balance and prevents our brain from recognizing when it's time to sleep. That's why so many devices now have a 'night mode,' where the color of the screen shifts to a more reddish tint at night so as to minimize the impact to sleep.
These days, many manufacturers include some sort of blue light filter or "night light" in their phones' ROMs. Google, Samsung, OnePlus, and some other companies are on the list, and Sony was as well with its "Good night actions" function in Xperia Actions for phones in the XA1 family. However, following the impending Oreo updates, no Sony phone will have a built-in blue light filter.
ChromeOS development is on fire these days. Just yesterday we got news that we'd have a new setting for closing the lid on a Chromebook. And today we find out that a new automatic Night Light feature is inbound and has just entered the Canary channel. If you've ever used Kindle's Blue Shade, f.lux, or LineageOS' LiveDisplay feature, then you know that this means. If you aren't familiar with any of those, think a red-tinted mode for use at night.
Night Light made its formal debut on Android 7.1 Nougat not long ago, but that doesn't mean that it can't be improved upon. The second Android O developer preview has added a slider that allows you to control the intensity of Night Light, just in case you found the default to be too yellow.
As the holidays close in (at least for many readers), Google is rolling out a stream of updates to various apps. In addition to the major Keyboard update earlier today, Play Books is making some changes, as well. The big change on this release is the adoption of the bottom navigation bar. Digging a bit deeper also reveals improvements to the way issues are displayed for comics and other series, and a couple of other visual tweaks.
Offering developer previews is very beneficial to a platform, but it also comes with its own perils. For example, people get upset when a feature that was part of the preview is dropped before the final release. Google has been derided in many a comment section for the removal of night mode in the final Nougat release, and now the hacky night mode enabler apps don't even work anymore. Is Google doing this because it hates you personally? That must be it.
The Android 7.1 developer preview is rolling out, so Nexus phones are getting their first taste of the software shipping on the Pixel. Since it's a dev preview, it can be hard to know if missing features are missing because they're not done, or if they just aren't going to be included at all. Googler Ian lake has clarified that two features not listed as Pixel-exclusive still won't be coming to existing Nexus phones—night light and fingerprint reader gestures.
For those of you who were worried about Google's current Android devices not receiving Android 7.1 Nougat, don't be; Google has confirmed that the Pixel phones' current software version will be arriving on Nexus devices and the Pixel C before the end of the year. However, these devices won't be receiving some Pixel-exclusive (Pixelsclusive?) features.
Google will introduce a new layout for its settings apps on the upcoming 2016 Nexus phones to accommodate its new Google Support tool (which we previously showed you), a new way to activate the ambient display mode via double-tap, as well as a "Night Light" to tint the display red (turn off blue pixels) for easier evening viewing, we've learned from a trusted source. The new settings UI and the Night Light mode are pictured below. We do not have any visuals of the support tab itself, unfortunately, though as we said in our previous exclusive, we believe the Google Support app will allow for live screen sharing with customer support reps for owners of supported Nexus devices.