Google is changing the way it’s handling Android updates (it’s high time it did, we might add) by introducing Maintenance Releases (MR).
These patches will include bug fixes and tweaks, and we can speculate that Google could use the opportunity to add certain new features or change the behavior of existing ones. The first MR for Android 7.0 Nougat is expected this fall, and more will follow on a quarterly basis.
We don’t know yet whether MR will bump up the version number. In other words, will MR1 be called Android 7.0.1, Android 7.1, or something else entirely?
We have some flimsy evidence that points to Android 7.1. One clue is a section in the Android Developer Console (first spotted by Android Police) that includes a mention of Android 7.1.
Another is the presence of Android 7.1 in the analytics logs of various websites and apps. Here’s a sample from our Analytics:
While it’s possible that Googlers are using 7.1 in the wild right now – and visiting Android Authority – it’s also likely that lots of hits are coming from devices whose build.prop was altered to show a custom Android version. For instance, we also see Android 8.0, Android 9.0, and even Android 69.0 in Analytics. So we wouldn’t put too much stock on Android O showing up anytime soon.
What will Android 7.1 bring, assuming it’s real? The prevailing thinking seems to be that it would include certain features that Google saved for the release of the two HTC-made Nexuses.
Regardless of the specifics, the good news is Google is becoming more flexible with the way it handles updates, and more transparent about it, thanks to the ongoing Android Beta program. So whatever is in store for MR1, we should find out pretty soon.