Staying within the limits of a data plan has been a huge problem for many smartphone users. Long gone are the days of the all-you-can-eat data plans. Sure, T-Mobile and Sprint offer unlimited data plans, but their coverage pales in comparison to that of AT&T and Verizon. For quite some time now, the data saver feature has been baked into Android. However with the release of Android 7.0 Nougat, Google is looking to expand that feature to make it much easier to use and save you a ton of data in the process.
The data saver feature on Android, up until this point, basically consisted of the phone notifying you when you've reached your allocated data cap and cutting off data usage to keep you within that cap. This also required the user to manually put in the start of the billing cycle and the amount of data they are allocated. In Nougat, Google has made this a much smarter feature.
The OS intelligently knows when you are on a metered data plan. Rather than just cut off data access all together, the OS limits background processes on certain apps. This can be accomplished without any interaction with the user. Certain apps can be whitelisted if they need full background processes to work, such as Facebook Messenger, for example.
This feature will even work on prepaid plans. Given the rise of the budget smartphone, many people are opting to purchase a cheaper phone to use on a prepaid MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) carrier such as Metro PCS or Cricket. This can also be helpful to those who are traveling abroad and prefer to just pop in a prepaid SIM from a local carrier.
Given how long it takes for updates to be rolled out to most Android phones, it could be a while until most users will be able to use this feature. However, the upcoming LG V20 handset will launch with Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box, and Samsung is also going to update the recently released Galaxy Note 7 in 2-3 months, if rumors are to be believed that is. Until then, this feature will most likely be limited to those using Nexus phones which run Android 7.0 Nougat.