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Android O: latest news and features

Android Nougat was officially released eight months ago, in August 2016, and we've been seeing a continuous rollout on Android flagships ever since. So, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Google has been working on the next Android 8.0 update. Its features have been announced, and the second developer preview and public beta are available. During and after Google I/O 2017, we got new details on features. Read on for all the latest.

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Android O release date

Google posted the new release timeline on their developer site, which tells us that the final release of Android 8.0 is expected in Q3 2017 - but there's no specific date set yet. Already the first Developer Preview and the public beta are available.

android o timeline 1
The release timeline / © Google

Android O features

Some Android O features hide under the hood, others show up immediately on the surface. Since the former will affect all devices, we will begin with them. The latter are immediately visible with the preview-compatible Nexus and Pixel devices, but are often not used by manufacturers in their own UIs and are therefore less important, so we will detail them last.

Android O core features

Power saving thanks to Android O

To protect users' battery life and performance, Google has put automatic limits on app background activities in Android O. These background limits will specifically include implicit broadcasts, background services and location updates. For users, this means less energy consumption, and ultimately, longer battery life.

Android O makes it easier to find the apps that consume the most battery power. Usually Facebook or WhatsApp end up in the list. But only with Android O can you see if the apps have been draining your battery with background activities, or whether they are only using battery life when you're in the app.

Earlier updates thanks to Project Treble

With Project Treble, Android O will get a vendor interface. This means that Android will be more modular so that manufacturers can use the vendor interface to access the implementations from internal component vendors, such as Qualcomm and MediaTek, for example. This will allow Android updates to happen more easily, because the whole process can be done independently of these vendor implementations. The idea is to speed up updates from manufacturers by making the process more streamlined.

project treble changes
Project Treble will separate things so updates can happen more quickly / © Google

Apps and reboots are faster with Android O

Optimizations in the system should cut device restart time in half and dramatically increase app performance. This is evident from independent reports from XDA and Android Police.

Apps are better thanks to Google Play Protect and tougher enforcement of criteria

Google Play Protect is a background service that will optimize security on Android by analyzing the behavior of apps to detect malware, and remove it from your phone and from the Play Store.

Google is also increasing pressure on app developers to increase the performance and stability of their apps. If they fall in the bottom 25 percent, they are warned and then removed from the Play Store if there's no improvement.

Wi-Fi Aware (also known as Neighbor Awareness Networking or NAN)

Wi-Fi Aware (also known as Neighbor Awareness Networking or NAN): This function basically works so that devices with compatible hardware can communicate when they are close, via Wi-Fi Aware, without necessarily having to use the internet connection.

Autofill revolutionizes password management

Google is bringing a system-wide Autofill API to Android O, allowing all of your passwords to be managed in a central place. This will mean convenience and security when logging into apps and filling out forms, since there won't be any need to copy/paste usernames and passwords anymore.

Android O hardware support

HDR displays are officially supported

HDR is an interesting feature, but there was little support on the system side. Now, apps can define how to save and display image resources with a wide range of colors. Google says this is especially relevant for image processing apps.

android o settings
Google has reorganized the Settings menu / © AndroidPIT

Better Bluetooth support

Android O supports high-quality Bluetooth audio and codecs such as LDAC. Sony is helping Google in the development of LDAC audio wireless technology. According to the company, LDAC can transfer a larger volume of data through Bluetooth, with a bit rate of more than 990 kbps. In other words, this means better audio quality for devices running with Android O. There is also AAudio, a new Android native API designed for applications that require high-performance, low-latency audio quality. Applications that use AAudio can read and save data via stream.

Android O surface features

Text selection gets smarter

Copy/pasting on mobile is about to get easier, and smarter. Using machine learning, Android will recognize when you're trying to copy/paste an address, URL or phone number and select the whole thing for you automatically, instead of just one word.

New round emoji

With this update from Developer Preview 1 to 2, the emoji changed. RIP blob emoji. The newer ones are closer to the standard circular ones used on most other platforms like iOS and WhatsApp. This article from Emojipedia shows the old ones and new ones in comparison.

emojis android o
Android O Developer Preview 1 emoji (left); DP2's new emoji (right) / © AndroidPIT

Adaptive icons

App icons will adapt automatically to the manufacturer's UI. The appearance of app icons differs across the wide range of devices running Android. Thus, an app icon may appear to be circular in the launcher of one device and square in another. That, of course, depends on the manufacturer's skin, but it's cool to see that Google will now offer a standard for adapting application icons to the UI (if the developer does).

adaptatives icons android o
Icons can take different forms now, as indicated on the left. / © Google Developers

Notification channels and dots

Once again, Google is bringing changes to notifications with the introduction of Notification Channels and Notification Dots. Notification channels are new categories for notifications that give users very detailed control over notifications. Block or change notifications settings not just by app, but by channel or topic. These channels are visually grouped together on the notification shade.

android o preview UI notifications
Notifications in Android O Developer Preview 2 / © AndroidPIT

Small circles will appear on top of your app icons when you have unread notifications, and long pressing them will give you a preview of the notification. This will be standardized in Android O, much like in iOS and various alternative Android launchers. 

Widgets are easier to integrate

It's now easier to integrate widgets to your home screen. Rather than digging through the alphabetical list of widgets as in previous versions of Android, you can now long press the icon of the app you want a widget for and then select one of its available widgets.

Search and find app info

Since Android Lollipop the Settings menu has had a search function. With the update to Android O, the search gets a new feature. App info now appears in the search results for installed apps. So, you can quickly access an app's App info menu to quit the app, delete its cache or manage its permissions.

android o settings search apps
Search and find the settings for installed apps. / © AndroidPIT

Picture-in-picture 

With the new picture-in-picture mode, multitasking is even easier. You can have an app open or play a video in a small window, much like what you can do in the YouTube app already, instead of showing it side-by-side with another app in the usual multi-window mode. This way is more flexible, and several apps will support it soon, including YouTube, Netflix, Maps, Duo and more.

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Picture-in-picture mode / © AndroidPIT

Android O: install the public beta

The public beta of Android O was just made available during Google I/O. You can find out how to download and install the Android O public beta in our article here, along with instructions for getting the Developer Preview.

Android O name: will it be called Android Oreo?

A Reddit user found an easter egg in a Google Creative Lab developer's app called ShortStories, which is a text-based game that explores different UI functions of Android. The user, Zitroney, made it to the Dialogs section of the app where he unlocked the Android O section on a path when the player has to seek Android sweets. Once he happened upon the O, the description seemed just like an Oreo: "disc-like," "chocolaty, crunchy," and "dark brown in color with a milky white center".

android oreo teaser
You can see the user's screenshot to the right. / © Reddit user Zitroney

This is just a tease, and not an official confirmation from Google that Android O will be Oreo. Remember when so many people thought Android N would be Nutella rather than Nougat? There could still be a surprise name coming for us.

We will keep you updated on what we find in the developer preview, so check back soon. What features would you like to see in the next Android version? Will you be flashing the developer preview?

Source: GadgetHacks

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