Spring has sprung, and with it, a new version of Android. Well, kind of. Google has recently released a developer preview build of Android O, the next iteration of Android that is designed to improve upon its predecessor in all aspects. Even though there still is a lot of time until Google will actually release Android O to the public as a full product, as it is supposed to be released somewhere in the third quarter of 2017, there are certain distinguishable features that already define it.
While there are not so many visual changes in the design of the interface, Google did change one aspect that will influence the looks of icons in the future. Given that the Play Store never provided developers with a certain standard for the app icons, many choose different styles, leading to many users’ menu screens looking completely out of order. “Adaptive icons” are Google solutions to this problem, as Android O takes the app icons, shrinks them and puts them in other icons, meaning that your screens will finally have one design across all apps, giving some peace of mind to adepts of minimalistic and unified design.
The notifications shade also received a significant update, shrinking the time and date and using the space more wisely in order to display more status bar icons. Meanwhile, the notifications themselves are the exact same as you’ll find them in Android Nougat.
There are many more changes than just some minor design tweaks, though. Perhaps one of the most exciting feature, and probably the one that will see the most use is picture in picture support. Finally, users will be able to keep watching their videos or live streams in smaller sizes while they carry on using their device. This feature is already implemented in certain apps such as YouTube or Twitch, but the feature is not supported outside of any app.
Users will also get a lot more control over their notifications, as the new notification shade allows users to long press any desired notification in order to open a prompt that then asks them whether they want to disable all future notifications from the app. Additionally, if users swipe any app to the side, they will see two icons: one that takes them to the notifications section in settings, and the other one that allows them to snooze the notification for 15 minutes, but there is a drop-down menu that gives more choice regarding the amount of time that notification should be snoozed for.
Google has also made some changes under the hood, which may not be visible, but are noticeable in time. Perhaps one of the most welcome ones is an increase battery life. Given that the team behind Android has been striving to find new ways to improve battery life ever since Android Marshmellow, with the Doze mode that kept phones in low power states while not used, it was expected to see a new idea that will preserve our batteries by improving on their previous ones. That being said, Android O takes Doze one step further by limiting what apps can do while open in the background. This is also said to improve speed, as Android O’s runtime is twice as fast in certain benchmarks.
Another unseen change is better autofill support, which will lead to more accurate and effortless password management because users will now be able to choose their preferred password and data management app which will work with autofill.
People who extensively use their Android devices for music listening are going to be delighted with the latest additions regarding sound, namely sound over Bluetooth, as the Android O features a built-in high-quality Bluetooth audio codecs, along with Sony’s LDAC technology which will allow hi-res audio playback over Bluetooth. This is a blessing in a time where one of the biggest competitors of the mobile market, Apple, has chosen to remove the headphone jack, possibly giving birth to a new fad. This leads to more and more people being pushed towards Bluetooth headphones, meaning that Android O will be a blessing for those who are preparing for the worst in the future or simply jumping ship from an iDevice.
One of the many other features brought by Android O is Wi-Fi awareness, which will allow devices connected to the same Wi-Fi connection to communicate with each other and interact using apps without requiring an actual internet connection.
If you are intrigued and excited by these new features and you feel like you absolutely need to try them out right now, you should know that you don’t actually have to be a developer to download the developer preview version. All you have to do is navigate to Google’s Android Developer website, where they have uploaded versions of Android O tailored for the following phones: Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Pixel C, Pixel and Pixel XL, download the image for your phone and then manually flash it to your device. If you don’t know how to flash an image, or you don’t have a supported device, you’ll have to wait for a possible OTA update.
However, just because you can it doesn’t mean you should install Android O on your primary device. While the new features may be fun to play with, the developer build is just that: a taste of what’s to come, and as such, it’s probably buggy and may lead to unpleasant experiences whenever you need your phone the most. If you do have a spare device around, then it might be worth the effort to install Android O just to check out the new features. Casual Android users should stick to their current versions of Android until the official release of Android O in order to avoid damaging their phones.
All in all, it might be too early to pass a verdict on whether or not Android O will be a resounding success, but so far it definitely looks promising, featuring some welcome additions such as picture-in-picture support and little visual tweaks that are sure to win over some new fans. Stay tuned in order to read the latest developments regarding Android O.