Surprise! Android O is official!
Google today announced a developer preview of Android O, the next major release of its mobile operating system. The preview is available for the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel C, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, and Nexus Player. You’re going to have to put in some work if you want to install the update, because Google is only offering the preview as a file that you can download and flash. There’s no OTA update available yet.
As for what’s included in Android O, there’s a big focus here on battery life improvements. Google is putting more automatic limits on what apps can do in the background when it comes to implicit broadcasts, background services, and location updates. The goal here is to put limits on what apps can do while they’re running in the background, meaning that they’re less likely to hog performance and your battery life when you’re not using them.
Android O is also adding notification channels, which give developers better control over different kinds of notifications. This then lets users change the behavior of each notification category, giving them more fine-grained control over an app’s alerts. Android O also includes better visuals and groupings for notifications.
Picture-in-picture mode is coming with Android O, too. As its name suggests, this feature lets you continue watching video on your phone or tablet while you’re doing things outside of that video app. Also included here is multi-display support for launching apps on a remote display.
With Android O, Google is also letting developers create adaptive icons. These app icons can be displayed in different shapes based on the mask chosen by the phone. These adaptive icons can also be animated.
Google is placing more of a focus on keyboard navigation with Android O, as well, building a more reliable model for using the arrow and tab keys to navigate the OS.
Also included with Android O are autofill APIs. This feature should make it easier to use apps that autofill fields of information, like password apps.
Other developer-focused features of Android O include font resources in XML, wide-gamut color for apps, AAudio API for pro audio, WebView enhancements, and Java 8 language APIs and runtime optimizations.
Google will share more details about Android O at Google I/O in May.
There aren’t a ton of new user-facing features that’ve been announced for Android O yet, but that’s because it’s still in an early developer preview. What we do know so far makes the update sound nice, though. Battery life is one of those things that most every smartphone user wishes were better, so it’s good to hear that Google is focusing more on that issue with Android O. We’ll have to wait for the update to be released before we see exactly how much battery life these background app limits give us, though.
If you’re a developer that’s interested in giving Android O a try right now, you can find the images available for download right now. If you’re a normal user, you may want to hold off on installing this release, at least when it comes to your daily driver.