The first Android 8.0 O preview has landed, so here’s everything you need to know, including the best features, latest release date news, name rumours, and how to download the beta, plus which phones are likely to get Android O first.
The first version of Android O is now available to developers registered with Google, and while the OS is still in its infancy, there’s much to ponder, including lots of cool new features.
1) BACKGROUND LIMITS
Google is continuing efforts to maximise battery life, which began with Android Nougat. It says it’s increased the automatic limits on what apps can do in the background in a number of key areas (broadcasts, background services, location updates).
“These changes will make it easier to create apps that have minimal impact on a user’s device and battery. Background limits represent a significant change in Android, so we want every developer to get familiar with them,” the blog post reads.
As revealed in a recent leak, Google is bringing new PiP (picture-in-picture) features that enable users to continue watching videos while working within other apps; apps will be able to put themselves in PiP mode, Google says.
In other words, with Android O, you’ll be able to watch YouTube clips while sending boring work emails. Ace.
3) NOTIFICATION CHANNELS
Here’s a nice idea: Google is grouping notifications into channels that offer users greater control over app notification categories.
“Users can block or change the behavior of each channel individually, rather than managing all of the apps’ notifications together,” Google explains.
It will also be possible to snooze individual notifications, which, given the persistence of some Android system notifications, will be most welcome. Snoozing will be possible for 15 minutes, 30 minutes or one hour.
4) AUTOFILL APIS
Google is bringing your favorite password manager apps in-house, in the same way you can access third-party keyboards.
The company writes: “Android users already depend on a range of password managers to auto-fill login details and repetitive information, which makes setting up new apps or placing transactions easier. Now we’re making this work more easily available across the ecosystem by adding platform support for auto-fill.”
5) ADAPTIVE ICONS
Google is adding a feature that will enable developers to use different-shaped app icons depending on the manufacturer’s preference (see the GIF below).
What’s more, during its initial dive into the preview, Android Police spotted that app icons now support badge notifications in Android O.
6) BETTER KEYBOARD NAVIGATION
Google says the arrival of the Play Store on the Google Chrome OS means more users are navigating apps using a physical keyboard. So, in Android O, the company is making improvements to cater for the Chromebook crowd.
“In Android O, we focused on building a more reliable, predictable model for “arrow” and “tab” navigation that aids both developers and end-users,” Google said.
7) WIDE COLOUR GAMUT IN IMAGING APPS
The makers of imaging apps can now make better use of the delicious new displays built by manufacturers; particularly those handsets with panels supporting a wide gamut colour.
“To display wide gamut images, apps will need to enable a flag in their manifest (per activity) and load bitmaps with an embedded wide color profile (Adobe RGB, Pro Photo RGB, DCI-P3, and so on),” Google advises developers.
8) BETTER AUDIO
In Android O, Google is adding the Sony’s LDAC codec, which has kindly been donated by the Japanese giant. This should improve upon the Bluetooth A2DP protocol used today.
The company is also introducing the AAudio, which could result in improved low-latency audio. The firm says: It’s a “new native API that’s designed specifically for apps that require high-performance, low-latency audio.”
The first developer preview will be available on the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Pixel, Pixel XL and Pixel C devices.
“The usual caveats apply: it’s early days, there are more features coming, and there’s still plenty of stabilisation and performance work ahead of us. But it’s booting,” Google added.
Those are the coolest Android O features at the moment, but we still have plenty to tell you, starting with…
ANDROID O RELEASE DATE – WHEN DOES ANDROID O COME OUT?
It isn’t 100% clear at the moment, but Google has promised to deep-dive into Android O features at Google I/O 2017, so we’re expecting to learn more at that time.
Google’s developer conference will take place from May 17-19, giving Big G more than a month’s worth of developer feedback on the current version of Android O.
Expect to see Android O exit developer preview mode and enter public beta thereafter.
ANDROID O NAME – WHAT WILL ANDROID O BE CALLED?
Right now, we haven’t the foggiest, but we do know one thing – it’s highly likely you’ll be able to have your say.
In 2016, with Android Nougat, Google invited the public to suggest names for what was then known simply as Android N – although note that popular candidates such as Android Nutella (too expensive?) and Android New York Cheesecake (too long?) didn’t end up seeing the light of day.
A similar scenario seems likely for Android O, with lots of interwebbers already vocal in their support for Android Oreo.
Wild cards could include Android Oatmeal Cookie, or Google might surprise by fully embracing its holier-than-thou Californian roots and dub its new OS Android Orange.
Any thoughts? Head straight to the comments and share away!
ANDROID O BETA – CAN I DOWNLOAD IT NOW?
While you can download Android O, the version available isn’t the official beta – as mentioned above, that’s likely to be released at I/O 2017.
Right now, you can access only the first developer preview, and Google advises against installing it on your device unless you’re actually a developer.
Still fancy your chances? To get it on a supported phone or tablet (more on that below), you’ll need to manually flash a system image to your device. Note that this removes all data from your device, so be sure to back up first.
Not sure how to flash an image? Then it you’d probably be wise to just wait for the beta.
Why? Well, glitchy bordering on unusable apps and software is pretty much guaranteed at this stage, and the uninitiated could easily end up bricking their device, or accidentally losing all their data.
Plus, depending on the terms of your warranty, it’s entirely possible that installing pre-release software voids the terms of your agreement, so unless you know what you’re doing, our advice is to err on the side of caution.
Those suitably well versed and wanting to plough ahead can find all the necessary Android O downloads and more detailed guides here.
As we mentioned above, the first developer preview is limited to the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Pixel, Pixel XL and Pixel C devices.
ANDROID O PHONES – WHEN WILL MY PHONE GET ANDROID O?
Since Android O is still in development, no phones officially support it, but we do have an idea of the devices it will come to first.
In fact, they’re the same handsets to which you can download the Android O developer preview. They are:
- Nexus 5X
- Nexus 6P
- Google Pixel
- Google Pixel XL
Notice a theme? Yep, they’re all Google own-brand devices, and they’re likely to be the first to get access to the final build of Android O later this year.
It follows that the first handset to ship with Android O will almost certainly be the Google’s Pixel 2 smartphone, which we’re expecting to see launch in autumn.
After that, it’s a bit of a minefield as Android manufacturers look to adapt their in-house software touches and skins to Google’s new OS, and timelines for Android O will vary dramatically.
However, based on past experience we can say that Moto smartphones – which run virtually stock Android – tend to be front of the queue when it comes to third-party hardware.