Google has released the developer preview of their latest Android OS (Operating System), code named Android O. If you think you know what the O may stand for, applaud our like-mindedness. The curious case of Android is that, while most phones are still awaiting a stable Android N (Nougat) update, Google plans to release a new developer OS yet again.
A major factor that differentiates Android phones from iPhones is the latter’s update management. Apple releases OS updates across their phone and tablet line-up, from day one. The same cannot be said about Android and its OS updates. Even today, there are just a handful of phones that run Android N.
As pointless as these updates may seem, they will be your primary OS before you realise it. With Android O around the corner, the earlier builds and claims aim towards a stable battery optimised OS experience across manufacturer devices. Although early, here are 21 things that Android O plans to bring at Android’s vast user base.
Before we start, you must understand that Android O is released as a Developer Preview and hence is targeted to a niche crowd, for now. This crowd is primarily the developers and users who agree to help these developers test beta versions of their apps for improvements. This OS is in its initial stages and will receive many updates before it is termed stable for general use. Here’s all we know about it so far.
1. High quality audio streaming over wireless connections
You might want to thank Sony for sharing their LDAC technology with Android’s new OS. With traditional SBC Bluetooth connections, the quality of audio dropped significantly due to lower transfer speeds. LDAC allows users to enjoy lossless audio quality over Bluetooth. Not only that, the new OS also boasts support for aptX and aptX HD audio playback over Bluetooth.
With data streaming apps providing HD audio or FLAC downloads on the move, the future of audio is clearer than it ever was.
2. NAN (Neighbourhood Aware Network) mode on Wi-Fi
When it comes to file sharing, there is nothing as the convenience of an app that can allow users to share files over Wi-Fi connections. With everyone’s phone sporting at least one of the dozens of apps that do so, it made sense that Android makes it a system function. Without the use of any third party app, users will now be able to share files and high speed data using NAN.
The capabilities of NAN are virtually boundless and if done flawlessly, we might witness multiplayer gaming, file and data sharing revolution.
3. Android phones may (finally!) have improved battery lives
One of the major grudges when it comes to using an Android phone has to be it’s limitations with battery life. This extends to the factors of battery optimisations and overall power management. Android O adds strict limitations to the behaviour of apps running in background. This would not only enable sensible use of resources but also improve standby battery usage on every Android device.
Apple has been doing this for ages and Google now plans to bring something similar to Android, finally!
4. Good displays will edit and look even better
Android O adds support to a wide colour gamut within apps. Google will aid developers to display their apps in wide colour gamut based on the supported displays. Profiles like AdobeRGB, Pro Photo RGB, and DCI-P3 will be supported natively for image and video editing on the move. This is great news for creative app makers and professional users.
Is this Google’s way of answering Microsoft’s approach, is an interesting outcome to watch out for.
5. PIP (picture in picture) and better windowing features
Windows is best known for its amazing windowing capabilities. Not even Apple has been able to bring such ease to their OS. Google understands user needs and thus has bought support for better windowing features across displays. Also, Android O will enable PIP for every Android device and video/imaging app.
How will developers use this feature is yet to be seen. A floating video window as you use other apps is nothing but convenience.
6. Adaptive icons bring icon uniformity across manufacturers
Pick up several Android phones and you will notice manufacturers playing around with their own icon styles. This is a bummer for developers as creating app icons consumes unnecessary time. Google has eased this process for app developers by providing predefined design language for apps based on the device manufacturer’s preset icon style.
This will save developer’s time and also unify icon style based on the device it is viewed on.
7. Android O improves support for wireless keyboards
Wireless keyboards and navigating through them is a pain on Android devices. Not all keys are supported and navigation is haywire. Android O plans to improve this scenario with better support for wireless keyboards. All the keys (including arrow and tab keys) will be recognised and keyboard based navigation will remind you of Windows for sure.
This was a major factor limiting Android tablets.
8. App badges now natively supported
If you have used a custom launcher on Android, you may have come across app badges displaying notification counts. Android O brings app badges to every Android device without the need of any third party launcher. Android O has cooked many popular app features in the system itself.
Lesser apps = responsive stable devices.
9. Advanced notification control
Android Nougat brought notification control to the table and Android O plans to improve it further. With Android O, users will get notification control, based on app’s notification behaviour and also be able to snooze app notifications for 15 minutes, 30 minutes or an hour. This is especially needed considering the barrage of notifications Android users get daily.
Also, persistent notifications will be minimised to grayscale one-liners allowing important notifications to peek through your precious screen estate.
10. Android O brings support for themes
Many manufacturers have added support for themes to their Android devices. While Android OS is customisable to the core, themes are customised packages of wallpapers, icons and menu layouts, that bring a uniqueness to the user experience. Android O has added support for themes natively, thereby bringing theme engine to every Android device.
Let’s hope the creative minds are already at work.
11. Customise navigation bar with additional buttons
System UI tuner gets an update in Android O. Now users can assign additional buttons on the left and/or right of the existing buttons on the navigation bar. Users can also define what these buttons do. With phone displays getting larger and taller each passing year, this is a welcome move.
12. Settings app gets neatly categorised
Fiddling around in the settings app will be a much easier task than before. Android O overhauls the settings app. Options are now categorised in broader categories than before and accessing desired settings is much easier to navigate. There is a persistent search bar for quick search.
Overall the settings app now looks neat and options are well laid out.
13. Lock screen can be customised with app shortcuts
Look at most android lock screens and you would notice the there is not much you can do with it. Apart from a camera shortcut and emergency dial, there is very little customisation offered to the users. Android O brings customisability to the lock screen allowing users to choose quick access apps from System UI tuner.
What apps would you choose?
14. Apps and games will soon feature creative fonts
Android O allows app developers to work with fonts much easier than before. It was a rather tedious process in earlier builds of Android. Now that it has become much easier, users could soon be witnessing creative fonts across apps and games.
Imagine a Harry Potter game with the famous font across the game UI or an e-book with the fonts used on the paperback version.
15. Functional app shortcuts and widgets
Widgets and app shortcuts are one of Android’s forte. While app shortcuts with designated functions are possible in some apps, imagine the ease of specific tasks from an app as a shortcut or widget.
Would it not be amazing to have e-wallet payment task as a shortcut to be used for shopping without accessing the entire app?
16. Custom ringtones made easy
If you are an Android user, you know the pain of setting a custom ringtone. Most users either relied on third party apps or manufacturer settings to set ringtones. Google finally listened and now includes Add ringtone option by default.
Finally, customisation is accessible without additional apps.
17. Multi-display support
Microsoft does this and now finally Android has caught up. Android O brings support for multi-display. Imagine connecting your phone to a monitor (read monitors) and multitasking across large displays using your phone’s computing power.
We’ve heard rumours of Samsung Galaxy 8 being capable of something similar. This sounds interesting.
18. Smart data cache clearance
If you’ve used a cleaner app on your Android phone, you must be familiar with the amount of disk space app cache consumes. Android O sets a quota for each app and auto clears cache. This auto clearance is smart enough to understand the quota of apps and will clear cache of apps which have consumed maximum space for their quota.
Long story short, Google is trying to ensure that your phone runs smooth with smart cache clearance.
19. One dialer app to call anyone from any source
With Jio offering VoLTE services and many other apps enabling something similar, it is rather cumbersome to keep several app shortcuts on your home screen. Android O allows app developers to integrate all these calling services under the default dialer app with certain set of permissions.
Technology is here to ease calling peers.
20. Autofill now works across the OS
Autofill is a life saver in chrome when it comes to typing your name, address, card details and much more. With more people accessing the internet from their phones than other computing devices, autofill on phones was a necessity. Now, users can opt in for autofill feature across the OS and ease their typing task for every other transaction app.
21. Web view in apps will be secure and stable
When you click on a link in Facebook or Twitter app, a web view can be accessed with the app’s built-in browser. Google has added support for web view making it more secure and stable than it currently is.
If everything works together, you are in for a treat when it comes to accessing links in your messaging or social media apps.
Android O looks promising
There are several other minor changes like expanding quick toggles via their text and layout changes with clear persistent text/Icons on the status bar when accessing the notification drawer. Google also aims at adding customisations to the navigation bar. With the early builds, we can see Google slowly aiming at a stable, feedback-driven approach and a much smoother Android experience across their vast database. Google has been selective in adding features to the final build. Hence expecting all the beta features on the stable built would be rather amusing.
The new OS is a right step in the evolutionary progress of Android. When you consider the fact that Android OS is aiming to be the one OS that does it all, multi-display and better windowing with refined wireless keyboard support are an indication of Google’s approach. This OS could be a true handheld and desktop experience mated into one or at least be an initial step in that line of thought. Although the OS promises better battery management and stable performance across devices, what needs to be seen is how many phones and tablets will be running Android O when Android P developer version is released next year?