It came as a surprise but it came nevertheless. Google last week announced the first developer preview of Android O, the OS that would follow Android Nougat. Even though we’re still trying to figure our way through Android N, we’ve already checked out a bit of the O as well. And here’s a list of features and enhancements that caught our eye.
Building on the updates it brought to Android Nougat, Google is modifying notifications by offering Notification Channels. The feature will allow users to categorise and bundle their notifications into channels.
Picture within a picture
As the title suggests, this feature will let users watch videos on a smaller window within the current window they’re working on. So they can watch a cartoon and finish writing that email at the same time. They can also drag the smaller (PiP) window to anywhere on the screen and resize it as well.
Android O, apps can now detect when they run on a device that supports multiple displays, users can choose to launch that specific app and a different screen.
Here’s how Google puts it:
“If an activity supports multi-window mode and is running on a device with multiple displays, users can move the activity from one display to another. When an app launches an activity, the app can specify which display the activity should run on.”
Typer-friendly keyboard navigation
With more Android apps being used in Chrome OS and the Android OS itself being used for multiple devices, Google is making it a priority to develop better support for its keyboards. Apart from predictable keyboards, Android O also brings the “arrow” and “tab” buttons on the mobile keyboard.
Personalised shortcuts for the lock screen
Taking a step further from adding app shortcuts, Android O brings the ability to customize lock screen shortcuts too. Users can now tailor their screens not just with apps but with actions as well, like opening selfie camera, calculator, and more. The option is available under the System UI Tuner menu in Android O.
Smartness in sharing
Having introduced Direct Share back in Android 6 that let users share images and audio through messaging services like WhatsApp, Google is now bringing in Smart Sharing. The new feature will show up in the Share menu and will suggest apps based on the type of information that users want to share. For instance, when trying to share an image or a GIF, messaging services will show up first. And when sharing a link, mail would be the priority.
Even though Google made a major revamp of the Settings menu in Android Nougat, Android O brings more change. The Settings menu now resembles the Settings menu of Samsung Grace. And the hamburger menu that showed up in Android N is gone again.
- Storage section: Also redesigned is the storage section that now include the “Smart Storage” feature with an additional option to “Free up space”
- Battery menu: Another redesigned menu, the Battery menu no longer shows the graph that shows battery usage stats.
The alarm’s favourite feature comes to notifications as well. Users can now snooze their notifications by swiping right. The timings are set to 15, 30, and 60 minutes.
More details under Quick Settings
On Android O, users get more information in the Quick Settings area. With a cleaner and updated font, users can now see details like battery percentage, phone connection stays, date, time, and the day.
Toggling Quick Tiles
To make WiFi settings a little cleaner and easier to navigate, Android O has made it so that when a user taps on the WiFi tile, it will turn on/off WiFi. Previously, on Android Nougat, tapping the tile would display a list of available WiFi networks. Now though, to see available networks, users will have to tap on the text that reads “WiFi” instead of just the icon. The same settings now apply to Bluetooth and Do Not Disturb as well.
Google is introducing limitations on apps that run in the background. The limitation depends on three activities: location updates, broadcasts, and other background services. So now, apps won’t be able to constantly ask the user for their location or permission to remain active in the background. This is a major update in terms of batter life, because according to Google, the limitations will save precious battery life on Android devices.
High-quality Bluetooth Audio Streaming
Thanks to Sony’s contributions, Android O supports LDAC, a high-quality Bluetooth audio technology for a better listening.
Currently supporting only two themes, Pixel and Inverted, Android O could bring support for more themes. There’s a new option that says, “Device Theme” under Display in the Settings menu, but we’re not sure of Google would allow developers to create themes as yet.
Security patch levels
With Android O, Google is prioritising security patch levels. And so now, under Settings > Security & Screen lock, Google will show the specific device’s security patch.
This API allows apps to build a native integration with the System UI. So now, incoming calls from third-party VoIP apps will get the same priority as regular calls. And they won’t break your calls even while other audio apps are running in the background.
APIs that auto-fill
For those of us who’ve been manually entering email addresses and passwords into every app we log in, autofill is a dream come true. Sure, LastPass, the password manager, and a few other apps already offered autofilling of details. But they remained a shady process. With the new API update, however, apps can now autofill details without a hitch.
An API for audio
For apps that need low-latency audio with high-performance, Google now offers a new native audio API. To use the API, apps will have to write and receive data via streams.
As the world moves to a wider-gamut color displays and SCI-P3, Google, too, jumps the bandwagon. As a developer, you can now display wide-gamut colors by enabling a flag in tier manifest file and then by loading bitmaps embedded with a wide color option.
To help developers to make icons display masks relevant to the device they’re building for, Google is introducing adaptive icons. Earlier, developers were unable to recreate the variety of icons to masks that OEMs like Samsung and LG used in their devices. According to Google,
“The system also animates interactions with the icons, and uses them in the launcher, shortcuts, Settings, sharing dialogs, and in the overview screen.”
Installations from external sources
As a developer, you can now grant explicit access to apps allowing them to install APKs from sources other than Google Play. Earlier, the device would automatically install APKs from even unknown sources.
This isn’t an exhaustive list. We still have about 6 months before Google launches the final version of Android O. And when it does, we’re sure that Google would’ve added more features to the operating system. Well, keep a weather eye—Android N was big, yes, but Android O sure looks bigger.