On May 17th, 2017, Google released the beta version/quality of Android O during the Google I/O conference along with other big announcements. If you’re unaware of the buzz created by this new development, the Android O is a new operating system that is expected to release in a few months. The preliminary versions of Android O are available in the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6, Nexus Player, and Pixel smartphones so if you own any of these devices, you might as well try the new Android OS hands on.
Android O (the ‘O’ rumored to stand for Oreo biscuits) or the Android v8.0 will come with various new never-before seen features for example the picture-in-picture mode, new options for notifications, wide-gamut color support for gaming apps and more.
The Alpha Quality of Android O
The alpha quality of the Android O revealed some unique features of the new OS and it was released on 21st March, 2017.
The first thing that was obviously noticed when the alpha quality was tried out was the new lock screen. Android O has more or less the same lock screen as its predecessor, Nougat, but you now have options to shift your shortcuts wherever you like. The Ambient Display will also now show only the clock and condensed notifications from apps.
At first glance, the Android OS might not seem that different from the Nougat version. The Notifications shade showed a strip of six toggles at the top. Both the font and the date are smaller in size and placed in a way that takes up less space on the display screen. The notification shade now also features the WiFi icon and the battery icon that indicates the percentage of charge remaining. The notification icons themselves are largely unchanged with the bundled notifications and quick reply features. Pressing on the notifications for a long time gives you new options to snooze them for 15 minutes in general but the snooze timings can be changed manually through the options.
There have been changes in the Notification channels as well. Now Android O will allow you to block or receive specific notifications from an app of choice and will let you choose how you want your notifications to sound for the individual options.
The most visible changes in the Android O are in its Settings menu. The entire page is now in a black and white color tone but blue schemes are expected in devices other than the Nexus and Pixel smartphones. The Settings option have changed a bit as well: they are more descriptive now. Instead of general options like “Device”, “Personal” and “System”, the alpha quality of the Android O has more specific sections such as “networks and internet”, “security and screen lock” etc. The System sub-sections are more advanced now and most of the secondary options have been moved there.
Variations in individual smartphone devices have also been seen. The Pixel smartphone devices, for example, has the option for Night Light in the Settings menu whereas the Nexus does not. We can expect more variations in the devices as well that may require more extensive research. Overall, the Setting menu may have changed visually, there aren’t many big changes in the function if any at all.
The Navigation tool now lets you add additional buttons that you can shift around on the navigation buttons. You can also change the layout of the navigation bar and make it left-leaning, right-leaning, compact or normal. New navigation options include choosing between the clipboard, keycode or the keyboard switcher.
The picture-in-picture mode is probably the most exciting and sought-after feature of the new Android operating system. The picture in picture mode allows you to view your current tab simultaneously as you shift to another function. Think of it as the picture-in-picture mode that is present in the Youtube app. This new feature in the Android O is definitely something that has gotten us excited and will be the first OS to have something like this.
The picture-in-picture mode will support pause and play options as well. This option was not available in the alpha version however and was only revealed then. The picture-in-picture mode is available now in the Beta quality of Android O.
Wide-gamut color support in the Android O for gaming apps will make your gaming experience visually better. Google has talked about this new development in their blog post, quoting: “Android developers of imaging apps can now take advantage of new devices that have a wide-gamut color capable display. 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 (AdobeRGB, Pro Photo RGB, DCI-P3, etc.).”
Android has been on a mission to conserve its battery and make their operating system more energy-efficient. The Android O will limit background processes that leech the phone battery.
One of the best features of the Android O is its better Bluetooth audio support. LDAC-equipped Bluetooth headphones will let you get the most out of your Android device. Even for those who rely on the conventional earphones or speakers, the Android O also has support for aptX and aptx HD with options to tweak the audio sampling rate, frequency and more.
Other minor changes in the Android O were also seen in the alpha version like changes in the Do Not Disturb options, adaptive icons, Autofill API and the status bar.
The Beta Quality of Android O
Just two days ago, the beta quality of the new Android OS was also released on the same Nexus and Pixel devices. Here are some new features we saw in the preview.
The TensorFlow Lite that was introduced in the Android O is a tool that can greatly improve multi-tasking and more a smoother smartphone experience overall. It uses techniques such as LSTM to achieve better, faster functionality than its previous Nougat version.
This never before seen feature on an Android device will let user quickly access their applications from notification dots that will pop up on the side of the screen. Not only can users gain quick access, but long pressing the notifications will allow them to choose between a list of short link actions that they can perform. This option however was only revealed in the Google I/O conference and is not yet available in the beta version.
Smart Text Selection in the Android O is new and improved that now lets you highlight phrases like numbers and get immediate options to call or text. There have been changes to the emoji collection in the new Android operating system too.
In the Google I/O conference, other changes in the Android O were also announced such as the AutoFill option, the now available picture-in-picture mode, and Vitals for better performance of your device.
The changes in the Android O may not be a lot in number but they definitely make the new operating system stand out from Nougat. New previews and versions are scheduled to launch in mid-June and mid-July, with the official, full version of the OS expected to release by the end of this year.