Android O

Android O: Best features and all you need to know about the beta

Android O: Everything you need to know

The Android O beta is now out in the wild, with the third developer preview now having landed, but how do you download it, what are the new features, what’s its name going to be, and when will the final version be released? We reveal all.

At its I/O 2017 developer conference, Google talked up the previously announced features in its latest Android release, Android O, talking up the faster, more fluid experiences and improved notifications the new OS will offer.

We didn’t get a name, though – it’s still the mysterious Android O – but there’s now a beta available that’s easier to install and more stable than the older dev preview.

We also now know that Android O is officially Android 8.0. This might come as a surprise to…no one, but the version number dropped as part of the third Android O developer preview, which Google sent live as an OTA update for participating users and their handsets.

That’s the latest, but read on for our complete guide to Google’s new mobile OS, starting with a look at the features we’re most excited about.

Alternatively, scroll down for how to download Android O right away, and a look at the first phones getting the new Google operating system.

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Best Android O Features: Should you care about Android Oreo?

1) Background limits

Google is continuing efforts to maximise battery life, which began with Android Nougat. It says it has 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.

2) Picture-in-Picture

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.

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3) Notification channels and dots

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.

Another new feature is notification dots, which are visual indicators on app icons that’ll show if you have any waiting notifications. Sort of like iOS, or most other Android skins.

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Android O

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.”

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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.

Adaptive Icons

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.

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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.

Android O Download: How to install the beta today

The official beta for Android O is now available, with Google sending its Android O Beta Program page live shortly after the I/O 2017 keynote.

Installing it is a dawdle, though it’s still worth noting that this is an early-stage release and the software will be still be extremely buggy.

Also, only a handful of Google-made devices are eligible for the beta. They are the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Pixel, Pixel XL and Pixel C.

If you like playing with Google’s latest and greatest features, though, here’s what to do:

1) Before you download Android O, back up all of your data, as installing the beta could wipe your phone

2) Go to Google’s Android O Beta Program page by following this link

3) If you have a Google account, sign in; if you don’t, you may need to sign up to the Beta Program separately

4) Once signed in, Google will detect if you have an eligible device and, if so, prompt you to install the beta. Ensure you’ve got a good Wi-Fi connection and follow Google’s prompts to proceed

5) That’s it. Future beta updates will arrive OTA. If you’re having problems, check your Wi-Fi connection.

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Android O Release Date: When does Android O come out?

During its I/O keynote, Google said ‘O’ would come later ‘in the summer’ which is the same timeframe it gave last year with ‘N’. Hopefully, we’ll see ia final version launch – for the Pixel at least – before the end of August.

After that, additional Google devices should get the upgrade, with Android O also set to feature on Google’s 2017 flagship, the forthcoming Pixel 2.

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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!

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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 – and we’re learning more by the day.

At first, it was the same handsets you could download the Android O developer preview for, but other manufacturers are starting to reveal their plans now.

Plus, leaks are giving us a better idea of when the final stable release might start dropping on some of these handsets.

So far, we know that the Android O will come to:

  • Nexus 5X
  • Nexus 6P
  • Google Pixel (August release rumoured)
  • Google Pixel XL (August released rumoured)
  • HTC U11

Notice a theme? Yep, with the exception of the HTC U11, it’s all Google own-brand devices getting 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.

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Let us know what you think Android O will be called in the comments below.

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