Android O is getting a picture-in-picture mode, app icon badges, and more. The next major release of Google’s Android operating system boasts battery life improvements, notification tweaks, and more. Android Oreo, anyone? Or maybe it’s Android Oatmeal Cookie? Whatever the name, Google is prepping its next major Android release — Android O. And on March 21, it made everything official except the name.

By Kyle Wiggers

Everything you need to know about Android O

 Just like last year, Google is offering developers (and intrepid users) the opportunity to test drive the new version of Android before it launches publicly later this year. That means it’s unfinished (and a little unstable), but packs most of the features that will make it into the final version.

The first developer preview is available for the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Pixel, Pixel XL, and Pixel C. It’s not available as over-the-air update — it has to be installed manually, which isn’t for the faint of heart.

Luckily, Google’s spilled the details about Android O in a lengthy blog post. Here’s everything we know.

Revamped notifications

The previous version of Android, Android Nougat, added the ability to prioritize certain notifications over others. Android O tweaks that behavior.

Users can snooze alerts and schedule them to reappear at a later time, and developers can change the background color of notifications and cause notifications to dismiss themselves after a certain amount of time.

There’s a new prioritization feature in Android O called Notification Channels. More details are forthcoming, but here’s Google’s description of how it works: If an important email from a colleague comes in among a flood of junk mail, the colleague’s message will appear on top. And depending on how users tweak Android O’s notification settings, they may not see the junk emails at all.

App developers can also choose to aggregate alerts of the same kind in a single Notification Channel. If you get several “tech news” updates across a handful of apps, for example, they’ll show up bundled in a single channel — much like Google’s Gmail sorting, which offers granular control over what emails users receive notifications for.

Battery

Car battery

Android Nougat introduced Doze, a battery-saving feature that automatically “hibernated” apps running in the background. With Android O, Google’s taken that idea one step further.

The new version of Android introduces “automatic limits” that restrict what apps can do in the background — specifically those that update location the background services. Android O can impose “execution limits” on the latter, which restricts system access to certain processes when the app isn’t being used. Location limits, on the other hand, prevent apps that access to a device’s location (via GPS or Wi-Fi) from doing so gratuitously. Google’s calling it a “significant change” to the way Android manages apps.

We’ll have to run Android O through its paces to figure out how dramatically the under-the-hood changes impact battery life, but the sheer breadth of new documentation suggests that they make a difference.

High-quality Bluetooth audio

Wireless Bluetooth headphones, earbuds, and speakers are all the rage these days. So it’s not all that surprising that Android O brings major improvements to wireless audio.

New Bluetooth audio codecs promise to make music crisper, clearer, and richer than on Android versions of the past. And Android O supports Sony’s LDAC wireless coding, technology which can transfer more data over Bluetooth than what’s typically achievable with smartphones (up to a bitrate of 990kbps).

AptX, another low-latency Bluetooth streaming format, is also in tow. It’s hardware-dependent, but an increasing number of flagships — including those running Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon processors — support it.

All told, it’s good news for audiophiles.

Adaptive icons, picture-in-picture mode, and UI tweaks

Android O is relatively light on UI tweaks and changes, but there are a few notable ones in tow.

There’s Adaptive Icons, which lets app developers adjust the look and shape of icons depending on what home screen theme users select. If a user swaps Android’s default theme to a custom pack they downloaded from the Google Play Store, for example, app icons that tap Adaptive Icons will automatically switch to match the styling and color scheme of said theme.

Android O packs a picture-in-picture mode for videos, support for launching activities on a secondary display, and a pop-up window for third-party apps. An optional “wide-gamut color,” meanwhile, promises to make apps more vibrant and colorful than ever on on high-contrast screens.

Other conveniences

Android O is also packed with miscellaneous goodies aimed at addressing longstanding annoyances.

Good news if you’re a frequent Skype user: Android O’s “telecom framework” will let you swap out your phone’s default dialer for a third-party VoIP alternative.

A new Networking Aware Networking feature will allow Android devices to communicate directly with each other over Wi-Fi, even if the network isn’t connected to Wi-Fi, GPS, or cellular data. And there’s a low-power connection mode that allows for sharing small bits of data like sensor readings, location, and more.

New keyboard shortcuts including “arrow and tab button navigation” will make using physical keys a little less painful.

An autofill API, meanwhile, will make it easier for password, address, and user name managers to register themselves as the system’s official autofill app. When a user encounters a password field, they’ll be able to paste a stored password from a list.

Rumored features

It’s still in the early days, and Android O is far from finished.

Here’s a few of the features that could make their way into Google’s new operating system ahead of its public debut:

According to a report from VentureBeat, the Mountain View, California-based company is working on three new features that will coincide with the release of Android O. They’re described as “intelligent,” and said to bring Android to parity with Apple’s AI-powered efforts on iOS.

One feature, Copy Less, will combine machine learning — software that self-improves without human intervention — and computer vision — software that extracts and analyzes data from images — into a labor-saving feature. According to VentureBeat, it aims to cut down on the number of times users have to copy text from one app to another.

More: How to root your Android phone or tablet in 2017 (and unroot it)

Take food, for example. If you’re having a Facebook Messenger conversation with a friend about where to have dinner and switch to Yelp for recommendations, Copy Less will recognize the context — it will “know,” so to speak, that you’re looking for a nearby place to eat, and use that information to save you time. Once you’ve settled on a spot and switched back to the chat interface, Copy Less will suggest relevant replies to your friend’s questions. If he or she asks for the restaurant’s address, it will serve it up.

Another contextualization feature reportedly in tow is address recognition. When you receive a message with a street address, it will recognize the text as an address — tapping it will show the address in Google Maps.

Google has already experimented with context recognition in the form of Now on Tap (now called Screen Search), an Android feature that launched with Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Screen Search, once activated, suggests relevant links and shortcuts based on what you’re browsing. If you’re searching a Spanish web page, it will automatically translate sentences. If you’re on a band’s Facebook page, it will serve up quick links to concert tickets.

Google’s final major accessibility feature involves gestures. If you draw a letter C anywhere in Android, for example, a short list of contacts will appear onscreen. This feature, VentureBeat notes, could still be scrapped.

Google is expected to unveil Android O at its I/O developer conference in May. If history is any guide, the search giant will release a series of work-in-progress developer previews ahead of a public launch in the fall. We’ll keep this article updated as we hear more about Android O.

Everything you need to know about Android O

Android O is getting a picture-in-picture mode, app icon badges, and more. The next major release of Google’s Android operating system boasts battery life improvements, notification tweaks, and more. Android Oreo, anyone? Or maybe it’s Android Oatmeal Cookie? Whatever the name, Google is prepping its next major Android release — Android O. And on March 21, it made everything official except the name.

By Kyle Wiggers

 Just like last year, Google is offering developers (and intrepid users) the opportunity to test drive the new version of Android before it launches publicly later this year. That means it’s unfinished (and a little unstable), but packs most of the features that will make it into the final version.

The first developer preview is available for the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Pixel, Pixel XL, and Pixel C. It’s not available as over-the-air update — it has to be installed manually, which isn’t for the faint of heart.

Luckily, Google’s spilled the details about Android O in a lengthy blog post. Here’s everything we know.

Revamped notifications

The previous version of Android, Android Nougat, added the ability to prioritize certain notifications over others. Android O tweaks that behavior.

Users can snooze alerts and schedule them to reappear at a later time, and developers can change the background color of notifications and cause notifications to dismiss themselves after a certain amount of time.

There’s a new prioritization feature in Android O called Notification Channels. More details are forthcoming, but here’s Google’s description of how it works: If an important email from a colleague comes in among a flood of junk mail, the colleague’s message will appear on top. And depending on how users tweak Android O’s notification settings, they may not see the junk emails at all.

App developers can also choose to aggregate alerts of the same kind in a single Notification Channel. If you get several “tech news” updates across a handful of apps, for example, they’ll show up bundled in a single channel — much like Google’s Gmail sorting, which offers granular control over what emails users receive notifications for.

Battery

Car battery

Android Nougat introduced Doze, a battery-saving feature that automatically “hibernated” apps running in the background. With Android O, Google’s taken that idea one step further.

The new version of Android introduces “automatic limits” that restrict what apps can do in the background — specifically those that update location the background services. Android O can impose “execution limits” on the latter, which restricts system access to certain processes when the app isn’t being used. Location limits, on the other hand, prevent apps that access to a device’s location (via GPS or Wi-Fi) from doing so gratuitously. Google’s calling it a “significant change” to the way Android manages apps.

We’ll have to run Android O through its paces to figure out how dramatically the under-the-hood changes impact battery life, but the sheer breadth of new documentation suggests that they make a difference.

High-quality Bluetooth audio

Wireless Bluetooth headphones, earbuds, and speakers are all the rage these days. So it’s not all that surprising that Android O brings major improvements to wireless audio.

New Bluetooth audio codecs promise to make music crisper, clearer, and richer than on Android versions of the past. And Android O supports Sony’s LDAC wireless coding, technology which can transfer more data over Bluetooth than what’s typically achievable with smartphones (up to a bitrate of 990kbps).

AptX, another low-latency Bluetooth streaming format, is also in tow. It’s hardware-dependent, but an increasing number of flagships — including those running Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon processors — support it.

All told, it’s good news for audiophiles.

Adaptive icons, picture-in-picture mode, and UI tweaks

Android O is relatively light on UI tweaks and changes, but there are a few notable ones in tow.

There’s Adaptive Icons, which lets app developers adjust the look and shape of icons depending on what home screen theme users select. If a user swaps Android’s default theme to a custom pack they downloaded from the Google Play Store, for example, app icons that tap Adaptive Icons will automatically switch to match the styling and color scheme of said theme.

Android O packs a picture-in-picture mode for videos, support for launching activities on a secondary display, and a pop-up window for third-party apps. An optional “wide-gamut color,” meanwhile, promises to make apps more vibrant and colorful than ever on on high-contrast screens.

Other conveniences

Android O is also packed with miscellaneous goodies aimed at addressing longstanding annoyances.

Good news if you’re a frequent Skype user: Android O’s “telecom framework” will let you swap out your phone’s default dialer for a third-party VoIP alternative.

A new Networking Aware Networking feature will allow Android devices to communicate directly with each other over Wi-Fi, even if the network isn’t connected to Wi-Fi, GPS, or cellular data. And there’s a low-power connection mode that allows for sharing small bits of data like sensor readings, location, and more.

New keyboard shortcuts including “arrow and tab button navigation” will make using physical keys a little less painful.

An autofill API, meanwhile, will make it easier for password, address, and user name managers to register themselves as the system’s official autofill app. When a user encounters a password field, they’ll be able to paste a stored password from a list.

Rumored features

It’s still in the early days, and Android O is far from finished.

Here’s a few of the features that could make their way into Google’s new operating system ahead of its public debut:

According to a report from VentureBeat, the Mountain View, California-based company is working on three new features that will coincide with the release of Android O. They’re described as “intelligent,” and said to bring Android to parity with Apple’s AI-powered efforts on iOS.

One feature, Copy Less, will combine machine learning — software that self-improves without human intervention — and computer vision — software that extracts and analyzes data from images — into a labor-saving feature. According to VentureBeat, it aims to cut down on the number of times users have to copy text from one app to another.

More: How to root your Android phone or tablet in 2017 (and unroot it)

Take food, for example. If you’re having a Facebook Messenger conversation with a friend about where to have dinner and switch to Yelp for recommendations, Copy Less will recognize the context — it will “know,” so to speak, that you’re looking for a nearby place to eat, and use that information to save you time. Once you’ve settled on a spot and switched back to the chat interface, Copy Less will suggest relevant replies to your friend’s questions. If he or she asks for the restaurant’s address, it will serve it up.

Another contextualization feature reportedly in tow is address recognition. When you receive a message with a street address, it will recognize the text as an address — tapping it will show the address in Google Maps.

Google has already experimented with context recognition in the form of Now on Tap (now called Screen Search), an Android feature that launched with Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Screen Search, once activated, suggests relevant links and shortcuts based on what you’re browsing. If you’re searching a Spanish web page, it will automatically translate sentences. If you’re on a band’s Facebook page, it will serve up quick links to concert tickets.

Google’s final major accessibility feature involves gestures. If you draw a letter C anywhere in Android, for example, a short list of contacts will appear onscreen. This feature, VentureBeat notes, could still be scrapped.

Google is expected to unveil Android O at its I/O developer conference in May. If history is any guide, the search giant will release a series of work-in-progress developer previews ahead of a public launch in the fall. We’ll keep this article updated as we hear more about Android O.

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