Android O : Everything you need to know about features & changes

Google has just released the second Android O developer preview during Google I/O. We’re working on a video, but you can read text versions of what’s new below. Like last year, Google dropped the first preview build for the upcoming Android version a couple of months ahead of I/O. The post that follows is divided up between all the new Android O features in the second dev preview, followed by what was new in the initial alpha preview in the second half. As always, we’ve been busy and have brought together all the changes, features and things you should know about Android O.

Android O release schedule
The Android O release will ultimately become Android 8.0 . Google has already shared a timeline for the rollout of each preview build with the second developer preview arriving during Google I/O as expected, with the third due in mid-June and the fourth in mid-July. The public version of Android 8.0 will be out for supported Pixel, Nexus and Android One devices sometime in Q3, most likely in late August or early September.

What’s new in Android O developer preview 2:
Fluid Experiences
Announced at Google I/O 2017, Fluid Experiences is Google’s way of helping you be more productive and enjoy multi-tasking tools in your everyday use.

TensorFlow Lite is a new scaled-down version of Google’s machine learning tool, Tensor Flow. The new tool assists lower powered devices to keep up with the today’s demanding processes. TensorFlow Lite uses techniques like LSTM to improve your experience. Android O has a new framework from Android, it will hardware accelerate neural network features, helping keep some of the AI components on device, avoiding the need to find an online server to compute things like actions on text selections. Watch for these features in a later update to Android O.

There are actually a few cool tools within this grouping, including Picture-in-Picture, Smart Text Selection, Auto-Fill and Notification Dots with long-press actions on the Homescreen. Let’s explore:

Picture-in-Picture
A familiar phrase and tool in many televisions, within the YouTube app on Android and, yes, in iOS. Google is adding a Picture-in-Picture mode to Android O. With a YouTube video playing, just tap the Home button and the video will pop into a small window that can remain on screen as you navigate other apps on your device. You can slide the video around for best placement, then simply slide it off the screen to terminate. Available now in the Android O Beta.

Notification Dots
Many custom Launcher users already know the power of a notification icon on top of an app icon on your Homescreen. We even used Tasker to build our own once, but now Google is building it into Android. Android O users will see a small dot that appears over top of their app icons with active notifications. This is where the magic starts, now that your app has an icon, new tools are available – Long-press the app icon with Notification Dot to get a short list of immediate shortlink actions you can perform. This includes viewing the notification itself right there in a tiny pop-up window.

The long-press functionality is not yet available in Android O, watch for it coming soon in a future beta release.

Smart Text Selection
We’ve all seen the basic text highlighting features, the copy/paste dialogue in Android, but now there’s more. With Android O, highlighting text includes further features, using Google AI to intelligently act on the words. For instance, if you highlight a phone number, you can just tap to dial. If you highlight an address, a single tap will start navigation. Best of all, highlighting is more intelligent itself, selecting phrases or full addresses, for example, instead of just single words.

Auto-Fill
For your most used apps on your device, Android O will help quickly log into services. The Auto-Fill feature needs to be coded in by the app devs, but once installed, Android O will remember your usernames, and in some cases your password, to quickly and easily jump into apps on your device.

Vitals
Who wants better battery life? Android O will soon include features under the banner Vitals, including security tools, OS optimizations and tools for developers to better suite your device usage. At Google I/O 2017, the Android team announced Google Play Protect, think of it as a virus scanner for Android apps. So far, the team reports having scanned over 50 billion app installs every day. You’ll see an entry in your Google Play app update window, showing your most recent scan and if there were any issues found.

You won’t see these as features on your Android O device, but you will enjoy the improved battery life and security
Optimizations in the OS have the team reporting that Pixel devices are booting up in nearly half the time as before. This speed bump goes for apps as well. Extensive changes to the runtime, including things like concurrent, compacting garbage collection and code locality, but in Google’s words, your apps just run faster. More on this later.

Wise Limits will apply to background services, preventing apps from running in the background for too long. The goal is to dramatically reduce battery consumption, keeping you up and running through your day.

Play Console Dashboard is a new developer tool that provides analytics on app device usage. Developers will be able to see live results of their app running on any Android device – this may not eliminate the need for developers to test their app on most major phones, but it certainly will help them narrow down an issue if a device is acting up. Best of all, the in-depth tools provide insight on how devs can adjust their applications to reduce battery consumption and speed up execution on various devices.

You obviously won’t see these as a feature on your Android O device, but you will certainly enjoy the improved performance.

Other stuff
There’s plenty of other stuff worth noting too, but a lot of which we can’t see in effect yet. Android O adds font support so app developers can define font style and weight. This could either be a great development or a clusterfont if you’ll pardon my language.

Wi-Fi Awareness allows your Android O device or app to communicate with other devices and apps in the vicinity over Wi-Fi without requiring an actual internet connection. There are also some major optimizations to the Android Run-Time (ART) responsible for handling your apps and WebView has also seen some enhancements you’re unlikely to ever even notice.

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