Android O developer previews are out; expect a new notification system, better battery life and more

While most Android users in the market are still waiting for their device manufacturer to upgrade their phones to Android 7 Nougat, Google has already released a developer preview of Android O.


While most Android users in the market are still waiting to upgrade their phones to Android 7 Nougat, Google has already released a developer preview of Android O.

Don’t ask us what the O stands for, it could be Oreo or it could be Ostrich, your guess is as good as ours. Hey, if you have a suggestion, do let us know in the comments section below.

Anyway, the developer preview is available for download here and ROMs are available for the Nexus 5X, 6P and Player as well as the Pixel, Pixel C and XL.

The usual disclaimers apply. But if you’re new to this, be warned that this is a developer build of Android O, is unfinished and buggy and you will lose data. Flashing the preview ROM will also wipe all the data from your device.

To revert to a functioning version of Android, you will need to flash a factory image for your device from here.

The feature list for Android O is quite long and quite interesting. Here are the highlights:

Notifications

 Android O developer previews are out; expect a new notification system, better battery life and more

Image: Google

Notifications are set to get more powerful with Android O. This new version of Android comes with a feature called ‘notification channels’, which will change the way notifications are presented. These channels give developers and users more control over how notifications are shown via a system of categorisation. Certain types of notifications can also be blocked.

Suppose you’re using WhatsApp and you want your notifications from your co-workers to appear in the notification bar but you don’t want a vibration or sound alert, this will be possible. The rest of the notifications from that appear will behave normally.

You will also have the option to set the priority and importance of notifications, snooze notifications, set timeouts, background colours and even a separate style-class for messaging-related notifications.

Battery life improvements

Google has been working on improving Android’s battery performance. With Android O, they’ve taken things up a notch, and, as The Verge points out, they’ve now implemented several background limits that mimic several iOS features. These features essentially limit what an app can do in the background, thereby reducing their impact on battery life and system resources.

Another method of limiting impact on battery life is by limiting the number of times an app can receive a user’s location in the background.

Autofill

There’s now a framework for handling form filling. This is supported in apps and not just the browser, so remembering and typing out credit card details and innumerable numbers and addresses should be easier.

Picture-in-Picture mode

We’ve already seen this mode on Apple’s iPad Pros and Android TV. A number of Android phones already support the feature. Regardless, Google will now better support PiP mode on Android.

Visual tweaks

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Adaptive icons improves icon handling with better support for masks and animations. If an OEM wants a triangular icon, for example, it can provide a mask that will make all icons that shape, without affecting functionality and animations. An AnimatorSet API has been added to give developers access to an additional set of animations. Animations can now play in reverse, for example.

Font support will also be improved, says Google.

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Additional support for wide gamut displays will be included in Android O. As long as colour profiles are embedded properly, apps and images will take advantage of wide-gamut colour displays.

Android Police reports that custom shortcuts can be added to the lock-screen now. The Settings app also gets a redesign as well as native support for themes.

Wireless connectivity

Android O supports the Neighbour Awareness Networking specification or Wi-Fi Aware, as it’s better known. It’s an interesting standard that allows devices to directly communicate with each other over Wi-Fi. There will be no need for access points.

Pairing requests over Bluetooth can also be customised now via a feature called Companion Device Pairing. The best part is that you will now be able to filter the list of Bluetooth devices that you see.

Navigation and audio

Keyboard navigation has been added, as has support for high-performance, low-latency audio via a dedicated Audio API.

Support for widget and app pinning will be included for supported launchers. Fingerprint gestures will also be supported.

Interestingly, apps will now have the ability to answer incoming calls programmatically.

Media playback

Multi-display support is another new addition and it will now let you move apps between multiple windows. However, apps will only be active in a single window even if it’s open in multiple windows.

The default media player gets updated to support DRM-protected content, improved performance and “fine-grained control when seeking a frame.”

Lastly, a new feature called the Storage Access Framework (SAF) will improve media file access from remote network locations. As Google explains, viewing a large media file on your device would normally require the entire file to be downloaded onto your device. This is neither feasible nor convenient. SAF will allow apps to “open a file to get a native seekable file descriptor”, which will allow the app to deliver only the data that’s needed at that point in time.

Trying Android O out for yourself? Let us know what you think in the comments section below!

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