The Google I/O 2017 keynote has concluded and surprisingly, Android O, the latest update to Android, didn't get much time in the spotlight. The logical explanation is that Google had already released the first Developer Preview of Android O back in the month of March. Nothing much has changed since then.
The Android O Beta Program, however, is now official as Google announced the second official Developer Preview at I/O. This means that users of the Pixel smartphone and a few Nexus devices can now either manually flash the new update or just sign-up for the Beta program to get the new update as an OTA.
So, what's new with the Android update? Well, visually, the OS looks similar, including the app drawer, settings menu and so on. Of course, there are some changes under the hood. We've managed to get the update on a Nexus 6P and while some features are limited to Pixel smartphones, we have tried to cover all the new stuff. So let's dive in.
The feature has been available on the Google Pixel and Pixel XL running on Android 7.1 and the Android O Developer Preview 1. With the second Android O Developer Preview users can now change the intensity using a slider. Note that this feature is still not available on the Nexus 6P or the 5X. Why, Google? Why?
Again limited to users of Pixel and Pixel XL phones, these users get a bit more uniform icon shapes. If you remember Google had started changing their icons to round shape and had hoped that developers would follow the same. To make things easier, different icon shapes or Adaptive Icons were announced and now the feature is finally rolling out in the second Developer Preview. Again, this is limited to the Pixel launcher, which has a new setting that lets you choose between circular icons, square icons, rounded corner icons, squircles, and cylindrical ones.
Smart Text Selection
The idea here is to spend less time manually copy-pasting stuff. Google's intuitive machine learning can now finally use contextual search. The system understands that certain words, like addresses, are related and selects them intelligently. For instance, if you tap on an address, it directly gives a link to Google Maps without having you to copy paste it in the app.
New quick settings
The quick settings has been redesigned and now offers a light gray shade as opposed to the dark gray one on Android Nougat. While this new color scheme might not appeal to some, there are other changes that might be appreciated. It now shows the network carrier on the top left and the signal, time and battery percentage on the top right. Buttons for editing the quick setting tiles, changing user profiles, settings shortcut, etc. now sit below the quick settings tiles. The new quick settings is available on supported Pixel and Nexus devices.
Android O is yet again going to focus on battery performance and there are going to be two main changes. First, changes are being made to how broadcast receivers work and the second is limiting how often an app can request your location. These two changes will improve the battery performance massively, says Google.
There are also some user friendly changes in the battery settings. You get an indicator to tell you how long you fully charged your device, screen usage since the last charge and app usage since last charge. There are some added toggles as well for battery percentage in the status bar, adaptive brightness and an option to select the duration before the screen goes to sleep.
The new developer preview adds notification badges on top of the app icons. This feature has been available on a few non-stock Android UIs as well as some third-party launchers. However, Google is taking this further. A long-press on the app icon shows the notification without having the user to pull down the status bar. Again, we couldn't make use of this feature as it hasn't rolled out for Nexus users and it will take time to arrive as the feature is yet to be implemented by app developers.
Google offers autofill feature on the Chrome browser but native support is coming to Android O. The Autofill Framework API is in place and can be enabled by going into Settings > System > Languages & Input > Advanced and hitting the Autofill service under Input assistance. While currently only Google Play Services' autofill service is available, it seems that we could see other password management apps supported in the future.
The arrival of the first Developer Preview confirmed that Android O will bring a picture-in-picture mode. With the second version, you can now actually see where the settings are at. Going into the System UI Tuner, there’s a page for picture-in-picture mode. It features a setting that enables a drag/fling gesture to minimize the floating window.
Don't know how to use PiP? You need to send a particular key to trigger the mode on your Android phone. One can convert this key from a tap to a navigation bar button. Just enter the hidden navigation bar settings in SystemUI Tuner. Add a navigation button, select the button type to be 'keycode' and enter the keycode '171'. Your navigation bar will now have an extra button that will toggle PiP when used inside a supported app, say, YouTube.
There are some more minor changes and updates around the UI. The Security and Location settings UI has changed and now shows which security patch level is installed, if the Google Play Services' app verification is on, and the status of Android Device Manager. Even the storage settings UI has been redesigned, showing a circular progress bar of how much storage is being used and even the smart storage option right on the first page. Also, some changes to accessibility options have been made as well as new developer options have been added.