Google’s vision for Android O: faster, more refined experience

The beta version of Android O is now available to developers, and it will be rolled out for consumers later this summer, starting with Google Pixel phones


Dave Burke, vice president of engineering, Android, speaks on stage during the annual Google I/O developers conference in California, US on 17 May. Photo: Reuters
Dave Burke, vice president of engineering, Android, speaks on stage during the annual Google I/O developers conference in California, US on 17 May. Photo: Reuters

We are heading into that time of the year when excitement about the next Android operating system gradually increases. And right on cue, Google gave a sneak peek of Android O at the upcoming Android at the Google I/O developer conference—this will power Android phones, tablets, Android TVs and Android Wear watches.

Instead of going for a complete overhaul this time around, the Android O operating system will be more about subtle improvements, tweaks under the hood and better overall performance. Anyone who was expecting a complete visual overhaul will be disappointed—but to expect that with every Android iteration annually would anyway be asking for a bit too much.

Interestingly, the critical but not too glamorous improvements that Google is making with Android O, have been categorized as “vitals”. And these changes will go a long way in making your smartphone experience feel slicker, faster, less resource hungry and genuinely smarter.

One of the under-the-hood changes in Android O will be tweaks that improve performance. This will include faster start-up times on the same devices compared to the current Android Nougat. Apps will load faster, background processes will be shut down to prevent unnecessary resource hogging and any unnecessary stuff will be shut down and certain new features will reduce the number of steps to execute a task—all this will be part of the performance. If this gives your phone a new lease of life, then this itself is worth all the effort Google is putting into improving performance.

Security is on the agenda too. Google is introducing a new feature called Play Protect. This will keep running in the background, automatically update itself, and will keep scanning your device to detect any malicious software. Google says that more than 50 billion apps are scanned everyday globally (remember that harmless pop-up on your new Android phone which requested your permission to allow Google to verify apps regularly?), and believes that the machine learning algorithms based on this knowledge are now robust enough to be able to detect new risks. The Play Protect feature isn’t exactly an anti-virus solution, if you are visualizing it as that, but something that’s more passive and perhaps smarter.

The settings app options will be streamlined too, something that Google has tweaked considerably in Nougat too. But there is more work to be done, and O will be the next step in that.

There will be new app notifications too—each app will get a colour coded dot on the app icon, and you can long press that to view the new message. You can swipe it away too, and that will clean it from the rest of the notification list.

Then there is picture-in-picture, which will let you share the same screen between two apps—a lot of phone makers such as Samsung have added this feature on their Android phones for a while now, but Google is now integrating this.

There are just so many little things that Google is doing with Android O, that there is significant hope of a slicker smartphone usage experience when O lands on Pixel phones first and then on others.

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