Android Oreo: Ingredients to improve useability are all in place
Google has revealed the official name of the next version of Android, ending months of speculation over what Android O would be. True to the Google tradition of naming the OS after some sort of confectionary, the upcoming version of Android has been named Android Oreo. The OS will roll out as OTA updates on Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 5x, Nexus 6p smartphones and Pixel C tablet in the next few months and will be available on smartphones by OEM partners by the end of the year.
The features of Android O were first showed off at the Google I/O developer conference held in May 2017.
Google hasn’t made any major changes in the design and layout. The focus in Oreo, like in Nougat, is more on fine-tuning the OS and adding features that would improve the overall experience of using an Android smartphone or tablet.
We take a look at the key highlights of the new Android OS and how they work.
With Android O, Google wants to improve the multi-tasking experience. The picture-in-picture is one of the tools which allows users to keep two apps open side by side. But unlike the two-pane multi-tasking mode seen in Android Nougat, picture-in-picture allows users to adjust the size of the app window and move them to any part of the screen. So if you are watching a video on YouTube or Netflix and want to send a message on WhatsApp or take some note simultaneously, you can keep the video open and carry on with the other task on the rest of the screen.
Copying and pasting text or number in note-taking apps or messengers is going to become a lot easier. Unlike Nougat, where users have to tap and select the entire text or number to copy them, Android O users can select a word or number by simply double tapping on them. The feature also interlinks various Google apps together. So if you tap on an email, it will provide the option to open the Gmail app right away.
Getting more out of the battery
Battery backup is a major issue on Android phones, especially those running custom UIs. Google intends to change it with Android O and for this it is banking on the new version of Doze. It is a battery management tool which automatically restricts background activity if the phone has been inactive for a while. The new version of Doze is smarter and will swing into action and curtail the activities of background apps even when the smartphone is in use.
Android fragmentation caused by delayed updates has been a major source of headache for Google for many years. To address this issue, Google has made some key changes to the Android system architecture in Android O under Project Treble. It will reduce the involvement of chip-makers for updates and provide more control to the OEMs over the update process. For this, Google has created a dedicated vendor interface called VTS (Vendor Test Suite) for OEMs. It is similar to the CTS (Compatibility Test Suite) for software developers, which allows apps developers to write a single app for different smartphones. This will reduce the cost and time taken by OEMs in rolling out new Google updates.
Android O will change the way we access notifications. It is going to be a lot more interactive and intuitive. Users can reduce the clutter in the notifications panel by clubbing all notifications for similar category of apps together. Also, users will now see a number badge on the app icons in the interface. The numbers represent the exact number of notifications for a particular app. The third interesting feature in the notification panel is that it allows users to snooze them, like an alarm clock. So the notifications will show up after some time when users have the time to see them.
Reducing wastage of time
One of the objectives of Android O is to reduce the time spent on unnecessary scrolling, or typing in a password or accessing apps from the lock screen. The auto fill feature in Android O provides the option to save information such as card details, phone number, username or email address for third-party apps. Users won’t have to remember passwords for every app, the auto-fill tool will suggest a username and password to login with by itself. The settings page is going to be a lot smaller and organised. Similarly, users can now add more app shortcuts on the lock screen in addition to the existing phone and camera shortcut.
Android O will bring a new form of wireless communication called Wi-Fi Aware to the table. It is based on Neighbour Awareness Networking (NAN) technology which allows users to connect to other Android devices in the vicinity and send messages, files and even play games without internet connection.
Something for audiophiles
The good news for music buffs is that the new Android will support advanced Bluetooth codes such as Sony’s LDAC. Unlike standard Bluetooth codes, it transits three times more audio data and results in better audio output. However, to take advantage of the feature, OEMs will have to add the LDAC on the smartphone.