It’s that time of the year again. Google, now owned by Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL), is releasing the next major Android update, and the excitement of Android users around the globe is palpable.
Any major Android update is a big deal. This is especially true when it is a significant generational update like Android 8.0. Dubbed “Oreo” after the iconic cream sandwich cookie, the new update promises lots of delectable goodness for millions of Android users. Android 8.0 promises many features and improvements that users have been clamouring for a while, along with quite a few under the hood improvements that will set up a platform for future development.
Let’s have a closer look at Android 8.0 and how beneficial it will be to the platform and its users, while also looking at the potential issues surrounding its release.
Android Oreo: What has Changed
Android Oreo will bring about a slew of new features to enhance the user experience, as is expected of such a major update. The most anticipated and hyped feature is the new picture-in-picture mode. This new feature will enable multitasking like never before possible on a smartphone. It could potentially allow use cases such as watching a video on a small virtual screen in the corner while browsing the internet. Needless to say, this would be a boon for professionals and productivity use cases. Many business professionals who have long preferred the iPhone may be tempted to switch to Android due to its enhanced productivity features.
Another huge change is the Android notification system. While Android has pioneered innovation in how modern smartphone notifications work, Android notifications can be unwieldy to manage and overly frequent. Oreo attempts to solve this problem by bunching similar categories into “notification channels”. According to Google, “Users can block or change the behaviour of each channel individually, rather than managing all of the apps’ notifications together.” Oreo also implements a notification dot system that indicates pending notifications on the app icon itself. This functionality has long since existed on iOS and even some third party Android launchers in a limited capacity.
Android Is More Beautiful Than Ever
Google has placed a heavy emphasis on improving the Android User Interface over the past few iterations. Newer animations, a cleaner aesthetic and a unified design language have helped polish up Android immensely. However, Google is not stopping there, and Android Oreo may be the most beautiful Android yet. Oreo adds the new “adaptive icons” feature, which will allow for some icon customizability for OEMs. Stock Android phones like the Pixel will even allow users to choose from up to 5 icon cutouts.
This is not all either. xdadevelopers reports that Android 8.0 has introduced a command line interface for themes. Oreo’s OMS/RRO theming support may open the doors for a full system supported theme manager in the future. This would take Android customizability to the next level.
Behind The Scenes
Despite the focus on new features and UI improvements, it is the behind the scene improvements that distinguish Oreo. Oreo will potentially improve battery life by a fair margin with the increase in “automatic limits” on what apps do in the background. This will essentially allow developers to create more battery efficient apps.
Other significant software improvements include the addition of Sony’s LDAC audio codec along with AAudio. This should theoretically improve on Bluetooth audio and lower latency. The camera app is also being armed with a few more bells and whistles, including easier zooming and easier switching between photo and video. Security is also ramped up, with Google Play Protect being implemented to crack down on malicious apps and services.
With the increased proliferation of OLED displays that are now the rage on Android smartphones, Oreo will now allow a wider colour gamut in imaging apps. This will allow developers to utilize the full potential of OLED displays with more vibrant images.
Google has also used machine learning to implement new Autofill APIs in Android Oreo. This will allow better integration with password managers and context sensitive fill suggestions. Google’s ultimate goal here is to entirely get rid of the need to enter passwords.
Issues And Hurdles
Of course, not everything about Oreo is good news. The headline new feature picture-in-picture will only work if app developers choose to specifically implement it. The new Autofill APIs also pose a significant privacy and security risk.
However, the biggest problem is pertaining the update rollout, and which devices will even get it. Android has a long and sordid history of late and erratic updates leading to fragmentation. In fact, as of Q1 2017, less than 8% of Android devices were running Nougat. Even with Oreo, only the Pixel and Nexus phones will get the update in the coming days. Most other OEMs will only release their Android 8.0 update by late 2017/early 2018. What is even worse is that a large proportion of Android phones may not even get the Oreo update at all. Google does have some ideas on how to fix their update problem, such as the abstrusely named “Project Treble”, which could theoretically allow for instant updates in the future. However, it doesn’t seem like those changes will come in time for Oreo. This may ultimately leave most people with no way to benefit from the update, however great it may be.