Google unveiled the first developer preview of its next-generation mobile operating system, Android O, a year after its first preview of Android Nougat. Unlike the Android N version, which was available to all comers, Google is not making the O preview available in the Android Beta channel. For Android O, only developers who own a Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Pixel, Pixel XL or Pixel C device (or want to use the emulator) will be able to manually download and flash their devices. Among the new features, background limits are expected to conserve battery life.
TechCrunch reports that, “after a bit more testing with developers, Google will open enrollment into O through Android Beta.” Android O focuses on tweaks to the operating system rather than any changes to the user interface.
New features include: notifications, which offers developers “the ability to group notifications from their apps,” picture-in-picture mode so that video “will still play after you switch to a different app,” multi-display support so that developers can launch an activity on a remote display; and keyboard navigation, “essentially a feature for Android Apps on Chrome OS” to “allow developers to better support arrow and tab navigation in their apps.”
In addition, background limits put automatic limits on what an app can do while in the background. Recode digs a bit deeper into this feature, noting that a post in Google’s Android Developer Blog reveals that background limits will help save battery life.
TechCrunch notes that “these limits focus on three areas: implicit broadcasts, background services and location updates.” Google also says it is “working with partners” to bring support for Neighborhood Aware Networking (NAN) to devices soon. Android O will also provide better interop for calling apps, improving the ease for “calling apps to talk to each other and make calls over the carrier network,” although this feature appears to benefit telecoms and not matter much to end users.
According to Recode, although Android is “the most widely used phone operating system in the world, with 88 percent of smartphone market share as of November, according to research firm Strategy Analytics,” it’s not clear how many Android users will get the update, since “pushing out updates to users is often up to carriers and manufacturers, not Google.”
According to Android’s developer site, “a mere 3 percent of Android users have Nougat,” the latest version. That compares to 79 percent of iOS users with iOS 10, Apple’s latest software version.