Google has just announced the Android P developer preview, which is almost exclusively focused on back-end features that primarily concern, you know, developers. Most of the user-facing features won’t be announced until the Google I/O conference in May. But we’re on the lookout for things that look different, and the above screenshot of the Quick Settings panel and notifications drawer definitely drew our eye.
This part of the UI can look wildly different depending on which version of Android you’re using. Google’s panel looks different from Samsung’s or LG’s, for example. But if you’ve been using a Pixel, you can’t help but notice the rounded corners and borders around these UI elements. Right now, in Oreo, these bits are squared off and cover the whole screen.
The fear, of course, is that Android will lose the information density most users currently enjoy in favor of the big bubbles on iOS. That (thankfully) doesn’t appear to be the case here; instead, it’s just a subtle stylistic change that more clearly delineates the two parts of the drawer from each other and from the rest of the OS. It’s also not worth panicking yet because we’ve seen Google experiment with different visual treatments of these elements before, so things may change.
Taking only the good parts from iPhone notifications
Google is definitely borrowing an idea from the iPhone, however: even richer information inside texting notifications. With Android P, messaging apps will be able to use a new style on their notifications that do a better job of showing images, including the profile image of the person texting you. Even better, you will be able to expand them and see a few lines of conversation before you tap in your quick reply.
That’s similar to how it works on iOS, except there, you need to remember to use a hard 3D Touch to open up the in-notification window. Presumably, Android will stick with the slow (or two-finger) drag to expand its notifications.
Google is adding one more option for messaging apps that’s completely original to Android: the ability to add smart reply buttons inside the notification itself. We don’t have the full details yet, but it’s a good bet that Google will encourage developers to use something like the Reply app that recently surfaced, which lets you use Smart Replies in notifications right now.
Hopefully there will be further tweaks to notifications in Android P. Oreo added many granular features that give users total control of how notifications appear, but it did so with an explosion of confusing checkboxes. I’d like to see Android P try to simplify that interface a bit while leaving it easy to quickly adjust an app’s settings directly from the notification itself.