Google has announced that the final, shipping version of the newest Android update is available for all Pixel phones today. And, as usual, it has announced a name to go along with the over-the-air update: “Android 9 Pie.”
Android 9 Pie’s headline features are the same ones that we revealed back in May: a “Digital Wellbeing” dashboard, a new gesture-based navigation system, and other AI-enhanced improvements to the UI. It also received many subtle improvements to the overall look of the software, including a new status bar that’s designed to work better with notches.
However, the official release will not include all of the features that Google announced at Google I/O. The main things that will be missing are the Digital Wellbeing features, including the usage dashboard, app times, and a “wind down” setting for when you go to bed. Instead, those features will be offered as a beta for Pixel users right away. The actual release will come in the fall; Google says “Android One and other devices coming later this year.” One can assume that among the “other devices” will be the new Pixel 3 phones. The signup for the beta will be at this link.
The other missing feature is “slices,” which allows apps to surface some of their functionality into search. For example, if you typed “Lyft” in the main search, you’d get a button to call a ride without opening the Lyft app. Google says that feature will also launch in the fall.
As usual, Android 9 Pie is coming first to Pixel users and will arrive for other Android phones later. However, Google has the potential to finally show progress in its efforts to get other Android manufacturers to update quickly this year. Several manufacturers participated in the Android P beta program, including Sony, Xiaomi, Nokia, Oppo, Vivo, OnePlus, and Essential. If any of them are able to release Android 9 Pie updates quickly, that would be a good sign.
In fact, in its blog post today, Google claims the devices that were in the Android P beta program will receive the Android 9 Pie update in a timely manner:
Devices that participated in the Beta program from Sony Mobile, Xiaomi, HMD Global, Oppo, Vivo, OnePlus, and Essential, as well as all qualifying Android One devices, will receive this update by the end of this fall! We are also working with a number of other partners to launch or upgrade devices to Android 9 this year.
The new gestural navigation feature has been polarizing
Most of the features in Android 9 Pie have been well-received in the beta. The system has a more advanced battery management system, which Google says is powered by AI. App actions surface common app actions as buttons in the main Android launcher. Text selection has significantly improved with a magnifier and smart text selection. But the new gestural navigation system has been more polarizing.
Early betas of Android P had significant “jank,” which is to say moving UI elements around felt choppy and not at all fluid. Things have improved significantly in later betas, but the swiping still feels a little less intuitive than the iPhone X’s gestures to many users. There’s an option to turn it off and go back to the traditional Android three-button setup if you don’t like it.
As for the name, well, “Pie” is not really a shock. It was the obvious choice, and Google went with it. The extra emphasis on the version number is interesting, though: Google refers to it as “Android 9 Pie,” and the URL for the OS is simply android.com/9.
If you have a Pixel phone, over-the-air updates should begin rolling out today.