Android O is shaping up to be exactly what Android needs

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Today’s Google I/O presentation was as wide-ranging as the company’s various ventures into future technology, though the biggest cheers of excitement were inevitably reserved for Android. I just got my first taste of Google’s next iteration, codenamed Android O, and it looks like it’s targeting exactly the areas where Google’s mobile OS needed improvement.

Battery life, a thing that matters to all users at all times, is getting a nice helping hand from a couple of changes that limit resource consumption by apps running in the background. When a background app wants a location update, for instance, Android O will feed it the user’s last known location instead of activating the GPS or other hardware to collect a fresh location. Then, when the app is in the foreground, it regains its privilege of being able to poll for current location info. If you’re thinking that’s how it always should have been, I totally agree.

Google’s umbrella term for the unsexy but essential under-the-hood improvements in Android O is "vitals." My other highlight from among them is the massively improved bootup time: my personal Google Pixel took more than twice as long to start up than Google’s demo Pixel running O. I also find Android O runs very fast and smooth already, despite being only beta software. Naturally, not everything works flawlessly in the new OS yet, so I can’t judge how well Google is doing with its other vital bulletpoint, stability, but the first impression I’ve obtained is a positive one.

The more visible changes include a streamlined Settings menu (when has a Settings menu not looked in need of streamlining?), another gradual update to how notifications work, and new app badging à la the iPhone. Google calls these notification dots, and it adds a nice twist to the idea by automatically color-matching the dots to the app icon. A long press on an app with a notification dot on it lets you access a secondary menu where you can swipe that alert away without having to hunt it down in among your agglomeration of notifications in the tray.

Perhaps the biggest small change in Android O is the addition of picture-in-picture functionality. It allows YouTube Red subscribers to punt a video they’re watching to a small window — positionable anywhere on the screen — and carry on using their phone as usual. The Google Duo video-chatting app also supports this behaviour, but those two apps are the full extent of this functionality for now. I’d really love to see this made available to all YouTube users, and once third-party app makers like Netflix jump on board, it’s likely to grow into a popular feature.

Android O is littered with little nips and tucks that just enhance the user experience without necessarily being visible or apparent. At this stage in Android’s evolution, this approach feels like the best one to take, and I suspect we’ll all be just as aggrieved about not having the Android O update on our non-Google phones as we have in previous years of slow Android upgrades.*

*Google claims it’s made some other changes in the OS that will make Android more modular and thus expedite Android updates, but I’ll believe that when I see it, not before.

Comments

And a year from now… Android "O" will be installed on a whopping 8% of Android devices around the world.

Deployment!

Quick how much is 8% or 2 billion?

taking your question literally: 160,000,000

That is about 26x as many Android O devices as the number of units sold of the first model of iPhone (6 million).

"That is about 26x as many Android O devices as the number of units sold of the first model of iPhone (6 million)."

That is about 160x as many Android O devices as the number of units sold of the first model of an Android smartphone (1 million of the HTC Dream).

/snark

What is the point of comparing projected installs of a future Android operating system with the sales of the first model of the iPhone from 10 years ago?

To showcase the incredible rate at which the smartphone industry has grown?

8% is 8/100 and 2 billion is 2,000,000,000

… and I’ll be one of the 8% because my next phone is a Pixel 2. Sorry Samsung, updates are too slow.

Yay deployment! I am already running Android O!

Bob Ross!

I’ve used a backup phone on Lollipop for a few months recently, and I wasn’t missing much. It’s been all nips and tucks since then. The most visible improvement in Nougat is the slicker notifications, though Lollipop did them fine enough.

If O gives a bit of a speed improvement and little cleanups, well great. None of that is essential. It’s just nice.

Have you used a Nougat phone or Marshmallow phone yet? The most visible nip/tuck is standby battery life. It’s been incremental, but it’s improving. One thing that I always thought Google should’ve been focusing on sine Cupcake. I’m glad it’s finally coming to fruition.

you sure? because my S7 Edge definitely disagress with you, unfortunately.

Using a 7.0 phone now. A Nextbit (hey, it was cheap and pretty and green).
Sure. The phone holds its charge overnight quite well.

I guess my main point, which The Verge is now saying in an article, is that the Apps are what matter. Photos gets better, and it’s better on old phones with old Android too.

So they added a feature that loads of people have requested for years (PiP) and then decided that it can only be accessed with Youtube Red which is only available in a few select countries.

not like they announced the beta today and release is 6 months away…oh, wait, yeeeaaah, ok

No, they added the feature to O, but the apps have to support it. Right now only their own video-related apps (YouTube (for Red users) and Duo) support it, but there’s nothing preventing other apps from implementing it.

However, I agree that limiting PiP to YouTube Red users is a shitty strategy. I live in Europe, I pay just as much for Play Music as anyone across the pond, and yet I still don’t have YT Red while they do.

Android’s interface is truly a mess. You basically need a custom launcher like Nova or Evie + an icon pack to make it pretty. Samsung’s white icon framing and interface is a step back in my opinion.

I don’t see iOS as being nearly as functional, although it is getting better. It’s the first grader approach: simple but not as flexible. For example resorting to games just to get your most-used icons to the bottom of the screen.

To be fair, it is vice versa. Android was not nearly as functional as iOS, but with the appearance of features like dots on icons and 3D touch contextual actions Android O approaches the level of functionality of iOS.

What are you talking about, interface is almost the same as before, and it has been good for a while now.

What an absolutely silly comment. Since when did icons on a screen become a mess? If that’s the case every mobile and computer OS is a mess. And please don’t mention windows phone – that UI was a dumpster fire.

I disagree, I’ve use all three extensively (used Android from 2.0-Jellybean, and IOS for the past 5 years on an iPad, and my wife’s 6S. I just switched from a Lumia 950 to Galaxy S8 (used W10M for 2 years). W10’s home screen (start menu) phone interface is way better than Android or IOS. It’s problem is app support, and how the apps interface with the OS. Android is just more fully featured at this point in time………and of course, apps. I probably would have stayed with W10, if it had the developer support. IOS is horrible imo, too limiting.

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