Android P developer preview is now available — here’s what’s new

As it has for the last couple years, Google is releasing a developer preview of the next version of Android in March. Before you ask, no, we don’t know the name beyond “Android P.” Another thing we don’t know is just how big the user-facing changes will be this time around, as this preview is mostly focused on the changes that will affect developers. In fact, Google VP of engineering Dave Burke is calling this “an early baseline build for developers only,” so definitely do not go flashing your main phone with this and assume it will be usable day to day.

The feature that will probably garner the most discussion is built-in support for a notch cutting into the display at the top of the screen. (Google’s term for it is “display cutout support.”) Those notches were unavoidable on new Android phones at Mobile World Congress last month, so that support is going to be important at least until companies stop blithely copying Apple’s iPhone X. In the meantime, developers will be able to test how their full-screen apps will work with notches with the new tools Google is releasing today.

The other change that users may see is staring you right in the face in the image below: a tweaked look for the Quick Settings panel and notification drawer with rounded corners. Don’t assume too much there, however, as this is just an early preview and Google has made tweaks to the look of quick settings and notifications in other previews.

The new look for notifications also includes a new look for notifications from messaging apps: they will be able to include recent lines from your conversation if you want to reply inline right inside the notification. It’s similar to how iOS handles iMessage notifications, but without all that force-touch fuss. Apps will also be able to include “Smart replies” (perhaps provided by Google?), images, and stickers directly in the notification.

As I said earlier, this is a developer preview, so the above pretty much encapsulates the visual changes we’ve been able to identify so far. In fact, it pretty much encapsulates the traditional user-facing “features” that are worth calling out in Google’s blog post. There are a few more bits here and there, though. Android is finally introducing a standard dialog box UI for when apps want to verify your identity with a fingerprint, for example.

The rest are the sort of things that are related to the overall efficiency of Android or are specifically there for developers to test their apps against. The list is surprisingly long, but it’s hard to find a huge theme for Android P’s changes in the way that we were able to do with earlier releases.

Here are a few of the notable changes for developers:

Google has a video that goes over these features from a developer point of view, and it even includes some sample code to give an idea of how to implement this functionality in practice:

Now, it wouldn’t be a story about a new version of Android without a big caveat, so here it is: even though we fully expect more details in May and a release this fall, the likelihood that your current Android phone will get any of these features is not great. In fact, if history is any guide, your chances are perishingly small. It’s possible that the deep, structural changes that Google made to Android with Oreo (known as Treble) could make the update situation better this time around. But it’s impossible to know until that we see that happen.

In the meantime, developers with a Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL can download and flash the Android P developer preview on their devices today and can also install the emulator on their computer. But again: Google is clear that “this initial release is for developers only and not intended for daily or consumer use,” so don’t be surprised if there are some show-stopping bugs in this first release. Google’s emphasizing that concern by not releasing an over-the-air version of this Android P preview.

The good news for you early adopters is that Google is once again promising an Android Beta release at some point in the future, as it gets “closer to a final product.”

Comments

Clock on the left??? Mind blown!

Thank you, I didn’t notice! The parameters icon/button too.

And when the notification bar is pulled, the hour and day aren’t displayed even though there is space for that…

I doubt that’s staying though. These are early stages.

The funny thing about this is that most manufacturers copying iPhone X’s notch will release phones forever stuck on Android Nougat and hack together their own half-baked "display cutout" solution

Even funnier is that the iPhone X was not the first phone with a notch. So how is it Android is copying the iPhone and not any other phone? Bloggers these days….

Technically you’re right, but it doesn’t matter that much. Manufacturers aren’t suddenly releasing phones with notches because other Android phone manufacturers did it. They are releasing them to ride on Apple’s iPhone X hype train. At least Apple implemented this natively in the OS and it actually works, even if it’s a bit weird.

To be clear, Google is also implementing native support for notches in Android P. But what are the chances manufacturers will use Google’s native solution if they can’t release a phone with an up-to-date version of Android?

There is actually nothing to copy. Smartphone bezels have been getting smaller and smaller for a decade. At some point if you want to keep a speaker and front-facing camera you end up with a notch whether you like it or not.

Until you master the behind screen or retractable sensors technology.

At some point if you want to keep a speaker and front-facing camera you end up with a notch whether you like it or not.

Funny how that eventuality just had to happen at this year’s MWC.

Even funnier is recent rumors that Apple is ditching the notch next year.

> Funny how that eventuality just had to happen at this year’s MWC

Because bezel-less smartphones started being released last year?

So all of the sudden the notch is the default solution, okay. Why wasn’t everyone in such a hurry to copy Xiaomi’s Mi Mix when it came out in Q4 2016? Or Essential Phone in Q2 2017 (delayed, but still)?

Were they all secretly working on those phones to release them at MWC 2018?
Have you seen those phones and how rushed they look?

Because they want to pretend they are iPhones…

Some of them even look like the iPhone X leaked ‘prototype’ photos.

Where are these rumors?

They will never ditch the notch.

They’ll have to figure out underscreen cameras first.

Major privacy issue.

How so?
No different than any other camera.

You can cover up a camera with a little circle of tape.

Or you can stop the apps having access to the camera as you can now.
How many people seriously put tape over their camera?

On a computer lots… On a phone I doubt many.

Excatly. If this tech comes to smartphones you bet they are going to put it in laptops. Bad idea.

Only if you don’t trust your manufacturer.

You kidding me? Do you know how easy it is for people to hack your laptop webcam?

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