Spring is in the air, so Google is rolling out a developer preview for its next version of Android ahead of the May beta release.
Android O, as the release is currently known, follows last fall’s release of Android 7.0 Nougat, which is currently installed on about 11 distinct Android devices thanks to Google’s apparent lack of concern about platform fragmentation.
Normally, I’d install this preview on my Pixel XL immediately, but since I’m traveling internationally this week and—shudder—actually relying on this device, I’ll wait until I get home. But it looks to be a truly major upgrade, based on just the initial look at new features.
Better battery life. New limits on background tasks —in implicit broadcasts, background services, and location updates, specifically—should help improve battery life yet again, Google says.
Better notifications. Each Android version tweaks notifications, and this version is adding notification channels, which are a way for apps to provide different types of notifications, each of which the user can decide whether to display separately. There are also new visuals around notifications and groups.
Better auto-fill. Android O will add support for auto-fill apps, kind of like keyboard apps, that will help them auto-fill passwords and other information using the secure solution of their choice, and in any app.
PIP support. Like the iPad and Windows 10, Android O is adding support for picture-in-picture video so you can keep watching when you switch to another app.
Better icons. Icons in Android O can be adaptive, meaning that they will be different shapes based on the system. (Not that they can change dynamically, which would be nice. Imagine a weather app that could just display the temperature. How modern would that be?)
Better connectivity. Android O will support high-quality Bluetooth audio via LDAC and other new codecs, plus new Wi-Fi features like Wi-Fi Aware, which used to be called Neighbor Awareness Networking (NAN). Basically, it lets devices discover and communicate over Wi-Fi without an Internet access point.
Better keyboard support. Thanks to the expansion of Android to Chrome OS-based devices, Android O will support keyboards better, adding such things as keyboard navigation.
There’s more, but you check out the Android Developers Blog for the full list.
Next week when I’m home, I’ll start diving into the developer preview and see what else I can find. But if you don’t want to wait, and have a compatible device—it will only work on Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Pixel, Pixel XL and Pixel C devices—you can get started right away. For this initial release, you’ll need to manually flash your device.