Testing the Android O Developer Preview

Posted on March 27, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 19 Comments

Testing the Android O Developer Preview

Last week, Google announced the Android O Developer Preview, giving us our first peek at the next major release of its dominant mobile platform. This week, I’m going to throw caution to the wind and dive right in.

Why? Two reasons. So I can learn more about this platform as it evolves. And so you don’t have to, of course.

As you may know, I was traveling internationally with my Pixel XL last week and relying on it as my day-to-day phone. As has been the case since I purchased this handset at great expense late last year, I remain unimpressed by the Pixel XL, with the sole exception of its camera, which is truly impressive. So the week was a mixture of highs and lows for the Pixel: Using it is frustrating, but the photos it takes are incredible.

But hope springs eternal. And regardless of my opinions of Android generally or the Pixel XL specifically, the platform is indeed dominant and needs to be addressed. Plus, the open nature of Android makes it possible for Microsoft to more deeply integrate its own products and services into this system in a way that is impossible on iOS/iPhone. So Android is perhaps the better choice for Windows phone expats.

On that note, I’ve always gone back and forth on the “Redmonization” thing. By which I mean, I use Microsoft solutions like Arrow Launcher, Cortana, and Swift Keyboard. And then I don’t, and I return to the Google defaults. I do this to gain a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t, and to keep up on updates as they occur. For example, when Android 7.1.2 appeared on my Pixel XL when I was in Germany last week, I switched back to the Pixel launcher (from Arrow) and Google Assistant (from Android) to see what was new.

I do this kind of testing all the time, and it’s often triggered by news of new updates, as was the case here. For example, if/when Microsoft releases the next major Arrow Launcher update, or whatever, I’ll switch to that again to see what’s changed. That’s just what I do. The goal is to be able to speak (hopefully) intelligently on the topic and provide people making this transition with good advice. There’s nothing partisan about it.

Indeed, this is why I often recommend very specific Google apps (on Android or iOS): Because they work better. And it’s why I recommend that those who do choose iPhone/iOS ignore a lot of the Apple apps and services: Because many of them do not. I’ve actually used it all, and will continue testing to makes sure my opinions are up-to-date and don’t occur in a vacuum.

So, Android O.

Yes, it’s early yet. This first Developer Preview release is not for general consumption—literally, it’s so developers can get started on examining new functionality—and, as such, it’s not particularly easy to install on a device. Assuming you even have a compatible device. Which, of course, I do.

So I’m going to look at it. Take note of the new features. See whether any of them point at a future where Android becomes truly usable. Doing so now is good timing: I need the Pixel XL to work as well as it can while I’m traveling internationally, but now that I’m home from this most recent trip, I can afford to let it become a bit unreliable on this Developer Preview. It will be a while before I need to take it outside the country again. Besides, given the performance and reliability issues I had with this phone in Germany, a reset is a great idea regardless.

More soon.


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