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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Comments (19)

19 responses to “Testing the Android O Developer Preview”

  1. Ben

    You should make it clear that 7.1.2 is beta software and likely the cause of your issues with the Pixel XL, I had to leave the beta program as 7.1.2 was terribly buggy.

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to Ben:

      I would make that clear had that been the reason. It's been terrible all along.

      • Polycrastinator

        In reply to Paul Thurrott:

        I'm actually wondering if you got a lemon, if there's some problem with the particular device you have. My wife has a Pixel (std) and it's been nothing but smooth and responsive the whole time she's had it.

      • elessar25

        In reply to Paul Thurrott:

        Paul, what issues in particular did you experience? I'm on Lumia 950 right now, and am breaking my head trying to figure out what to get: Android or iOS. I thought the Pixel XL would be the one, simply b/c it can actually take a decent night-time shot, unlike iPhone. But if the software experience is generally terrible, then that wouldn't matter...

        • SvenJ

          In reply to elessar25: I'm a WP guy, currently running a 950XL, after a long line of WPs starting with WM 5. I have a Pixel as well, on Fi. I find the Pixel a fine device. Comfortable, responsive, effective. I would say the Pixels are a bit overpriced, but not exceptionally. No issues with Android, but I'm pretty flexible with OSs, mobile or otherwise. I'd hang on to the 950 until it falls apart, or you get tired of the lackluster support from MS and third parties. After that it becomes a decision of a decent and customizable experience (Android) or an unbelievable ecosystem (iOS). Pixel is a fine representative of the Android side IMHO.

      • Ben

        In reply to Paul Thurrott:

        I've never had an issue with Pixel XL for the several months I've had it. The only time having issues was on the 7.1.2 as above. A shame it's been so bad for you as this is one of the best android devices made.

  2. Mark from CO


    Given that Microsoft really has no play in mobile with W10, is it a plausible alternative to take Android, fork it in a way that Samsung has done with a tile interface?  This would allow Microsoft to have access to apps, while 'embracing and extending' Android.  I get that Google could do all sorts of things to make this difficult/impossible, but it would seem to me that would invite antitrust concerns.  I also get this is pie in the sky, but I don't see Microsoft really having any alternatives, if it really wants to be a mobile player.

    Mark from CO

    • Jaxidian

      In reply to Mark from CO:

      Microsoft can definitely do this. They would have two primary options:

      1. Fork it like Samsung does: Which means following a bunch of rules from Google but as a perk, being able to keep Google apps on the device, most importantly the Google Play Store, Gmail, and Youtube (among others).
      2. Fork it like Amazon does: Which means doing whatever you want but not being able to run any Google software on the phone. This means Microsoft would have to come up with an App Store solution (whether it means creating/running their own or partnering with Amazon to use theirs, or something else).

      So this is most certainly an option but they would have a very big choice to make.

  3. nbplopes

    I'm curious what are the iOS/Apple apps and services that do not work well on iOS. My experience is that they might not have this or that feature but within the context of the features they provide the experience its definitely robust and well rounded at all accounts. Meaning that it might not have all the features other have but what it has works very well. Have no complains unlike for instance UWP based Office tools.

    PS: I don't use all Apple apps as form me there are apps that deliver some features that I appreciate, are also robust and well rounded, but that does not mean Apple apps do not work well. There is a difference.

    By the way the competing system seams to be broken in some browsers.

  4. crmguru

    We innovated on the O platform long before Android figured it out. Welcome to the party google... took you long enough.. ;-)


  5. Jaxidian

    Just to be clear, you (the readers of this post) really should *not* be installing Android O on your devices even if you have a compatible device right now. This O release is incredibly buggy. They are about 2-3 months away from having a release of O that could be "stable enough" with tolerable bugs for the adventurous types. And if you're not familiar with adb and fastboot command line operations, you should just wait until it's available as a beta OTA release.

    (This is coming from a big Android fan who had the original G1 Android phone.)

  6. Bats

    I know Paul is trying to paint himself as a "professional" technologist who supposedly has deep knowledge and understanding in the practical use of technology, so,,,Why then is he not going into Round Table like discussion to talk technology with other like minded professionals? Instead, he prefers to interact with his "Microsoft" people within his Redmond bubble which is safe from criticism and damage to his image.

    LOL...So Paul is now testing Android O? Yeah...right! 

    LOL..how? So he can nitpick and bash it? I don't think anyone can take anything Paul says about Android seriously. Based on his last post regarding Android, where chances are he either lied about the Pixel or garbaged it because he's using that god-awful launcher called Arrow, to which he praised as being the best.

    PAUL clearly didn't evaluate Arrow Launcher very well and it's effect on Android M & N. I know, because I tested it Arrow Launcher on both a Galaxy Note 4, Nexus 6P, and Pixel XL. When your "work ecosystem" is centered around MSFT, like mine, it makes sense to see if the Arrow Launcher can help. From my testing and the comments on so many many many who left their reviews on blogs, the Garage Team did a mediocre job. However, that not what Paul EXPERIENCED and ANALYZED. That's the story of many of the products he supposedly analyzed and wrote about. For example, Chromebooks to which he followed the MSFT narrative faithfully. Today, Chromebook is the #2 Operating System in the world.

    Remember Google Home's "fatal flaw?" He thought it was a product failure and returned it, not realizing that it's a software issue. Hey,...maybe he'll buy it again, but for him to dismiss it so fast without proper analysis and investigation, tells me that didn't understand the technology. FYI...Google announced they will release an update for the Google Home to have multi-account support. Duh...Paul couldn't even see that coming. 

    Ha, ha, ha....Don't even get me started on Paul's science diet where he praised and endorse that Gary Taubes’ book “Why We Get Fat.” In Paul's words "It will work...it's science." (Psst....that was years ago and look at his waistline)

    It's actually quite comical that a single person can analyse so badly, write about it, and be constantly wrong, so consistently. It's unbelievable. Therefore, I am confident and sure, he'll get Android O wrong too.

    • elessar25

      In reply to Bats:

      You seem pretty knowledgeable. Question: Do you know how the fundamental nature of iOS/Android effect a user's day-to-day experience? Does the fact that Android apps and UI are based on Java (which by definition isn't native) make it always slow no matter how powerful the Soc and how much RAM? Will the native nature of apps written with Objective C/Swift make the iPhone experience always faster and more stable?

  7. Polycrastinator

    Nice "callout but not callout" to the Germany post. ;-)