Google Reveals Some New Features Coming in Android O

Posted on May 17, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Dev, Android with 16 Comments

At its Google I/O 2017 developer conference today, Google revealed many of the major new features coming in Android “O.”

It also revealed that there are now over 2 billion active Android devices worldwide, a figure that puts it well ahead of Windows (1.5 billion, including Windows 10), iOS (1 billion), and Windows 10 (500 million). Android isn’t just the biggest personal computing platform in the world. It’s growing its lead over the competition.

And part of that competitive push, of course, involves improving Android with new features and functionality. Here’s what Google said it will be adding to Android O, the next major version of this OS, which is expected to ship by the end of 2017.

Notification dots. As you may know, app notifications now appear at the top of the screen and are accessible via a pull-down notification shade. In Android O, apps will be able to display their own notifications in a bubble when you long press on their icons. This seems like an excellent idea, and a step towards live tiles-like functionality.

Smart text selection. Today, you can double-tap any word in Android to select it, and then use on-screen selection handles to modify the selection if needed. In Android O, Google is using what it calls “on-device machine learning” to make copy and paste smarter. Now, Android will recognize entities like addresses, URLs, telephone numbers, and email addresses, so you can just double-tap one word and Android will auto-select the entire entity. (For example, if you double-tapped the word “High” in “Dedham High School,” the whole phrase would be selected.

Picture-in-picture. Already available within select apps, PIP is coming to the OS in Android O. Google provided a few interesting examples of how this could be useful—video chatting while checking your calendar, for example—and nicely elevated the discussion past the ability to watch a movie while you do something else. Best of all, PIP will work on any size screen, Google says.

Autofill. Chrome’s Autofill feature is coming to Android. Once you opt-in, Autofill will just work in most apps, and developers can optimize their apps by providing hints about the type of data expected or add support in custom views, Google says.

System optimizations. Google is optimizing Android so that apps run faster and smoother. “For example, we made extensive changes in our runtime, including new optimizations like concurrent compacting garbage collection, code locality, and more.” the firm claims.

Background limits. Android O will introduce new limits on background location and Wi-Fi scans, and changes in the way apps run in the background. These changes will increase battery life and free up memory.

Android Go. In yet another bid to capitalize on low-end phones, Google is introducing Android Go, a new experience for Android devices that have 1 GB or less of memory. This effort includes optimizing Android and Google’s own apps for low-end devices. And the Play store will promote a better user experience by highlighting apps that are specifically designed for these devices, Google note. Android Go will ship in 2018 for all Android devices that have 1 GB or less of memory.

As you may recall, Google recently closed down its Android O Developer Preview, but as today’s it’s back online and Google has announced Developer Preview 2 as a public beta. So if you’re interested in early access to these features, and have a compatible device, you’re good to go.

“Today’s release of O Developer Preview 2 is our first beta-quality candidate, available to test on your primary phone or tablet,” Google says. “We’re inviting those who want to try the beta release of Android O to enroll now.”

The latest versions of Android Studio, the Android SDK and tools, the Android O system images, and emulators are available now as well.


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Comments (16)

16 responses to “Google Reveals Some New Features Coming in Android O”

  1. Thomas Parkison

    "changes in the way apps run in the background. These changes will increase battery life and free up memory."

    Apple has been doing this since... forever on the iPhone and yet Android users made fun of Apple iOS saying that their pathetic hardware can't do true multitasking. And here Google is going to do the same thing and yet instead of hatred Android users will shout for joy. Double standard much?

    Seriously, it's a mobile device with limited computing and battery capacity... you can't treat it like you would a desktop which has virtually unlimited of both due to AC power and a hell of a lot more processing power.

  2. rameshthanikodi

    ...this is what it looks like when Android no longer has to worry about competition.

  3. PeteB

    Just installed on Nexus 6P. Working great so far. The smooth transitions when flipping between apps now is very cool.

    • SvenJ

      In reply to PeteB: Really thinking about loading it on my Pixel. It's not my primary phone, so a little instability is OK. Have a Nexus 6, but it's not eligible. Actually was impressed the last time I did Android betas. Might be fun. What the heck, here I go.

  4. SvenJ

    I find it interesting that Google is starting to think about supporting the same sort of low end hardware devices that Windows Phone actually ran so well on and amounted to a great deal of the Nokia Lumia success outside the US. When you are going after the next billion phone users, who largely live in areas that are economically challenged, focusing on the $800-$1000 flagship probably isn't the best strategy.

    • Waethorn

      In reply to SvenJ:

      Google doesn't need to attract these customers because they already have most of them, but it's good that they're meeting the still-present demand for low-end hardware with up-to-date software. This isn't Windows Phone class hardware. In 2018, the low end hardware expected to ship with Android Go will be the equivalent of today's Nokia candybar feature phone that they just recently shipped.

      • SvenJ

        In reply to Waethorn: I kind of thought they had that market too, but they must think there is a market for even less. Of course the even less now appears to be what was normal not 3-4 years ago. 512M to 1G Ram was pretty common.

        • Waethorn

          In reply to SvenJ:

          There are Android devices with only 1GB of RAM that run Android 6, but Android 7 requires 2GB or more AFAIK, not to mention that the company making the device has to make Android 7 available for it, and there are very few tablets (if any) that are running Android 7 right now. Most mid-range to flagship phones now have 3-4GB's, if not more.

  5. MutualCore

    Honestly more of stability/performance update. None of the features are "wow" type. Apple has had PIP for years. Smart text selection is nice, but hardly 'must have'. Honestly does Google not have engineering resources to pump out cool new features that set the market on fire?

    • Nic

      In reply to MutualCore:

      At this point are there even cool new features that can be developed that aren't already out there? I'm not sure that at this point there can be much other than iterative change at the OS level (same goes for iOS).

  6. wolters

    Installed 'O' on my Pixel XL. Bluetooth audio is not working well. Cuts in and out and doesn't display the information correctly, often stuck on the first thing it played. This is with a UCONNECT system.

  7. xapache

    Why is it that every Google event I watch the movie "The Circle" jumps into my mind? Strange...