Hands-On with Android O Developer Preview 2

Posted on May 18, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 14 Comments

This week, Google released Android O Developer Preview 2 as a public beta, providing us with our first peek at some interesting new features. Here’s a quick rundown of what I’ve seen so far.

As you may know, I previously tested the first Android O Developer Preview back in March. That release offers some interesting refinements, but nothing in the way of major new features.

This release is different. It arrived concurrently with Google I/O, the search giant’s annual developer show. And not surprisingly, it includes many of the new Android O features that Google highlighted at the show.

My favorite, so far, is notification dots, which appear as a colored badge on top of app icons on the home screen when they have a notification to display.

When you press and hold on the icon, you’ll see two things: The context menu that the app always displays—it provides access to app widgets and home screen shortcuts, when available, plus app info—and then a list of the available notifications.

Long-pressing an app icon with a notification dot will remove the dot. But it won’t remove the notification icon in the status bar; to do that, you will need to actually open the app, as before.

I did opt-in to Autofill, which you have to find in Settings first (System > Languages & input > Autofill service). Basically, the autofill information you’ve been collecting with Chrome on the PC or elsewhere is now available in apps for Android too. I’ve not actually had a chance to actually use it yet, however.

Similarly, I’ve not had a chance to test the new smart text selection feature, though I’ve tried. In the most obvious app to test this, Messages, the app auto-selects an entire message bubble when you long-press on it, so it sort of short-circuits smart text selection. But I’ve not gotten it to work elsewhere, either, and it’s possible it’s not even enabled yet for all I know.

There are many other changes here, including some that debuted in the previous Developer Preview. For example, the Quick Settings interface in the notification shade is now a pleasant gray color. And the scrollbar in the Apps view is really neat, highlight app icons with different first letters as you go. Not major, of course, but some nice refinement at least.

Finally, I’m not sure if this is tied to any of the “vitals” that Google says it was trying to improve in this release—system optimizations, and so on—but this build seemed to install and then reboot a lot more quickly than is usual. I’ll pay more attention with the next pre-release drop we get, but it was noticeable.

So that’s it for now. I’ll keep using Android O and see if I can uncover anything else.

 

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Comments (14)

14 responses to “Hands-On with Android O Developer Preview 2”

  1. Waethorn

    So the tap-and-hold on an icon shows the popup text. What happens with the tap-and-hold functionality for moving icons around then?

  2. Waethorn

    I guess they're not going to do the numbers game with the notification dots eh?


    It'd be funny if they used the notification style like the number of tabs open in Android Chrome, where if you hit over 99, it gives you a smiley face. I'm guilty of having that happen on more than one occasion.

  3. Daniel Blois

    2 comments:


    1) I thought the autofill was going to be open to developers to autofill from their apps as well. I use LastPass and Google should give them access to that API.


    2) The dots on the icon, imo, is stupid - at least how it is implemented. If I clear a notification, I want it to clear every where and why just a dot, why not a number for how many? Furthermore, the notifications should be above the context menu (or the furthest from your finger because it would be used the least.

  4. dcdevito

    Its been a declining topic at I/O over the last year or two, but this year Android really felt like an afterthought to me. It also bugs me that year after year a main topic of discussion for Android is always centered around "optimizations" and "battery life improvements" yet it never amounts to anything.

    With that said, I think the other changes are welcomed, I especially like the smart copy and paste feature (if it works well). Android always felt like a smarter smartphone OS to me compared to iOS, it just has major fundamental flaws.

    Also, would you mind sharing that wallpaper?

  5. wolters

    For me, it isn't 100% "daily driver" ready. Bluetooth Audio in my Jeep with UConnect keeps going in and out. Phone calls are fine...it is just the audio. For me, that is very important. Camera app seems a little jerky too.


    NOTE - They said you can unenroll and it will send you an OTA to go back to the stable N release. This is NOT working as of 5/19/2017. It will not send the OTA.

    • Narg

      In reply to wolters:

      I've had Bluetooth issues in the past two release version of Android. One of the multiple reasons I can't switch easily from iPhone. I really enjoy a lot of the plusses of Android, but it's got to be better at everything. Not just a small set of features.

  6. Narg

    Notification dots, long press... Sounds so Apple-ish. :)


    Finally got to long term test an Android device recently. Found an open source solution to the devices I needed for medical purposes, so that allowed me to switch for solid Android only for a while. Some things were really good, especially the open source solution thing I tried. But other things were just not good enough to keep me on Android. As always, I can see that some would much prefer Android, especially now. Probably even more so with "O". But there are still many things that the iPhone just simply does better. Alas, I'm back on my iPhone again. Missing a couple nice Android features, but preferring the features that I just could not replace on Android.

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