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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