Android Users, Welcome to the Age of Oreo

Posted on September 11, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 40 Comments

Android Users, Welcome to the Age of Oreo

Android 8.0 Oreo is the type of update that I wish Microsoft would provide for Windows 10. That is, rather than pile on superfluous new functionality that virtually no one will never use or want—3D, mixed reality, an e-book store built into a web browser, for chrissakes—Google is instead hitting hard on the the basics that will benefit all users, and not adding a complex array of fluff. What a concept.

And here’s a great example. With Android 8.0 Oreo, apps can no longer launch services or other tasks—and in particular location services—while they’re running in the background; they need to be in the foreground to do so. Why is Google making such a change, you ask? To improve battery life, of course.

This isn’t the first time Google has done this kind of work. The firm’s efforts to dramatically improve Android battery life, and thus the overall Android experience, began in earnest in Android 6.0 Marshmallow (2015). In that release, A feature called Doze dramatically limited what happened in the background when the device was not being used, meaning that the screen was off, the device was stationary, and it was not charging. And another feature called App Standby specifically limited background network activity for idle apps.

In Android 7.0 Nougat (2016), Google furthered these efforts with Doze Light, which added Doze capabilities to non-stationary devices; for example, when you’re carrying around a phone in your pocket as you go. And that release also took aim at what Google calls “problematic broadcasts” in which too many apps were woken up by specific events, further harming battery life. (Events related to connectivity and new photo and video creation were specifically targeted in Nougat.)

And as Google’s Shailen Tuli explained it to developers recently, Android 8.0 Oreo offers a very natural further evolution of this work.

“Battery has been a huge issue for us, year after year after year,” he said. “One in three users tell us that battery is their number one concern with Android.”

So Google is back at it. And in Android 8.0 Oreo, the firm is specifically targeting background services usage, in particular those for location. For the first time, apps can no longer freely start background services. Developers are encouraged, instead, to use Android’s job scheduler for these sorts of tasks; this is a more efficient approach because the OS, and not the app, will determine when the best time is for such things to occur. (In fact, Google is likewise encouraging developers to use the job scheduler for broadcasts as well; perhaps this will become mandatory in a future release as the firm continues its quest for better battery life.)

Some high-priority background services will be allowed, of course. Google will whitelist certain messaging solutions, for example, including SMS/MMS, for short windows of time so that they can behave as before. As Tuli says, it’s a pragmatic approach.

And then there’s the big bugaboo in this release: Location services.

“Users—rightly or wrongly—associate location with battery drain,” Tuli said. “And because they do that, they go and disable location altogether. Which makes all the apps either not work at all or work in a degraded manner. This is not good for developers, users, or Android as a platform.”

Google wants users to love location services, he noted, and so the changes coming in Android 8.0 Oreo will result in a better experience for both app developers and users. And what are those changes?

Background apps will now only receive location updates several times per hour. Today, there are essentially no limits.

Android 8.0 Oreo will also severely limit how often a background app can scan Wi-Fi for location. If you stay connected to the same access point, no further Wi-Fi scans will be performed. This will benefit everyone: If you stay at work (or home) for several hours each day, apps won’t be continually trying to use your Wi-Fi connection to calculate your location throughout the day.

And Oreo will likewise provide smarter geofencing by changing the allowed frequency of checks from about 2 seconds to about 2 minutes. The result? Up to a 10x battery life improvement for this task.

These change are immediate: Any app running on Android 8.0 Oreo will be impacted, regardless of which version of the OS that its developer targeted. This means that many apps will actually behave differently on Android 8.0 Oreo than they do on Android 6.0 Marshmallow or Android 7.0 Nougat.

But that said, many users are already turning off background services, especially location services, since this is a leading tip for improving battery life on Android. So Google is asking developers to think ahead here and do the right thing now, since location services are often critical. That way, even users on other Android versions can benefit.

We’ll see how users and developers respond to these changes. But with Android 8.0 Oreo, at least, Google is taking dramatic steps to solve problems that have dogged Android for years. And that is great news for all of us.

So welcome to the age of Oreo. I’ll be writing more about this latest Android version soon.

 

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Comments (40)

40 responses to “Android Users, Welcome to the Age of Oreo”

  1. glenn8878

    Battery life is a non-issue with Windows. It's all Intel's fault.


    BTW. Flat interfaces are less productive, but they do get people to waste their time at a website.

  2. dontbe evil

    "1% of Android Users, Welcome to the Age of Oreo" FIXED

  3. Daekar

    Isn't one reason that Microsoft is focusing on other things the fact that Windows is far more mature and feature-complete than Android?


    I mean, it's all well and good to praise Google for good work - but what exactly should Microsoft be improving in Windows? It's... well, it's already pretty great.

  4. Chris_Kez

    I've had Oreo on my Nexus 5X for a few days and it does seem to have slightly better battery life. Then again, I did blow it away and set it up as a new device. I find myself doing this every 6-8 months as my 32GB storage fills up and Android starts to get crufty and prone to freezes.

    So far I'm liking Oreo except for two things: 1) The notification shade is way too bright at night, and 2) the persistent Android System notification that tells you which apps are running in the background.

    One thing I do like in Notifications is that you can now add apps like LastPass to the Quick Actions.

  5. Michael Rivers

    Windows updates may focus on more frivolous things that Android, but at least you don't have to buy just one brand of device to actually get updates on Windows. The cell phone carriers really suck, and only Apple was able to put them in their place. (Project Fi kind of does, but it only offers too-expensive Pixel phones.)

    • MikeCerm

      In reply to Michael Rivers:

      Carriers are not the problem with updates any more. Want proof? Buy an unlocked Android phone from Samsung, Motorola, Huawei, or any other third party handset maker. Some are better than others, but NONE delivers updates to their handsets in a timely fashion. The handset makers make money when you buy a new phone. What happens after that just costs them money, and most phones are not worth updating from their perspective.

  6. nwebster

    Oh good, another Paul hates MS and loves Google now article. Can't get enough of these!

  7. Mulderjoe

    Bonus points for "bugaboo".

  8. Siv

    Here, here on the comment about Google doing the right thing unlike Windows 10, I am glad I am not alone in wishing Microsoft would do stuff like this and give us genuine practical improvements.


    Siv

  9. wright_is

    Got it on my Nexus yesterday afternoon. The background info is interesting. But my first impression is how sluggish the OS is... Hopefully it just needs a day or two to bed in...

  10. markbyrn

    Not much of a welcome unless you have Google devices. From Wired: "Analysis by Jan Dawson, from Jackdaw Research, published at the time Android Oreo was announced, looked a little deeper at these figures. His conclusions: "it’s likely that no more than a third of Android’s installed base will ever use Oreo..Dawson says that within the first 12 months of each Android OS being released there's been a "lower penetration" than the version before it."

  11. Jorge Garcia

    Google is now king of mobile computing and the only reason they're not the kings of "casual" home-desktop computing as well is because they muddied the waters with dumb ChromeOS. As a geek who needs access to massively good file/folder manipulation, I will always see Windows 8.1.1 as the pinnacle of REAL desktop computing (well, except for those rare but very tacky moments when windows 7 rears it's dated face for a split second, maybe on my next, more speedy rig that won't happen!). And while I do try to give an objective look to Linux every few months...I just can't do THAT jump yet. As Paul always says, it's really a shame that MS wasn't able to make the transition to mobile. They had a very compelling entrant, but just a sliver too little too late...I picture Wily E. Coyote with one hand on the cliff's edge but most of his weight on the slender, straining branch just below...or I picture the Soviets missing the moon, everything just fell apart after that. Google is simply the new group of stinky geniuses. But I really NEED them to hurry up and make a compelling laptop than runs Android in a desktop-like environment. A lot of people want this, but don't realize they do. This is such an obvious void that behemoths like Lenovo, Samsung and others are taking it upon themselves to do it, but I'd rather have those features running on the official OS.

  12. Waethorn

    Let's see how OEM's take to the new battery life improvements. Battery life might be a big concern for users, but I'm betting a lot of OEM's will try to stick to Android 7 just because it means people will have to buy new flagship phones with sealed batteries on the current schedule of approximately every 2 years (like their contract), rather than ride them out for longer. Lots of people (and by that, I mean the phone zombies that can't put it down for 2 minutes) probably get through 1 year of their contract and are itching for the new model phone and can barely wait until the end of the second year - JUST BECAUSE THE BATTERY IS WORN OUT AND UN-SERVICEABLE. Am I right, or am I right?

    • MikeCerm

      In reply to Waethorn:

      iPhones have battery capacities about 30% smaller than competing Android phones. If Google does manage to improve Android battery efficiency to iOS-like levels, all that will happen is that handset makers will use smaller batteries, yielding no tangible benefit to the end user other than a marginally thinner, lighter, smaller phone.

  13. Boris Zakharin

    This is ridiculous if true. I've been bitten by these "features" in Windows Phone as a developer, and was jealous of the Android apps being able to do stuff like provide location-based voice alerts. Things like this aren't supposed move backwards. These things should be resolved either in hardware (more efficient/miniaturized batteries, more energy-efficient chips/components, etc) or in ways that don't remove features (optimize code / OS overhead). That's how it has always been handled before. It's why we have increasingly powerful computers every year (yes, battery-powered ones too). Yet, in phones we've been getting nonsense features like "retina" or "4K" display and more powerful chips that do virtually nothing visibly better except drain the batteries. Show me a major app or use case of smartphones that could not have been done with 5-year-old phones. Now tell me why we're not using 2012-era chips with 2017-era batteries to improve battery life.

    • MikeCerm

      In reply to bzakharin:

      You can still do location-based stuff with a system like Google is proposing, and messaging apps still work like the always have. The difference is that instead of having 10 different apps all requesting location data whenever they want, you have one service getting the location data and handing it to the apps that want it, at reasonable intervals. Rather than 10 different messaging apps all phoning home to their respective motherships constantly, all messaging is handled by one connection to Google's cloud. It's literally exactly the way Apple has done it ever since they introduced "multitasking," and anyone who's had an iPhone and Android phone side-by-side knows that notifications always arrive at least a second or two sooner on iOS than they do on Android, where your notifications may not come at all, because the Android OS is free to kill background task whenever it feels like it.

  14. JerryH

    I have a feeling I am already seeing the negative effects of the battery savings on location services. My family all share location via Google Maps and sometimes we check to see if one or the other is still at work, driving home, seeing a relative (unfortunately one has been in the hospital for over a month), etc. to help judge if we can get together for dinner, have someone pick up food, etc. Lately - after getting upgraded to Oreo - the location reported is often the "big circle" (typically means cell triangulation only, no Wi-Fi or GPS location), and even that "big circle" doesn't update as frequently or as accurately as it did prior. It used to be spot on, but now it will show people not even on the freeway when they are clearly on the freeway, etc. So maybe it buys us better battery life but it has made the device less useful.

  15. CaedenV

    Cant wait to get this on my One+3! Should fix a few minor annoyances I have faced since I moved to it.

  16. Martin Pelletier

    Lets see how long or if at all, I get that update on my S8+

  17. Stooks

    "We’ll see how users and developers respond to these changes"


    You mean the users that actually get this update? That fact right there kind of trumps any all advantages this version has.


    More people will have iOS 11 in the first 24 hours of its release than all Android 7.x and 8.x combined. At least people can both get the latest version of Windows 10 and remove almost anything they don't like. I have NEVER even opened 3D builder and it is at the top of the alphabetical list I seen in CCleaner when I uninstall the apps I wont use after a fresh installation of Windows 10.

    • Darmok N Jalad

      In reply to Stooks:

      Yeah, 8.0 might be on 5% of active devices in 2 years, and these changes (location services and background restrictions) are for apps targeting Oreo. What will this do to apps that aren't or won't be updated, and how does this new location service policy affect things like map programs that provide directions? I often send HERE to the background, which iOS clearly shows is active in the background by changing the titlebar to blue. If i'm not currently using directions, HERE stops using location services when the app is not active.

    • Waethorn

      In reply to Stooks:

      CCleaner is a terrible program. Registry cleaners are snake oil. Just a reminder:


      https://www.google.ca/search?q=Dictionary#dobs=snake%20oil

      • Stooks

        In reply to Waethorn:

        Good thing it is free. I install Windows 10, update it. Then download and install CCleaner (90 seconds) and use the "tool" section that shows all installed apps. I then remove any Windows apps I don't need because the tool will remove them. Even those apps that don't have a un-install option when you right click them. Then I un-install CCleaner. I never run any other part of it, like the registry cleaner.


        I do know it can be done with powershell. However I would have to track down the changes for the power shell script after a major update and I am just too lazy.



    • SvenJ

      In reply to Stooks: May be true but you essentially have one brand of phone to put iOS 11 on. If you picked the right 'brand' of phone you'd have Oreo shortly after it's final release too. My pixel already has it. It's not entirely an 'Android' problem, but a business model problem. Google makes the OS and others slap it on hardware with various degrees of support intent. MS had the same sort of issue using the same sort of model.


      • Stooks

        In reply to SvenJ:

        Yes if you have the right phone you will be part of the .7% that has Oreo right now. You will be part of the 5% after a year.


        Developers will be all over those Oreo specific features when you have 5% after one year????


        Developers WILL BE all over iOS 11in the first few months, when 30-50% of iOS users are on it.

        • MikeGalos

          In reply to Stooks:

          Yep, and then in a year Paul will be calling Windows 10 a failure that no developer would be interested in because it only has 55% of the market while talking about how important the features of Peanut Butter Cup are for the 5% of Android users who will ever get it and how every developer must be so excited to use its "new" features.

        • Michael Rivers

          In reply to Stooks:

          Sure, if by "all over it" you mean completely failing to update their apps for 64-bit despite Apple's years of warnings. One of the main music teaching apps is going away, as well as some games I own. Not Apple's fault, but it still sucks.

        • Jorge Garcia

          In reply to Stooks:

          Google knows this is their (last) Achilles' heel...(Well that and RAM management which I guess is related to background processes, and can be overcome on high end phones by simply shoveling more pricey RAM into the equation.) so they are working on a completely new, ground-up OS. I can only imagine that whenever this beast is finally released, that it will be backwards compatible with existing Android Apps. I also hope it has a built-in desktop mode, like Windows 10 has a built-in Tablet mode.

  18. James Wilson

    Not sure what the point of this article is. Windows doesn't have a phone proposition so battery life in that respect isn't an issue as most Windows laptops will have significantly bigger batteries than Android phones.


    So what do you think Microsoft should be focussing on? It already has the majority of the desktop /laptop work tied up and working well.


    In a world where you can buy a surface pro 4 (m3) for less than an Android / Apple flagship - unless mobile is your only compute device, what is the point?


    I use my phone as an extension of my PC. Take a few pictures (uploaded to Onedrive), MS Exchange functionality, make phone calls (yes, I know!), to do, shopping list - basic stuff etc and the rest is done on a Surface Pro.

  19. LordPhantom

    Yeah, Android O is a good move, but unlike a Windows device, you pretty much have to buy a new phone to get it. That's the one feature I hope Google fix with O, the ability to roll out O/S updates independent of the phone maker and carrier nonsense.

  20. mortarm

    >...no one will never use...

    I believe this is a double negative. So much for Grammarly.

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