Looking to Android O

Google’s upcoming mobile operating system

Google has done it again, releasing the Developer Preview of its next Android operating system ahead of its annual Google I/O developer’s conference – exciting news for the increasing number of Android users across the globe.

According to new research from StatCounter, Android is now the world’s number-one operating system for getting online, ahead of both Windows and iOS. In March 2017 it had 39.93 percent market share, versus Windows’ 37.91 percent.

The first build of Android O o ers insight into what’s coming next to the mobile OS. However, you won’t find the update on the Android Beta site. The rst build is available for Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Pixel C, Pixel and Pixel XL, but must be manually ashed on to a device and is not intended for consumer use.

The nal version of Android N was released in August 2016 as Android Nougat, and we’re looking at a similar time frame in 2017 for the release of Android O, for which we will hear more details at Google I/O on 17 May.

Read on for more information on what we know about Android O so far.

What will the next Android OS be called?

Following Android Alpha and Android Beta, Google
has always named its Android OS updates after sweet treats, and in alphabetical order. So far we’ve had Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean, KitKat, Lollipop, Marshmallow and Nougat.

In 2017 Google will be looking for a sweet treat beginning with O. Trouble is, there really aren’t that many. The Tech Advisor team could come up with Oreo, Orange, Oatcake and Oh! Henry. It could even shake things up entirely and shock us all with something like Android OMG. (We’re joking, but we kind of like it.)

Google’s Hiroshi Lockheimer has been stirring things up on Twitter, seemingly suggesting Android Oreo is the most likely candidate. But is he pulling our leg? Quite possibly, given he has also tweeted an image of Pocky (chocolate cream covered biscuit sticks) with the caption #2018. Trouble is, there are few sweet treats we can think of beginning with an O, so it could well be Android Oreo as rumoured.

Given that Android Marshmallow was Android 6.0 and Android Nougat was Android 7.0-7.1, we would assume that Android O will be Android 8.0. But Google hasn’t always done things this way, and Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean and KitKat were all 4.x updates.

Google I/O 2017

Traditionally Google uses Google I/O to announce the new update to its Android OS. The 11th annual I/O conference will take place between 17 and 19 May 2017 at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California.

Release date

Google surprised us in 2016 by taking the wraps o the Developer Preview of Android Nougat in advance of its summer Google I/O conference, and in March 2017 it has done the same again with Android O. The final release of Android N came in August 2016 with little fanfare and no new hardware, so the chances are we’ll see the company follow that same format in 2017. (The new hardware came later, with the Google Pixel and Pixel XL unveiled in early October.) Our money is on an August release for Android O, with the new Pixel 2 coming later in September or October.

New features

Notifications in Android O. Many of the new features regard noti cations,
and in Android O we will see user-customisable noti cation channels whereby alerts are grouped by type. Users will be able to snooze noti cations, and devs can set time limits for noti cations to time out.

Also adjustable will be the background colours of noti cations, and the messaging style.

Background limits

In Android Nougat Google introduced the ability to restrict certain app activities in the background, and in Android O it improves on this by placing the priority on extending battery life without user-input.

Improved Auto ll Framework

Users will have to opt in to this service, but will then nd it easier to ll in login and credit-card information forms with fewer mistakes and much less repetition.

Picture-in-Picture mode

Picture-in-picture, which is already available on Android TV, is coming to Android O. This is mostly used for video playback.

Improved keyboard control

Android O won’t be restricted to phones, so there will be improved arrow and tab key navigation for when used with a physical keyboard.

Adaptive icons

Icons in Android O will support visual e ects and can be displayed in various shapes on di erent devices.

Connectivity enhancements

Wi-Fi Aware will allows apps and nearby devices to discover and communicate over Wi-Fi without an internet access point. We’ll also see improved Bluetooth support for high-quality audio through the Sony LDAC codec, and new ways for third-party calling apps to work with each other and with your network operator’s special features.

Multi-display support

Interestingly, Android O will be able to support multiple displays, allowing a user to move an activity to one screen to the next.

Better management of cached data

Every app will have a storage space quota for cached data, and when the system needs to free up disk space it will delete data from apps using more than their allocated quota rst.

New enterprise features

Google says it has made the pro le owner and device owner management modes more powerful, productive and easier to provision than ever, with highlights including the ability to use a managed pro le on a corporate-owned device and enterprise management for file-based encryption.

We were already aware of a few user-facing features coming to Android O thanks to a tip-o from VentureBeat, though there was no con rmation that they would make it through to the nal build.

Copy less

This feature is expected to ease copying text from one app and pasting it within another by giving suggestions in the second app as to what you might be about to type based on what you were doing in the previous app.

VentureBeat gives the example of nding a restaurant in the Yelp app, then opening a text conversation, beginning to type ‘It’s at’ and the restaurant name popping up as a suggested term. It is currently unclear whether it will be a new feature on the Gboard virtual keyboard or baked into Android itself.

Opening addresses in Google Maps

Right now it isn’t possible to share your current location on Android as it is in iOS, but according to VentureBeat there are some new changes coming that make dealing with addresses easier. If you click on an address in a text message, in Android N it does nothing but in Android O it could open that address in Google Maps. It says it is not yet known whether this will be functional only in Google’s Messages app, or in all messaging apps on Android O.

Improved gestures

Today you can quickly call up your contacts using
OK Google, but in Android O you will be able to draw onscreen the letter C to open your contacts menu. This is similar to what we’ve seen in many Chinese phones – the ability to in standby mode draw on-screen a letter and open an app of your choice – though here it should work when the screen is switched on and in any app. This feature may not be ready in time for Android O, however, the source warned.

Will my phone get Android O?

Google phones and tablets are always the rst to get new operating system updates, but even Google won’t support them forever. Security updates are provided for three years following the device’s release, or 18 months after it is removed from the Google Play Store (whichever is longer).

So, for example, the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P will
be supported by Google until September 2017, which means they will get both Android Nougat and next year’s Android O. The Nexus 9 and Nexus 6 will both be supported until October 2016, which should mean they get an update to Android Nougat but not Android O. Older Nexus devices will not be upgraded.

Those with supported Nexus devices should nd the update rolls out to their device following the launch of the new Nexus phones for 2016, or at least within a few weeks of launch.

If you have a recent agship phone or tablet from a well-known maker such as Sony, Samsung, HTC, LG or Motorola, it’s likely you’ll see the update rolled out within the rst few months of 2018. However, before you can get the update both the hardware manufacturer and mobile operator must be ready to roll it out, which can slow down things.

In its promotion of the Moto G4 Plus, Motorola has already said it will receive Android Nougat and Android O. If you’re running a mid-range or budget model it’s likely that you will never get Android O. Android OS fragmentation is still an issue, and at the last count
on 6 March 2017 there were still devices running Gingerbread (via Android Developers).

What is Android Andromeda?

Andromeda is a Google operating system that is in essence a mash-up of Chrome OS and Android and has been rumoured for about as long as we can remember. And when Hiroshi Lockheimer tweeted in late September that Google’s October event was going to be as memorable as the one in which Google announced Android (see below), the internet went crazy trying to guess what it is that could possibly warrant such hype. The only logical suggestion was Andromeda, but of course what we actually got was the rst ‘Made by Google’ phones.

However, Andromeda is still allegedly on the cards, and Android Police assures us that Andromeda is an actual thing and not the gment of many Google fan’s creative imaginations. It points to a Wall Street Journal report that Google was intending to fold the two operating systems into one to better suit a range of hardware platforms. This would open the doors to a new market sector in which Google has previously tried and failed: the lucrative world of laptops.

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