As the rest of the world still tries to play catchup with Android Nougat, Google has already pushed out images for this year’s version of Android, so far called Android O. Android O is currently available as a Developer Preview and currently, only the newest Google devices support the operating system. If you own a Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Pixel, and Pixel XL phones, the Pixel C tablet, and the Nexus Player Android TV set-top box, you can go ahead and download the official ROM from Google Server, but know that this version of Android O is being released to developers and is not meant to be used on the phone that is your daily driver. While many features are still being kept under wraps, there are some features of Android O that we’re getting a peak at thanks to the ROMs released.
Refreshed Background Limiting
Google is going to put a number of automatic limits in the background on your apps so as to maximize battery life. The limits are being imposed in three particular areas; implicit broadcasts, background services and location updates.
According to Google’s Developer handbook, “Android O introduces notification channels to provide a unified system to help users manage notifications.” This system is designed to give users finer control over notifications, allowing the user to set the importance, and notification parameters (such as vibration, light, sound etc). Does this mean you can club notification from annoying WhatsApp groups into one channel that has been marked as silent forever? We can only hope so!
Picture in Picture
Android TV has had this for a while, but now we should be able to view a video in one window while browsing other apps in another. Android 7.0 brought the split-window multi-tasking feature and this seems to be the logical next step in its improvement and is much welcome.
Support for AptX
Bluetooth audio has been generally regarded to be sub-standard, that is until AptX came about. It significantly improves the quality of the audio being streamed over Bluetooth, however, while you need an AptX enabled headphone/earphone/speaker, the source of the stream also needs to support the AptX codecs. Additionally, Android O will also support Sony’s High-Definition LDAC codec, which is just like AptX. In totality, Android O will support AptX, AptX HD and LDAC over and above what it already supports.
Visual customization has always been one of the best features of Android and with Android O, Google is giving the developers more freedom to tweak their app’s appearance across devices. For example, a launcher icon can be displayed in a circular shape on one device, but could be a square or a squircle on another. Each smartphone maker provides a mask, which the system then uses to render all icons with that shape. Developers can also choose different sizes of the various shapes along with being able to create a “floating” icons. Android O will then automatically animate the icons using effects such as zoom, bounce, drop shadows etc.
Some Essential Warnings
While these are some of the most notable changes visible outright from the Android Developer handbook, it should be noted that this is a very early build of Android O and as development progresses, Google just might add or drop one of the above (or any other planned) features. Additionally, this is a developer preview and NOT a ROM released through Google’s Beta Program. Therefore, it is not deemed stable enough to be used on a primary phone. This biggest word of caution, however, is that if you do flash this ROM onto your phone, you will not get any OTA updates to the builds that roll out as part of the Android Beta Program, let alone the final build of the OS.
The Developer Preview of Android O will see four releases, before the final build of the operating system is released in Q3 2017. Today’s release is the Alpha version of the ROM, with the beta version tentatively scheduled to drop sometime between May-June 2017. The final release of the ROM will most likely coincide with the launch of Google’s next flagship, the rumoured trio of devices that we’ve been hearing about.
You can either take the risk and install Google’s Android O on your own phones, or you can wait a few hours for our hands-on with the operating system. If you must, then you can download the Android O ROMs from here.