Google debuts Android O, the successor to Nougat

In what is now becoming something like a tradition every year before its developer conference (Google I/O) takes place mid-year, Google has gone ahead to open the gates for us to have a peek at what is the next version of its popular mobile operating system, Android.

While we will have to make do with guesswork as to what Android O’s eventual name and version number will be, like we did with 5.x, Lollipop (Android L), 6.0, Marshmallow (Android M) and 7.x, Nougat (Android N), we already know what to expect of it when it eventually becomes available to everyone later in the year thanks to the announcement of its developer preview.

One of the things that impact an Android device’s performance is the continued use of resources by applications that a user may no longer be in need of. These have the added effect of draining a device’s battery and in some instances, consuming valuable cellular data. Google is aware of this and will be cracking down on this by giving developers access to tools that will enable them to limit the activities an app performs in the background. The feature is called background limits.

To further make notification presentation on the notification shade/dropdown less of a mess, Google is introducing what it calls notification channels in Android O. This is simply a cleanup of the way notifications are presented to users.

At the moment, let’s say you receive 3 new WhatsApp messages from one of your busy groups, they are all clustered together in the notification shade. While you have the option to respond to either individual message if they happen to be from different sources in Android Nougat (at least on stock Android), you are forced to take action on all the three WhatsApp messages at a go in this case since they are from the same sender (in this case your very busy/engaged WhatsApp group). In Android O, Google is making it easier to be able to manage each and every single notification as much as they are grouped by channel.

Users of apps that make use of autofill like yours truly and his LastPass (a password manager) will be glad to know that Android O will be bringing native support for autofill for the first time ever on the Android platform. Thank God!

A feature that our friends from across the fence, iOS, may be familiar with, Picture-in-picture, is also coming to Android smartphones and tablets. Finally. This is after the feature became available on Android TV last year. This is Google building upon the multiwindow feature it finally brought to its mobile platform last year with the Nougat rollout.

All does not end there, though. Android is also getting support for multiple displays with the coming of Android O. This sounds like something the makers of one of my favourite gadgets, Jade, will be monitoring keenly and hopefully adding to the Remix mini in a future update once they get hold of the Android O code.

Android O picks up from where Android N left and builds on it. As such, it goes slow on the cosmetics, changes that are visible to the naked eye, and is big on under-the-hood features whose benefits we’ll only get to enjoy fully once the targeted people, developers in this case, take full advantage of them. They include enhancements to audio, connectivity (Bluetooth), how content is handled, navigation, colour gamut, fonts, iconography, support for new Java Language programming APIs, runtime optimisations etc. Hit the source link below for in-depth details.

If you happen to be one of the lucky few with the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel C or a smartwatch running on the latest Android Wear 2.0 then you can start preparing to test drive Android O for the rest of humanity that will likely only get closer to Android O when they buy a new Android device in 2018.

Emmanuel Chenze

Let's just say I know my stuff. I have 7 years experience handling, tinkering with and then writing extensively about Android stuff. Sometimes it is exciting, sometimes it is not; things can get stale with nothing new to show but I live for each one of those moments. Have something Android-related that you believe I need to have a look at? Hit me up: echenze@androidkenya.com