We won’t get a full rundown of the changes coming in this year’s Android O update (or the official candy name), until the Google I/O developer conference in May, but Google gave us all a sneak peek with a developer preview. Meant for app developers to begin work implementing the upcoming new toys, the preview has some tidbits about what we can expect on the user side.
As always, improved battery life is being promised. Granted, battery life depends on both hardware and software, but the Android team has long been making tweaks to make the OS more efficient. This year, they’ll do it by restricting what apps can do when they’re running in the background. Background processes are what make things like push notifications work, but all of those processes together can affect battery life. We’re not sure how, exactly, but Google will be tackling this problem and working with developers to change their apps accordingly.
The two most immediately noticeable new features will be picture-in-picture and adaptive icons. Picture-in-picture will be part of Android for tablets and smartphones, meaning you can keep watching a YouTube video or Netflix while using another app. The adaptive icons will prove more interesting for developers — for us, it just means we’ll see certain themes with circular or rounded app icons instead of the usual squares.
Notification channels could also be interesting. In the Android Nougat update, we saw notifications get turned into cards and batched together by app — all of your email, Facebook, and messaging notifications were grouped together, making navigation a little easier. In the O update, you’ll be able to further categorize notifications (like work or personal notifications), with the option to pause any category with a tap — a handy way to get a little separation between work and personal lives.
Google is also adding AAudio, a bit of software that makes it easier to stream high-bitrate music. Also on tap is the high-quality LDAC Bluetooth codec, which should help performance of Bluetooth headphones. Android O will also have more support for wider color gamuts (perhaps in anticipation of fancier displays to come) and Wi-Fi Aware, which enables direct connections between two Wi-Fi Aware-enabled devices — something that would make transferring files from one smartphone to another much easier and faster.
There will be many more behind-the-scenes tweaks, too, in addition to some surprises that we’ll hear about in May. We’ll let you know all about when Google I/O rolls around!