Earlier this year, Google released the first developer preview of the latest version of its Android operating system. While there are a number of notable features in this first release, it was at this year’s Google I/O that the company announced the OS’s biggest features as well as released its first beta. Codenamed Android P, this new flavor of the Android OS is starting to look like a worthy addition with its new features and a more simplified UX.
- UI and features
With its focus in simplifying the user experience, Android P is looking to be a major shift in how users will interact with their new phones. Unveiled at this year’s I/O, these are just a taste of what we’ll see in the upcoming mobile OS.
Taking note from iOS, most of the interaction on the screen will be done with gestures. This means that the Back and Overview buttons are gone. Instead, sliding up from the bottom the screen will show you the most recent apps. Swiping again will show the app drawer. Sliding the smaller Home button sideways will go straight to the recent app of your choice.
Android P also changes the way you interact with the volume controls. Again, because of the notch, the volume control interface has been moved to the right side of the screen. There is also a dedicated soft button to switch between Ring Modes.
For those that prefer to lock the orientation of their phones, when you turn your phone sideways, the Rotation button will appear to temporarily rotate the phone to the desired orientation.
- App Actions and Slices
App Actions will predict the next action it thinks you’ll want to take based on your habits. For example, if you tap the search bar, Android P will offer suggestions such as calling your most frequent contact. Slices offers deep-linking apps. One example used is when you search your favorite ride-sharing app, Android P will let you book your ride within Search instead of opening the app itself and book from there.
- Adaptive Battery
Battery life has long been the bane of Android users. While Google has made a number of improvements in the OS, there are still a lot of improvements to be made. Adaptive Battery will use artificial intelligence—with the help from Alphabet’s DeepMind—to learn your app habits and will determine the most efficient way to handle the CPU and manager the phone’s power.
- Digital Wellbeing
Google announced the Digital Wellbeing initiative, which will help you be more efficient on your Android phone and thus use your smartphone less. (That’s right, Google wants you to use your phone less for your health.)
The main feature of this is the Dashboard. The dashboard keeps track of your phone use and gives you a summary of your smartphone habits on a per app basis similar to Google’s own Datally app which keeps track of each apps’ data usage. With Dashboard, you can set time limits per app as well as notify you when you are about to exceed that limit.
Android P enhances Do Not Disturb with the Shush feature which silences the phone when you flip the phone over. For those important contacts like your family, significant other, or boss, you can add exceptions that will still notify you then they call or message you.
And for those that can’t keep their phones down before bed, Android P features Wind Down. It will set the phone’s display to grayscale at a set schedule to discourage you from using your phone at night and be well-rested the next day.
In the security front, Android P is removing the ability for background apps to use phone functions such as the microphone and camera. This will prevent malicious apps to record your voice or take photos without your knowledge. Although, it is still unknown how this will affect legitimate security apps that will take photos or locate the phone if a thief has stolen your phone.
Another security feature in Android P is called Lockdown mode. It disables biometric authentication in Android P phones. You can only unlock your phone using the passphrase.
How is Lockdown mode useful? If you travel somewhere that you think is unsafe in terms of your phone data security, you can enable Lockdown mode. Even when you are forced to place your finger on your phone’s fingerprint sensor or look at the camera on your phone, you’re confident that the other party will not be able to unlock your phone and get to its contents. It is a bit subversive to say the least but at least you are confident that the data on your phone is safe.
As this is only the first look of the first developer preview of Android P, there is still a lot of time for Google to add or even remove features to Android P. It is also worth noting that the UI feature is just for the stock UI. Hardware makers may opt for a different UI on their phones. It is also a safe assumption that the virtual notch will be removed in the final release or at least be hidden in the developer options in the Settings menu.
The real question as with any new Android OS update is what will the “P” in Android P be called? In keeping with the dessert/snack theme, the most popular name is Peppermint; especially since the Easter egg wallpaper points to the very colorful sweet. Although, other “P” desserts are still on the table such as Peach Cobbler, Pecan Pie, or as some have suggested, Pancake (which technically isn’t a dessert or snack). On the other hand, this writer is still hoping for Android Piaya.