Google I/O is that magical time of year where we get a first glimpse of new Google products. This year, Google is giving us a sneak peak at its latest smartphone OS, called Android P. And while we don’t know what the P stands for just yet, we do know all about the new features.
Here are all the new features in the new version, and you can read more in our Android P hands on.
Along with some minor design changes and developer APIs, the second Android P beta introduces more than a hundred new emojis. Part of the unicode 11 update, Android P now features more inclusive emojis. You’ll find a number of genderless emojis, as well as emojis with multiple skin tones and hair colors (or no hair at all). If you want to see all the new emojis that will make their way to your phone in the near future, you can get a glimpse at Emojipedia.
Navigation Bar Changes
One of the biggest changes you’ll find in Android P is a change in the Navigation Bar. Android P now allows you to use the Home button to access recent apps. With the updated Home gesture, you’ll see your home button replaced with a small pill-shaped icon at the bottom of the screen. You can swipe up to access apps or see all open apps. It will also serve as a slider to help with navigation.
Coming to a Beta near you soon ???? pic.twitter.com/NTqMaeBkPk
— Dave Burke (@davey_burke) May 11, 2018
If you decide to use the updated Navigation Bar with home button gestures, you’ll notice the Overview icon will no longer appear. You may also notice the Clear all icon is missing in the new navigation setting as well, but not to worry, it will be making a comeback. According to a tweet by David Burke, VP of Engineering for Android, the feature will make a comeback in a future beta update.
You’ll also see more customizations for the Navigation Bar in Android P. With Navbar Apps, you can easily change the color and background of the navigation bar. In the future, you’ll also be able to add custom widgets to the Navigation Bar.
Dashboard is a new feature that helps track the amount of time you spend on your device. With Dashboard, you can see how long you’re using your phone to send messages, stream content, surf the internet, or even make calls.
With certain apps like YouTube, you can even receive recommendations to take a screen break. You’ll also be able to set up screen time limits for specific apps.
Wind Down Mode
Wind Down Mode is a new feature that is also meant to improve digital well-being. With Wind Down Mode, you tell Google Assistant when you would like to go to bed, and it will automatically put your phone on Do Not Disturb mode and switch your screen to grayscale.
Adaptive Brightness uses A.I. to determine your preferred brightness settings. Once it understands your preferences, it can then make the necessary adjustments depending on your lighting conditions.
One of the biggest changes to affect most users will come in the form of improved notifications. Specifically, Google wants to make notifications a little more useful — meaning you’ll be able to do more without having to open a full app. Now, from notifications, Google will suggest smart replies, allow you to attach photos and stickers, and type your own replies. It all comes about because of Google’s new “MessagingStyle” notification style, and we can’t say it’s a surprising change — especially given the fact that the company recently launched an initiative called “Reply,” which allows notifications for messaging apps to show smart replies.
Similar to widgets, Slices allows app developers to use its API within Android to create contextual suggestions based on your use. For example, if you search for a Lyft, an option will appear allowing you to book a car without opening the app.
Last year, Android began using A.I. to suggest apps based on different criteria. This year, Google is enhancing Android P by adding a feature called App Actions. With App Actions, your phone will use A.I. not just to select apps, but to make contextual suggestions based on your usage.
While ML Kit is not Android-specific, it’s a new feature that makes Android P much more user-friendly. With ML Kit, app developers can use Google’s machine learning tasks within their own apps. ML Kit allows developers to use the camera for face detection, landmark recognition, text recognition, and a host of other recognition features.
A new way to prevent accidental screen rotations
While Android currently offers a screen orientation lock option, it can be a bit annoying to use when you’re switching between apps. Android P offers a whole new way to prevent accidental screen rotations.
With Android P, you can pin a screen to a specific orientation. If you want to switch the orientation, you simply need to tap an icon to the right of the Recent Apps icon.
Android P also brings a host of new gestures. New gestures include holding the Power and Volume Up buttons to prevent ringing, and swiping up on the Home button to see your recent apps. The option to silence your phone by turning it over, once only available on a handful of Android devices, is now baked into Android P.
Last year, Nokia introduced a new feature called Dual-Sight to some of its phones. With Dual-Sight, you can use both camera lenses on your phone simultaneously to capture images. It looks like Android P may make similar features widely available on most Android smartphones.
Android P allows developers to access streams on multiple phone cameras simultaneously. While we doubt you’ll see a native feature similar to Dual-Sight in Android P, it will be easy for developers to create third-party apps with the feature.
Google Maps is coming to the indoors
Google Maps is the most loved and most used navigation app, but to date it has largely only worked for driving or walking outside — not for large indoor places like malls. That, however, is about to change. A new feature basically includes added support for “Wi-Fi Round Trip Time,” or RTT, which allows for more specific positioning through Wi-Fi. All that is to say, indoor positioning, in places like malls, is about to get a whole lot more precise.
Performance and stability updates
Improved battery life
With each new Android update comes promised battery improvements. This year is no exception. From refining Doze to changing the way apps open on your phone, Google has made lots of changes in Android P to maximize your battery life.
In addition to under the hood changes, Android P also features an improved Battery Saver app. Android P makes it easier to enable Battery Saver as your battery begins to drain. Instead of the option to enable Battery Saver at 5 or 15 percent, the Android P update features a slider, allowing you to enable Battery Saver once your battery reaches 70 percent or below. And as an added bonus, the updated Battery Saver no longer features the obnoxious orange bar — it’s been replaced by a persistent notification icon.
You’ll also find Adaptive Battery in Android P. Adaptive Battery learns how you use apps and will restrict battery use for apps you don’t use very frequently.
Android Runtime enhancements
One significant change in Android P is one you’ll never notice: Android P will feature some major Android Runtime (ART) enhancements. The ART enhancements allow apps to rewrite their own execution files on the device, meaning they’ll launch faster and use less memory.
Like it or not, the top notch is becoming more ubiquitous on smartphones. Since Apple introduced the top notch with the iPhone X, we’ve seen it make its way to an increasing number of Android devices. And while more devices feature the top notch, Android does not currently offer native support.
Android P will be feature native cutout support. Cutout support should improve the way apps render on your phone, as well as ensure you don’t lose any content on streaming apps like YouTube or Hulu.
While Google typically adds new security features in each new iteration of Android, this year it;s really upping the ante. Android P features a number of new options to make your phone more secure.
Perhaps the most exciting security update has to do with encryption. Android P will now perform client-side encryption. Any data encryption or decryption that takes place will now happen on your phone and will require authentication from your phone (password, PIN, pattern). Since Google backs up all of your information to the cloud, this change will make it much more difficult for hackers or other prying eyes to access your information from a computer.
Each time you access a network, your device shares its unique MAC address with that network. Android P offers a new feature that will allow you to create randomized MAC addresses for each network you access. While Android P will create a random MAC address for each network, the address will not continue to change each time you access the network.
There’s several other security features that are coming to Android P, including a unified UI for fingerprint authentication, encrypted network traffic on third-party apps, and user notifications that appear whenever a third-party app is using an old API.
Google may not have the best track record when it comes to user privacy, but the company is working to improve that in Android P. The new operating system will restrict access to the phone’s microphone, camera, and other sensors. When an app is idle or running in the background, it will be unable to access any of the phones sensors (other than GPS). If an app does need to access a sensor while running in the background, it will have to show a persistent notification on your phone.
There are a number of other small changes we’ll see, too. Among these are things like HDR VP9 Video and HEIF image compression support, an image decoder for bitmaps, and improved JobScheduler performance.
How to download the beta
If you want to try out the Android P beta, you’ll need to make sure you have a supported device. Currently, the Android P beta is limited to the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Essential Phone, Nokia 7 Plus, Xiaomi Mi Mix 2, and Oppo R15 Pro.
Downloading Android P is simple: You just need to join the Android Beta Program and elect OTA (over the air) updates. Once you’re successfully enrolled, you’ll see an update available within a few hours.
While it’s exciting to try out Android’s latest and greatest features, we strongly suggest you do not install the beta on your primary smartphone. Android P is currently in a very early beta, and there’s going to be problems and missing features. If you install Android P and decide to switch back to Android 8.0 Android, you may lose data and need to flash your device.
What will Android P be called?
Google names its major Android versions after some kind of sweet or dessert. The most recent is Oreo, and we’ve had everything from Marshmallow to Cupcake in the past. What will the P stand for? It’s apparently being called Pistachio Ice Cream internally, but that’s not an indication of its final name — Google has changed its mind at the last minute in the past. What do you think it should be called? Remember, it has to be something sweet, and start with the letter P.
On top of that, we also have our first look at the Android P logo, which looks kind of like an upside-down Beats logo. In the Developer Preview, the Easter egg showing off the logo opens up to a red backdrop — though if you scroll up or down, you’ll get a look at different-colored backgrounds. Google also released several new Android wallpapers on Instagram Stories in April and a Popsicle-themed wallpaper was in the mix. This seems to support a theory from The Verge suggesting the colors are reminiscent of a Popsicle — but we’ll have to wait and see if that turns out to be the name of the new operating system.
Updated on June 6: Google releases Android P Beta 2 with inclusive emojis.
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