The most recent version of Google’s mobile phone operating system, Android 8.0 Oreo, is slowly making its way into the world and toward the phone in your hand — but what’s next? Google has confirmed that it’s Android P, and it could bring some sweet new features to the platform.
In fact, after some speculation, Google has finally released the first developer preview for Android P, showing off a number of key features in the OS. Keep in mind, this is just a preview of the new operating system — we’ll likely see more features added to it as time goes on.
Here’s everything that’s new in Android P.
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 Marshmallows to Cupcakes 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, and 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 some not 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 navigation bar
Android’s navigation bar is one of the few things that hasn’t changed significantly in recent years, but looks like that’s about to change. According a story on 9to5Google, it looks like Google may be planning a major change to the navigation bar in the upcoming Android P release.
In a Google blog post about network security improvements on Android P, Google appears to have accidentally uploaded an image showing the navigation bar for the upcoming OS. The image shows a capsule-shaped home button that looks surprisingly similar to the home bar on the iPhone X. The recent apps icon is also completely missing. While we’re not sure if this is what the navigation bar will actually look like then Android P is released, it could suggest that Android is planning new gestures to multitask and access recent apps.
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 allowed notifications for messaging apps to show smart replies.
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. The 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.
2018 is the year of the cutout, also known as the year of the iPhone X copy. Google is adding native support for those notches in Android P, meaning that we’ll likely see a whole lot more devices with cutouts once Android P hits. Thanks to cutout support, apps will interact much more smoothly with screen cutouts, and full-screen content won’t be, well, cut out.
As we expected, Google is working to make Android a little more power efficient in Android P. To do so, the company says it’s refining systems like Doze. We’ll have to wait and see exactly what those refinements bring, but it’s safe to say that Android P will be a little lighter on battery.
Another thing we expected is that Google would work on improving the overall security of Android in Android P. There are a few ways the company is doing this. For starters, the fingerprint authentication user interface is getting a little more consistent, so you’ll be more aware if Android itself is requesting your fingerprint or if it’s something else. On top of that, Google is telling app developers to switch over to TLS encryption, and will block most traffic to unencrypted HTTP servers.
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 the app itself is idle, it won’t be able to access these hardware features at all, ensuring that they can’t creep on users without their permission.
Under the hood
There are a number of other small changes we’ll see, too. Among those are things like HDR VP9 Video and HEIF image compression support, an image decoder for bitmaps, improved JobScheduler performance, and tweaks to ART runtime — which should help all apps in general be a little more efficient.
Rumored new features
Of course, the Developer Preview doesn’t show us everything that’s in the new operating system. Here’s a rundown of some rumored features that Google didn’t announce as part of the first Android P Developer Preview.
Calls recording warning, and other new features
Another privacy addition could be a feature that issues a warning sound when your phone call is being recorded. The Android P enhancement is there for carriers to activate, and will play a short tone every 15 seconds throughout any call that is being recorded. The feature has to be supported by the network, and it’s not clear whether it will apply to customer service calls, often recorded for training and legal reasons, or third-party recording apps only.
Google Assistant is already a key part of Android, but Google has made it clear over the past few months that Assistant, and voice control in general, is only just getting started. Google may make Assistant even more prominent in Android P, according to a Bloomberg report which says engineers are considering placing Assistant inside the Google search bar on the main home screen.
Additionally, developers may be able to exploit Assistant’s voice technology inside their apps. It is not clear whether this will be widely spread, or if Google will choose specific partners to utilize Assistant’s talents. The report also says neither of these two features is final, and Google may not include them in the final version of Android P.
When will it be announced?
Google often gives us a quick look at the next version of Android during its Google I/O developer conference. We hope 2018 will be no different. Google I/O 2018 is scheduled to begin on May 8, and we’re most likely to hear a lot about Android P during the keynote held on the first day.
When the software will be ready for your phone is a very different story. Developer previews follow the announcement and continue until a final release around September or October, traditionally. The software usually debuts on new Google-produced smartphones in the Pixel range. If you own a phone from a different manufacturer, it will come at a later date.
Updated on April 13: Added UI update reported by 9to5Google.