Google Announces Android O Developer Preview With Better Battery Life, PiP, Improved Notifications

It’s that time of year again; time for Google to get the ball rolling for the next generation of its Android operating system. Around this time last year, we were introduced to Android N (which would later be called Nougat). Today, Google is releasing the first developer preview of Android O. Although Google hasn’t officially confirmed it, we’re hoping that the company goes with Android Oreo.

As with any major Android release, there are a lot of little things going on under the hood that are meant to improve both performance and the user experience in everyday scenarios. Android O is no different. The big takeaway with this release is that Google is trying to put a muzzle on power consumption, and the company is tackling that issue head-on with Background limits. Background limits will make it hard for an app to “go rogue” in the background, eating up valuable system resources (and as a result, putting a major dent in your battery).

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These automatic limits will focus on implicit broadcasts, background services and location updates. Google says that new guidelines based on minimizing impact in these key areas “will make it easier to create apps that have minimal impact on a user's device and battery.” In other words, app developers are going to want to pay close attention to how their apps are using background resources or they may find some pretty jarring incompatibilities with Android O.

This wouldn’t be a new version of Android without enhancements to the notification system, and Google of course doesn’t disappoint. Google is introducing the concept of notification channels, which can group notifications into user-defined categories. This provides a system-wide organization structure for notifications that has previously been built directly into some apps (i.e. labels in Gmail).

Adaptive icons allow developers to pick a base background image that Android will use to conform its shape to mesh with your given home screen theme. As an example, Google shows both the squircle- and round-style icons which can be deployed in Android O.

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Other features include Picture-in-Picture, which will allow you to have an overlay video window when working in another app. Imagine being able to watch a YouTube clip that pertains to a subject that you are reading about in Chrome. You’ll also have the ability to invoke playback controls like “Play” and “Pause” for the video overlay. Changes have been made to make the Autofill API more inclusive and easier to use, keyboard navigation has been improved and wide-gamut color support has been added for apps. There are also a number of other additions to Android O which you can view here.

The Android O Developer Preview is currently available for download right now for the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Pixel, Pixel XL and Pixel C. This release is by no means meant for consumers, so only developers should take the risk right now on Android O — you’ve been forewarned.

Given that we’re already talking about Android O, it’s interesting to take a look back at where we stand right now with Android Nougat. Even though it was introduced last fall (and we’re just now entering spring), Android Nougat is still only installed on 2.8 percent of all Android devices. Android Marshmallow commands the largest share with 31.3 percent (as of March 6th).