Google is sticking to a recent tradition—releasing the developer preview of the next Android version every March.
The latest iteration, dubbed as Android P (no official name yet), is an early build for developers only for now. In brief, the mobile operating system is not for daily use.
But what’s new for everyday users?
- Native Support for Display Cutout. The notches cut into the display atop the screen. Developers can test how their apps will work in full screen with these notches.
- Enhanced Notifications. Google tweaks the look of the notification drawer and Quick Settings panel with rounded corners. The new look includes enhanced notifications for messages. It now includes recent lines from conversations if you reply inside the notification. And apps will include “Smart replies”, stickers, and images in the notification.
Still a Work in Progress
The developer preview is a work in progress. The changes above only cover the obvious visual changes so far.
The other changes boost Android’s overall efficiency, especially for app developers and testing.
Here are some notable changes for developers:
- Idle apps restricted from access to mic, camera and all SensorManager sensors. An inactive background app cannot access those tools.
- Added support for more image and video codecs. Android P adds support for HDR VP9 Profile 2 and HEIF (heic). But Google has yet to divulge info on how it will enhance and refactor media APIs for easier development and integration.
- Multicamera API. This API allows an Android app to request data from more than one camera sensor simultaneously. It offers better control for phones with two rear cameras.
- Support for Wi-Fi RTT (Round-Trip-Time). Apps can get indoor positioning data up to one meter. It measures the distance between Wi-Fi access points.
- Enhanced Autofill. It gives the password manager easier time to enter your password. It curbs lost time switching between apps to copy and paste usernames and passwords.
- Better ART and Kotlin apps.
- Better power efficiency. It improves battery consumption with features such as Background Limits, Doze, and Standby. Job Scheduler now understands network state and batching apps network requests together. If your app fetches data in the background, you must test it against that.
- Warning boxes for apps built for Android 4.1 and earlier. Google says Android P warn users if they install apps created for a platform earlier than Android 4.2. Developers must upgrade their Android SDK to avoid this. Google expects apps submitted to the Play Store to target Android Oreo by November and add support for 64-bit hardware by 2019.
- Restricted access to some non-SDK interfaces. Simply put, Google wants developers to use the public Android APIs they created. Otherwise, their app may malfunction in the near future. Google is encouraging developers to reach out if they want coverage.
You Have Been Warned
For users, do not install the developer preview on your main Android phone. Do not download and flash it unless you know what to expect.
For developers, use your Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL to download and flash the Android P developer preview today. An emulator is also available for download to your computer.
Like all first releases, expect to see a host of bugs. Google did not release an OTA version of Android P developer preview to stress this concern.