New Android O Developer Preview Released Today for Nexus and Pixel Devices

Android O

It’s been almost exactly one year since Google launched the Android N Developer Preview. Starting today, Google is releasing the dev preview of its latest mobile operating system version, Android O (we speculated earlier that it stands for Oreo) and developers can now download the preview version to see what’s new.

Or, you can keep reading…

First of all, this may be a very unstable version so it won’t even be on the beta testing program for Android. No OTA updates for this one – you’ll have to get the system images from Google for one of these devices: Nexus 5X, 6P, Player, and Pixel, Pixel XL and Pixel C. At the end of this article we’ve shown you where to get them.

You can also get the Android Wear 2.0 Android O version but only using the emulator.

Here are some of the features from the open source part of Android. The Google bits will only come in subsequent developer previews, and major announcements at the Google I/O conference happening in May, 2017.

Memory Optimization Using Background Processing Lockdown

What happens now is that implicit broadcasts (those that any app can listen to) wake up several apps together, and they get sent frequently. On low-memory devices where memory thrashing occurs, this is a major problem. Android O will block app background services, location updates and implicit broadcasts by adding “automatic limits.”

The result is improved battery life and device performance, and Google did warn app developers at last year’s I/O that background-processing lockdown was in the works.

Adaptive Icons

Icons are currently of different shapes, depending on the device. Apple uses the round-edged rectangles and squares, while Samsung prefers squircles. To make things easier for app developers, Android O has adaptive icons, which allow developers to simply pick a background image, and let each OEM’s Android skin cut it to fit their chosen system design.

It’s a relatively simple change where the icon is provided as the centerpiece of a variable shape, and a background image that can be cut into various shapes – squircles, squares, circles, rectangles and so on.

Better Keyboard Navigation

Android tablets are gradually evolving towards keyboard-based input that are ideal for productivity applications. Since physical keyboard support is pretty crappy at this point, Android O hopes to change that.

But even though there are several issues to fix, arrow and tab navigation are the only points being addressed in Android O, sadly. Google is well aware of this weakness in Android, and it’s good to see them talk to this point, but it’s still going to be far away from what you might see on a Windows, Linux or macOS device.

Picture-in-Picture for Smartphones and Tablets

Android 7.0 Nougat brought in split-screen mode for phones and tablets, and picture-in-picture mode for TVs, but split-screen mode isn’t enough for a phone or tablet. So Android O will bring in picture-in-picture mode for mobile devices.

Better Bluetooth Audio

Android O will also bring support for additional high-quality wireless audio options. It’s gotten the LDAC codec from Samsung, which has better quality and higher bandwidth than the regular Bluetooth A2DP protocol.

However, Sony is the only company that makes LDAC headphones, so there will probably be a licensing fee to be paid if an OEM wants to create a compatible headset. Still, since LDAC is now part of the Android Open Source Project, OEMs can implement it on the device for no charge.

Sony Mobile, in fact, has “contributed more than 30 feature enhancements and 250 bug fixes to Android O,” according to Google’s blog post.

The list of features on Android O is quite long. You can review the full feature set on Google’s blog here. Developers can download the images for various devices here.

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