What's new in Android Oreo
Android phones and tablets are about to learn some new tricks. Google has released the next version of Android. The Android Oreo update starts with better battery life and increased performance and will also include new security measures, easier text selection and a picture-in-picture feature for improved multitasking. Here's what Android Oreo will do for you when it becomes available for your phone, including some tricks coming just to Google's Pixel smartphones. (Image Credit: Google)
Better battery life with Vitals
Once Android Oreo hits your phone, expect improved battery life, thanks to Google's Vitals initiative. Google's adding what it calls "wise limits" to create automatic caps for what apps can do in the background. These limits will curtail excessive use of background services and location updates, so your apps won't be able to do too much damage to your battery when you're not using them.
Android Oreo allows users to see notifications they've missed without pulling down the drop-down menu from the top of your screen. Apps with missed notifications will sport a badge that draws its color from the apps icon, so you can quickly scan your home screen to check out the state of affairs. (iOS users are familiar with this, with the red badges on their app icons.) A long-press on an app with a Notification Dot will open a menu (that looks like 3D Touch) of those missed notifications.
Star Wars AR Stickers
The Force is especially strong with devices running Android 8.1, which is currently limited to the Pixel and Pixel 2, which can access Star Wars-themed augmented reality (AR) stickers. After you've updated to 8.1, download this app and open the camera app to find the AR Stickers.
Pixel 2 Cameras Get an Upgrade
This one's just for Pixel 2 owners: After upgrading to Android 8.1, the Pixel 2 smartphone can finally utilize its Visual Core chip, which improves photo quality throughout the phone, including inside of apps such as Instagram and Snapchat. Not only does it add greater detail to your images, but it also speeds up image processing.
The Vitals project driving Android Oreo development will also bring more speed and greater performance to Android devices. At the Google I/O 2017 developers conference in May, Android product manager Stephanie Saad Cuthbertson explained that the company has seen its Pixel handsets boot twice as fast, with similar gains in the Google Sheets app.
You'll be able to take that YouTube video or your video call as you switch from app to app, as Android Oreo will offer picture-in-picture (PiP) support throughout the OS. iOS users already enjoy picture-in-picture support, but only on the iPad. This feature will be all over Android devices as they get their Oreo updates, and users will activate it by simply hitting the home button while watching a video. PiP videos can be dismissed by simply swiping the clip away.
A clever, new feature will automatically turn your phone’s Wi-Fi back on based on your location. This way, your phone can connect to your home network when you arrive, saving you from any fiddling with the device.
To enable this feature, go to Network and Internet > WiFi > WiFi Preferences. Then toggle on the setting. Your phone will then use its location knowledge to reconnect to networks like your home Wi-fi. It’s a clever way to save on data usage and use the phone’s internal smarts without flipping the Wi-Fi on and off.
Pinned shortcuts and widgets
Android Oreo takes the ability to customize your home screen even further with pinned shortcuts and widgets. When you long press an app icon, you’ll see distinct buttons that each have a description about what those shortcuts will do when pegged to your homescreen.
Touch and hold one of them and drag them to an open spot on the home screen. Now, you’ll be able to directly launch that action. In our example, we’ve added a shortcut to the “I’m Feeling Lucky” function of Google Play Music.
Android Oreo will fill in the gaps
If you use a password manager, Android Oreo’s autofill capability will greatly simplify your life. The new autofill feature allows developers to create services that can directly input information into forms. While some had found a workaround for this in Nougat, the process for Oreo is simpler and should enable more third-party apps to participate. Companies like Dashlane and LastPass have already detailed how they will support this feature. (Image Credit: Tom’s Guide)
Enhanced security with Google Play Protect
The more we rely on our smartphones, the more our mobile security becomes important. That's why it's great to see Google Play Protect, a new service suite that will scans your apps for threats, and constantly checking for the latest risks, which will be found and detected via machine learning. If such an app is found on your device — and Google says the feature can scan more than 50 billion apps per day — it will delete the dangerous app from your handset or tablet.
Smart Text Selection saves you time
One of the more annoying parts of using a smart phone is fidgeting on your screen with your fingers to select a specific amount of text. Android Oreo's Smart Text Selection makes it easy to pull out addresses, business names and other selections by automatically selecting the entire amount of text by tapping on it. Android will use machine learning to power this feature, but Google executives promised your text will stay on your device and not get sent to the cloud.
Love or hate ‘em, the blob people are gone. Google gives you rounder emojis in Android Oreo that are more akin to what you’ll find on iOS. Several of the emojis that illustrate different objects have also been tweaked, so you’ll have numerous choices to explore the next time you want to say what you need with more than words. All told, Google promises 60 new emojis in Oreo.
The good news for those who may not see the Oreo update for a while is you can still score the emojis. Google created an Emoji Compatibility Library that enables developers to display the emojis in their app, even if it runs on a device with an older version of Android. So if you have a phone that may have to wait for the Oreo update, check out favorite messaging apps to see if they have the new creatures.
Your screen will come alive in Android Oreo, as icons will change while you use your handset, adapting to themes and animation as you interact with them. This means icons will squiggle and move as you tap them, and their edges and color palettes can adjust over time. We look forward to a desktop filled with animated icons that light up like a Pixar movie, and don't sit there and look awkward in contrast with your background image.
More colorful displays
Certain Android smartphones offer displays capable of rendering what's called wide-gamut color. With Oreo, Android gains the native ability to show off those colors. While it will depend on developer and smartphone maker support, we hope to see even more vivid images from apps such as Instagram as a result of this. (Image Credit: Sam Rutherford/Tom's Guide)
Better Bluetooth audio connections
Bluetooth headphones offer the freedom of wireless connections, but that can sometimes come at the cost of sound quality. Android Oreo looks to change that by supporting higher-quality Bluetooth connections, such as Sony's LDAC codec for hi-res audio. (Image Credit: Plantronics)
More keyboard shortcuts
Pixel C users and anyone else who loves to pair a Bluetooth keyboard with their Android device can rejoice: Google says Android Oreo will feature an improved version of keyboard shortcuts for its tab and arrow keys. This could make jumping around a Google Doc so much easier.
Higher quality sound
Not only is Android getting better sound quality for Bluetooth users, the mobile OS should offer better sound across the board. Android Oreo's new AAudio technology is designed specifically for apps that require "high-performance, low-latency audio," according to Google, which put an early version of the API into the developer preview to get feedback. (Image Credit: LarsZ/Shutterstock)
Android TV, Google's smart TV platform gets a new look for its home screen with the Oreo update. The emphasis is now on channels — rows of content that call out specific shows and even offer quick previews. A Watch Next row highlights additional episodes of programs you've already watched or shows and movies you've started but haven't finished. A Favorites row highlights your top apps. And, as befits Google's AI-driven focus as of late, Google Assistant will be part of Android TV, letting you look up shows with the sound of your voice. (Image Credit: Philip Michaels/Tom's Guide)
Better Settings screen
With Oreo, Google has further cleaned up the Settings menu to make it easier to discover the different sections. Gone is the slide-out menu in Nougat, which was helpful but also needlessly lengthy.
Categories like Display, Sound and Storage make the organizational system easier to navigate. And just as before, you can touch the spyglass icon to search for the section that you need. Much of the layout is cleaner and makes the overall menu quicker to peruse.
It will be easier to tap into Android's accessibility features. An accessibility button in the navigation bar provides quick access to features such as magnification and services including Select to Speak. Oreo's audio will also be optimized with accessibility in mind, with separate controls for accessibility and media volume. That lets the audio of onscreen feedback play at a different volume than audio from a video or song.
Potentially faster updates
One of the big knocks against Android is that updates can take their sweet time getting to your phone. Take Nougat, for example, which as of early August, could only be found on 13 percent of Android devices. Google is doing its part to fight fragmentation with Project Treble. Android Oreo offers a modular architecture that's designed to make it easier and faster for phone makers to bring Android updates to your device. (Image Credit: Google)
Slimmer app sizes
It's not the sexiest feature, but apps will potentially take up less space on your phone under Android Oreo. The updated OS doesn't force app makers to bundle custom fonts with their software, reducing file sizes. And Oreo will continue to take advantage of Android's Instant App feature, which lets you access some features of an app without having to download it first. Google says that 500 million devices now support Android Instant Apps, so this isn't necessarily an Oreo-specific feature, but it will help you manage storage space on your Oreo-powered phone. (Image Credit: Google)
Who will get Android Oreo?
If you're running a Google device like a Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Pixel and Pixel XL, you should already have Oreo. And of course, the new OS comes standard on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. Other forthcoming phones, like the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, will feature Oreo, too. As for existing phones, Google promises that the likes of Essential, Samsung, LG, HTC, Huawei, HMD Global (which now sells the Nokia brand), Sony, Motorola and Kyocera will either launch new phones running Oreo or upgrade some of their existing devices to the new OS by the end of the year.