Android O wants to make your phone twice as fast
 
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Android O wants to make your phone twice as fast

| Posted in Software

Ready for Android O? Google kicked off its annual developer conference, Google I/O 2017, with a first taste of its forthcoming software for phones, tablets, watches and Android TV.

If you’re hoping for a ton of crazy features that make the OS look and feel completely different, it’s time to temper your expectations. Like Android 7.0 Nougat, Android O focuses mostly on the nuts and bolts of making the software work better, faster and save battery.

This is all good, though. It means your battery should last longer and your device should speed up everything from navigating around to processing really complex photo tasks.

But don’t worry, there are still some goodies in here, like a cool picture-in-picture feature that will make multitasking much more convenient; a much easier copy/paste that actually seems way cooler than it has any right to be; and password autofill in Chrome for Android that’s going to save you time and typing.

One day, O will have a sweet dessert name (Oatmeal cookie? Orange sherbet!?). But it’s early days, and this is an early look at the benefits that Android O will bring.

If you want to see it for yourself, you can check out Google’s Android O public beta.

Here we go, starting with the flashiest stuff first.

Picture-in-picture

Let’s say you’re watching a YouTube video and suddenly remember something you need to do. Normally, you’d have to exit out of the video and open Google Keep or your notes app to jot the reminder.

In Android O, you’ll just press the home button and the video shrinks into a movable window. The clip keeps playing while you open up Keep to write your note, or do anything else on the phone. You can reopen the YouTube video, or swipe the thumbnail away when you’re done.

It’s picture-in-picture (PIP), and if you’ve ever used a recent Samsung Galaxy phone, you may already know about the feature.

You’ll be able to play around with the PIP a little, like adjust the size or park it on the side of the screen to get it out of the way. You’ll also be able to opt out if you don’t like it. One PIP will work at a time. If you have a PIP window already running and press Home again, you won’t get a second PIP window, you’ll go to the Home screen.

Picture-in-picture will work with the likes of Google’s Duo calling app and Netflix at first; support for Maps will come later. I’m really excited about a Maps PIP because it means you can navigate in a tiny thumbnail while you do other things, like check your email, browse Facebook or text.

New app notifications

You already get alerts in the pull-down notifications shade at the top of the screen, but with Android O, you’ll see a dot appear next to an app icon that tells you you have an unread item.

Here’s the best part. You can press and hold the app icon to expand the message and take a peek at the alert content inside.

Sound familiar? Both the notification badges and peeking take a page from Apple iOS on the iPhone and iPad; specifically, they’ve both had badges for years. Nevertheless, these are two features I welcome on Android.

Notifications are synced between the dot and the notifications shade, so tapping one will clear the other. Eagle-eyed users may notice that the color of the dot matches the app icon.

Auto-fill (like on Chrome)

Typing your name and password over and over again into the same device is annoying. So Google is carrying over autofill from Chrome on the desktop to Chrome on mobile. Yesss!

You’ll see a prompt to add fill fields like your username, password, address, credit card number — you get it. Simply click to fill. Two clicks and you’re in.

Android O’s autofill feature will support third-party providers, too. So if you launch Twitter, O will suggest your username and password. The grand hope is that autofill will take the pain out of moving between devices.

Better copy and paste

If you’re like me, you quietly put up with copy and paste on mobile because there’s no other choice. Selecting a phone number, email address or phrase doesn’t always work perfectly, and you spend time fidgeting with the selection bars in the right place.

With Android O, you just long press or double-tap anywhere on the phrase to select a phone number, address, business, name or place. It all links into Google’s database and your contact list.

In addition to asking if you want to copy the selection, the system will suggest opening the dialer if you tap a number, Gmail if you tap a email handle and Maps if you select a street address.

Faster Android behind the scenes

Google wants to make Android faster. In fact, the company says that Android O is more than twice as fast as Android Nougat. That goes for boot times (those apparently dropped from 35 to 13 seconds on the Pixel) to apps like Google Sheets running a hell of a lot faster.

So it’s created a way to process complex tasks — like the camera recognizing an object, or interacting with Google Assistant — on the device instead of in the cloud.

duopip500px.gif
Another look at Android O’s picture-in-picture mode.

Google

(The technical name for this is TensorFlow Lite, which puts machine learning tasks on the phone, so the device can instantly take care of the job in real-time, rather than ping the cloud and wait for a response.)

Big ole battery boost

There’s already Doze, which saves battery by silencing background activity while you’re idle. This is different. Android O introduces restrictions on background apps. It won’t stop syncing your mail, but it will keep certain apps from running down your battery and hogging all your memory. The system will also flash a badge that lets you know something’s running in the background, like a tracker.

Keep tabs on app security in Google Play Store

Android already scans every app you install on your phone and wipes out the bad ones. That’s built into the Google Play Store. Android O makes it more obvious, giving you a heads-up that scans are happening and that your apps are safe.

Called Google Play Protect, it’s meant to give you extra peace of mind that your apps aren’t compromised.


 

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