8 of the most interesting Android O features demoed at Google I/O 2017

Android O

At Google’s annual I/O developer conference, the tech giant demonstrated some of the features set to be included in its next-generation operating system, Android O.

While many of the demonstrations were of features that had already come to light with the first developer preview of Android O, there were a few intriguing new additions. The tech giant also shared its vision for the new OS, which centres around the two core focuses of ‘Fluid Experiences’ and ‘Vitals.’

Google demonstrated several features relating to both themes. Under ‘Fluid Experiences,’ the company demoed Picture-in-Picture, Notification Dots, Autofill with Google, Smart Text Selection and the new TensorFlow Lite. Under ‘Vitals,’ the company spoke to battery life, security, start-up time and stability, demonstrating the new Google Play Protect feature among other developer tools.

Autofill with Google

First revealed with the developer preview, Autofill with Google makes filling out forms on mobile easier. It provides apps with the ability to register as a system-wide provider of autofill services.

This means that autofill services will operate much like keyboard apps, which become an integral part of the phone’s essential functions. Google, for instance, will no doubt bring its own autofill expertise to the task and offer an autofill service.

Once chosen, users can navigate to and make changes to their autofill app by heading to settings > ‘Apps & notifications’ > ‘Default apps’ > ‘Autofill app.’

In its demonstration, Google noted that autofill will work in “most” apps, not just in Chrome. Once the user opts in, notes the company, it will help through suggesting usernames, for example, when logging into a social media account.

Google Play Protect

Google Play Protect

Google Play Protect protects users from mischievous apps. Android O devices run a scan of all of the apps on the device and it will then warn the user if any of the apps are deemed unsafe.

Protect will run the scans periodically and as of right now it doesn’t appear that users can decide when the apps will be scanned nor can users scan all apps at once. To see the apps recently scanned go into settings > ‘Security & Location’ > ‘Verify App.’ There you can see the scanned apps and remove the scanning if wanted.

Battery & performance improvements

As always, with this new iteration of Android, Google promises enhanced performance and battery life. With its focus on ‘Vitals,’ this goal had a particularly prominent place in this year’s I/O.

Among other claims, Google stated that Android O is set to make boot time much faster — twice as fast on a Pixel, in fact — reportedly a result of changes to the operating system’s core.  The company also noted that since too many apps drain the battery in the background, O has “wise limits” for background usage.

Notification badges

Lack of notification badge

‘Notification Dots’ is what Google calls notification badges, a new installment on Android O shown at the Google I/O 2017. Notification badges will show up on an app if it’s on the home screen. When it arrives, a little dot will appear on an app whenever you receive a new notification.

When the user long presses on the app it will let you peek into the notification. To get rid of the notification dot, simply get rid of the notification in your notification shade. To disable notification dots users can go into their settings, then into their app permissions per each individual app.

‘Settings’ > ‘Apps & Permissions’ > ‘App Info’ > ‘Messenger’ (for example) > ‘App notifications’ > ‘Badge’ app icon

The current build on the Android O Beta shows the notification badge setting, in the app permission, however, the notification dot doesn’t show on the app on the app screen.

This is definitely not the first time we’ve seen notification badges, on Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy devices.

TensorFlow Lite

During the conference, Google announced TensorFlow Lite, a pared-down version of its TensorFlow machine learning technology, designed for mobile. For those unfamiliar, the original TensorFlow is an open-source library of software for machine learning that was developed by the company for the building and training of neural networks.

TensorFlow Lite brings the company’s strong focus on AI to Android mobile platforms, enabling more “fluid experiences” that are based on artificial intelligence in the future. Google says TensorFlow Lite will be available later this year.

Design changeslock screen android O

From our first pass, there appear to be quite a few differences, including raise to wake. When you raise the device it will show the current time and display icons with notifications and if the device is charging. On one Nexus 6P, the notification shade appearance has changed as well. And it’s all in white and grey instead of the black and dark blue from before.

Within the system UI there also some new things that came with the Android O. To get there, head to ‘Settings’ > ‘System’ > ‘System UI.’

In the UI Tuner, there’s a Picture-in-Picture minimize option which allows those utilizing Picture-in-Picture to drag or fling the window towards the edges of the screen to get rid of it.

Users can also set shortcuts on the lock screen that will display in the left and right corners. Click on either the left shortcut or right shortcut and the list of apps and other shortcuts, data usage, that would enable the user to see their data usage straight out of the lock screen.

Smart Text Selection

Google also demonstrated a new ‘smart’ form of text selection for copy and paste at I/O. With Smart Text Selection, when a user holds down to select text, a neural network scans and analyzes it in order to automatically select the important part of the text.

For example, if you double-tap on an address, the phone will automatically select the entire address without any other pesky additions from the sentence leading up or prior to it.

Picture-in-picture

Picture-in-Picture on Android O

Picture-in-picture is the ability to play an app in the corner of your screen while using another app. For example, picture-in-picture will allow users to have their YouTube play in a small box in the corner of your their screen while also using another application.

To do it users just have to be watching something on the YouTube app or looking at directions on Google maps and press the home button, that will make a small window. In the settings, the only apps that work with picture-in-picture are YouTube and Chrome. Currently, this feature appears to not be working on the Android O beta. When it does eventually work to remove it ‘Settings’ > ‘Apps & notification’ > ‘App Info’ > ‘YouTube’ (for example), ‘Picture-in-Picture’ > ‘Allow picture-in-picture.’

Bonus: Android Go and new emoji

In addition to all that, Google also announced Android Go, a light-weight configuration of Android targeted at budget devices that launches with Android O. Google says it plans to offer Go with every OS version going forward, as well.

And who could forget? New emoji are coming and the lovable old blob format of Android emoji will soon take its cue to leave, a bittersweet departure.

Users of the Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 6P and the Nexus 5X can enroll to the Android O beta, here.

What is your most anticipated feature coming in Android O? Let us know in the comments.

Comments

  • JD

    Every year has the same talk about battery life improvements and performance enhancements. Every year battery life on Android gets worse and worse. The closest they got was with Kitkat so they could launch Android One, then they went and crapped the bed with Lollipop and haven’t recovered since. The only improvement comes from larger batteries and improvements in physical components.
    Time for Google to put up or shut up.

  • Brad Fortin

    As always, with this new iteration of Android, Google promises enhanced performance and battery life.

    At this point Google must feel like Charlie Brown trying to kick the Performance & Battery Life football.

    • Smanny

      Android has real multitasking, and this is where apps can still run in the background. Even if you switch to run another app. The app you just left could be still running in the background. You can even have split screen multitasking with Android. Something that is not possible on any iPhone. Brad I know you are an iPhone guy. So you should already know this but no iPhone has real multitasking or split screen multitasking. As soon as an iPhone user switches to another app, then the app that the user just left, is now halted. You can get the same thing with Android if you go into the developer settings and limit all the background tasks. But users just don’t know how, or are too lazy, or just simple minded.

    • Brad Fortin

      Until Android O, anyway, with its new Background Execution Limits, Background Location Limits, etc, at which point it’ll be remarkably similar to iOS.

  • Google are taking over the business, sure they have done that long time ago, now they keep on improving

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  • I don’t think if there’s any company which will ever catch up with google. They are undisputed.