Google has just dropped the first Android P Developer preview. There’s not much new in the way of visual changes, it’s behind the scenes where things get interesting for Android P. That being said, there’s still a couple of changes on the surface that are worth talking about, so let’s start with those.
Aesthetically, the most obvious change is the redesigned notifications drawer. Both the quick settings and notifications section have newly rounded corners. It’s a little less sharp and perhaps not as slick looking when compared to Android Oreo. This new design is definitely more appealing to the eye and friendlier to look at. It’s a design change though and so this is subjective.
Also in the notifications area, you’ll now be able to see recent messages from a text thread to add context. You can then reply using “Smart replies”, as per the screenshots below. This feature will also work with most popular messaging applications as well.
Other visual changes include an updated settings menu, which is now more colourful. Also, when you press the physical volume buttons on the phone, the onscreen controls will display on the right-hand side next to the volume buttons. This makes the onscreen controls easier reach when compared to their previous position at the top of the phone.
Apps will run faster
In Google’s Blog post they claim that they’re ‘working to bringing performance and efficiency improvements to all apps through the ART runtime’. ART, stands for Android Run Time and is the engine that powers all Android Apps. It plays a massive part in making sure that Android apps run smoothly. By improving ART, apps will be able to perform just as well if not better, whilst also using less power. In turn, this will lead to speedier apps which use less battery.
Improved Power Efficiency
Google isn’t introducing anything new or groundbreaking here (yet), they’re simply refining. Android P will improve upon features such as Doze, App Standby and Background Limits. All these features focus on limiting how much resources Android Apps take up when not actively being used. They help improve the battery life and performance of your Android device.
Security and Privacy
Android P will now have a ‘consistent UI for fingerprint authentication across apps and devices’. Similar to iOS, when using your finger to authenticate an app, the animation/graphic will be the same across all apps.
Android P apps will also no longer be able to access your device’s microphone or camera whilst the app is idle. Most apps don’t do this anyway, but it provides peace of mind in case one day you do download a sketchy app, which listens or even watches you without your knowledge.
App updates must now target Android 8.0 Oreo. By targeting 8.0, apps will have to use the Android 8.0 app framework. This just means that apps will be more secure, be compatible with the latest features, and will have to abide by new rules that come with updated frameworks.
In Android P, users will get a warning popup when they try to download an app which targets the Android 4.2 (or lower) app framework.
A feature which isn’t new but is getting improved upon is Android’s Autofill Framework. This allows password manager applications to autofill user credentials automatically in apps such as Twitter and Facebook. In Android P this feature will see a host of bug fixes, performance improvements and also improved compatibility mode meaning it will work with even more applications.
The iPhone X, for better or worse, has made smartphone notches acceptable. Asus is the latest high profile smartphone manufacturer to embrace the notch, and they won’t be the last. LG’s and Huawei’s latest flagship smartphones have recently been leaked, both of which feature the ominous notch.
Google has noted the trend and will be baking notch support directly into Android P. This means that Android smartphone manufacturers won’t have to use workarounds in order to get the notch to play nice with Android.
Also, for the first time ever on Android, the time is displayed on the left-hand side, possibly to compensate for smartphones with notches. It may also be to clean up the top right corner, which can become congested, with the signal, WiFi, Bluetooth and battery indicators already taking up a lot of space here.
Wi-Fi Round-Trip-Time (RTT) Support
What on earth is that I hear you say? Well, it’s actually pretty cool. Android P will support WiFi Protocol IEEE 802.11mc (also referred to as Wi-Fi RTT).
This will allow apps to accurately track your indoor position using WiFi. As Google points out, this will be useful for in-building navigation, say for example you’re in a shopping centre and need directions to a specific shop. Also if you have multiple WiFi connected lights, you can stand next to one of the lights and say ‘turn this light on’. Because it accurately knows your location, it knows which light to turn on.
Applications will now be able to use both cameras simultaneously on phones that have dual front or rear facing cameras. Apps can now utilize features such as ‘seamless zoom, bokeh and stereo vision’ according to Google. These features were previously limited to just the phone’s default camera app.
HEIF image encoding has also been added. HEIF is a type of photo compression similar to JPEG. It’s superior to JPEG in that photos which use HEIF take up less space and retain more quality. Apple also started using HEIF for photo compression when they introduced iOS 11 in 2017.
And that’s not all!
As well as all the features mentioned above, Google also included a bunch of other small but useful changes.
- Android Backups are now more secure
- Android P supports the HDR VP9 Profile 2 codec which makes watching HDR content much easier.
- Improvements and performance optimizations for Kotlin (coding language for Android).
Most of the changes found in Android P are behind the scenes
This will change as Google released future versions of Android P. Until then, developers still have a bunch to play with and introduce into their apps. You can flash the Android P Developer Preview on both generations of Google’s Pixel devices. Although unless you’re a developer, who happens to have a spare Pixel phone lying around, it’s not recommended. This build of Android P will almost certainly come with its fair share of bugs and glitches.