Google has released the developer preview version of its latest mobile operating system. "Android O" is still in its early stages, but it is distinct from its predecessor in several ways that could change the way you interact with your Android.
One of the most noticeable user-facing changes is the introduction of a picture in picture (PIP) option – similar to an Apple iPad feature added in iOS 9 – which should make multitasking easier in some circumstances. Apps that support PIP will let you continue watching a video even when being interrupted by another app, such as when receiving a call.
Android O also introduces notification channels, which enable fine-tuned in-app control of notification settings. There's also new notification visuals and grouping options, which are meant to help streamline the process of reviewing notifications.
The platform also adds support for autofill, which should minimize the need to enter and re-enter credentials like usernames, passwords and addresses. Developers will have to decide to implement autofill services within their apps, but if they opt in, this incremental change could shave off a lot of cumulative inconvenience.
Other changes come as a response to recent developments in mobile hardware. Android O supports wide color gamut for apps, so high quality wide-gamut displays can be put to good use. It also supports high-quality Bluetooth audio codecs like LDAC for optimal audio fidelity. Android O also takes steps to make keyboard navigation (such as when you're using a keyboard accessory with your tablet) more reliable.
This early preview of Android O is available for free, but it's aimed squarely at developers (the software must be manually downloaded and flashed to your device). According to Google, there are more features coming.
Non-developers that want an early look can enroll in the Android Beta program. Android O will become available through the beta program closer to its completion.
The current version of the Android operating system is Android Nougat. Google releases an updated Android OS annually – each one is lettered alphabetically and christened with a candy name closer to its release.
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