Google officially launches Android P – and there's support for notches
Google has officially announced the next version of its mobile operating system, Android P, which you can expect to see on some handsets from later this year. Only a handful of new features have been unveiled so far, but they include support for displays with notches, inspired by the iPhone X.
To begin with, Android P is going to be available as a developer preview, which means you'll need to be registered with Google as a developer (and have one of a select number of approved phones) to install this early version of the software.
The final release date of Android P has yet to be confirmed, but it should be at some point in the third quarter of the year, as was the case with Android 8.0 Oreo (by which time we should have a full name too). As usual, it's Google's phones that will get the update first.
So what's new? Google will drip-feed new features to the public over the coming months, but we already know Android P includes support for notches on bezel-free displays (like the Asus ZenFone 5). Since the distinctive notch appeared on Apple's flagship phone last September, housing the front-facing camera and face recognition technology, other phone manufacturers have been following the trend on their handsets – though not, notably, on the Samsung Galaxy S9.
Native notch support means developers won't have to worry too much about their apps switching to full-screen mode on devices with and without cutouts at the top of the display – almost everything should be handled automatically.
Messaging notifications are getting richer, with support for smart replies and picture previews in the notifications themselves, while the enabling of a new technology called Wi-Fi Round-Trip-Time (RTT) will make it easier for mapping apps to log your position indoors by pinging nearby routers.
Android P is able to stream feeds from two cameras simultaneously – like the ones on the front and back of your phone, for example – and the overall camera capture time has been sped up. The OS will also be better able to handle background microphone and camera access, reducing the chances of any of your apps surreptitiously spying on you.
There are plenty of other smaller improvements, including battery optimizations, improved image compression, and quicker access to AI-specific features. All these improvements are quite low-level, as befits a developer preview release – any major changes that you're really going to notice will be announced in the near future.
Now all eyes are on Google I/O, the annual developer conference which this year starts on May 8. If it follows tradition, Google will tell us much more about Android P and what new features we can expect then. In the meantime, developers can get busy prepping their apps for the software upgrade, while a public beta program is also in the pipeline.