What's New in Android O: Everything you need to know

Android O: Top 5 features
Surprise! Google just took the wraps off a new version of Android in developer preview form. Say hello to Android O!

It must be spring, because Google on Tuesday rolled out the first Developer Preview for Android O, and it includes plenty of new features.

Of course, Google hasn’t revealed all the new goodies in Android O—the name, for example, is still unknown. But we have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the update, which is primarily focused on improving battery life and notifications, and making Android a little friendlier to use with keyboards. The latter feature will be great for using Android apps on a Chromebook.

The crew in Mountain View appears obviously concerned about your phone’s battery life, because Android O will keep apps from sucking down more than their fair share of juice. Android O places specific caps on “implicit broadcasts,” which wake up background apps when you connect to Wi-Fi or take a picture. It also limits what an app can do in the background. If you’ve ever checked your battery settings only to discover an app you haven’t used in three days sapped 34 percent of your power, this is very good news. If you own an entry-level phone with a small battery and poor connectivity, it is even better news.

To help curb notification overload, Android O features something Google calls “notification channels” that let developers segment different kinds of notifications—political news vs. sports news, maybe, or text message alerts from your family vs. everyone else—and control them individually. The notification shade also groups notifications by channel, making skimming through them easier.

Most of the other new stuff is aimed at making Android better across devices and form factors. Android O standardizes what happens when you press an arrow key on your keyboard, and supports adaptive icons that better match those on whatever screen and layout you’re looking at. It supports third-party calling apps, so you can take all your calls through WhatsApp or Telegram. Picture in Picture now works on phones and tablets, and even lets you launch windows on secondary displays. Apps can access more fonts and a wider color gamut. And, in a move sure to save the sanity of complicated-password-havers everywhere, a new Autofill API lets you use an app to fill in passwords, addresses, and more

What's New in Android O: Everything you need to know

Background limits

New limits on implicit broadcasts (sending "signals" for other apps or activities to act upon), background services (activities of an app that continue to run when it's not on the screen) and location updates (checking to see where you are using Android's location services) are automatic. This means it's easier to build apps that don't have an impact on battery life and the user doesn't have to manage anything.

Notification channels

With Android O Google is introducing new Notification channels: grouping notifications together by their type. Notifications are still managed by the app that delivers them, but users can control how things are displayed on a per-channel basis. This way we can decide things like how a news app notifies us or a music player shows a persistent notification. Notification channels is a new way for us to control the rich notifications that Android apps bring to us.

Autofill APIs

With the new Autofill API, a user will be able to choose a source for autofill data, and applications that need to store and retrieve this sort of data no longer will need to act as an Accessibility service. An app like a password manager can bundle its own activity for using the autofill API and we can choose it when we need it much like choosing a new keyboard. An app could also be built that acts as a global storage for autofill data without being associated with any one particular program.

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