Android O is — assumably — right around the corner, but Google has yet to make a peep about the release. Sure, Android’s SVP Hiroshi Lockheimer has teased the Oreo name, but while it’s a likely name candidate, that doesn’t exactly tell us anything about the forthcoming release’s features.
Now, we’ve received some info that we’d assign ‘rumor’ status to, and we thought we’d at least share it with you for sake of discussion. According to the information we’ve received, Android O is going to be a substantial update with new notifications, picture-in-picture mode, and more…
Google’s software release schedule isn’t exactly a mystery, but last year the company changed things up — after years of I/O debuts — with an early release of the first Android Nougat developer preview in March . We’re more than halfway through the month of March now, and while that doesn’t mean that Google isn’t prepping to push the earliest builds of Android early once again, there’s no sign yet.
Follow along below for a full bulleted list of everything we’re told is coming with Android O. The bold bullets are verbatim what we were told, and the explanations below that are my own speculation & informed opinion on what those features might actually be.
• New notifications (again).
We don’t have any solid information on what “new notifications” will mean in Android O, so for all we know this line could simply be referring to how the notifications design was changed with Android N and could be changing again with the launch of Android O. Again, that could be all this is referring to.
However, we did receive some information from a separate source last year detailing a new notification system that Google was/is working on for ‘Andromeda.’ We still don’t know what Andromeda is (or was), but we were at one point told that Andromeda and Android 8.0 were “merging,” so perhaps — and this is a big perhaps, but one that seems more and more likely to me — Google has simply moved some of the work that was being done on Andromeda into Android proper.
If — and this is a big if, and mostly just speculation on my part — Google has indeed merged some of the work done on ‘Andromeda’ into Android 8.0, then the improvements we were told were being worked on for ‘Andromeda’ could be what Google has lined up for Android 8.0. And these improvements wouldn’t really be that farfetched to see in the forthcoming Android update.
Below you’ll find a block quote of the notification improvements we were told about last year. Once again, I have to reiterate that this is information from last year that a separate-but-clearly-knowledgable tipster provided us in regards to features being worked on for ‘Andromeda.’ This is not information from the same source that provided us this feature rundown on Android O. It goes without saying that this may be entirely what Google is shipping with Android O, and it could be entirely not what Google is doing.
A new feature that’s supposedly going to be part of Andromeda: notification syncing across devices. This will come “pre-packaged” with Andromeda, this tipster says, and will be tied to the Google account that you use to sign into your device. It will also supposedly be powered by the same underlying machine learning software that Google mentioned in its release of the latest version of Google Play Music, intelligently displaying notifications only on the device that the user is currently using. If they wish, users will be able to enable repeated notifications in settings (the way things are currently), however.
[Our tipster said] that notifications will in essence try to determine how they’re displayed and on which devices based on a variety of factors, including location, time, and the device you’re using. “The goal is to provide certain information when you need it,” they say.
• App icon badges for active notifications.
This is a pretty self-explanatory item, and one that makes a lot of sense. Like the iPhone has had for years, our source says that app icons in Android O will sport badges for active notifications. This would allow you to get a quick glance at how many notifications you have for any given app just by looking at your home screen. Definitely a welcome feature, and one that should have been there for years.
• Picture-in-picture mode like Android TV.
We don’t have any further details or insight to share on this feature, but I think it’s pretty straightforward. With the release of the first Android N developer preview last year, Google added a picture-in-picture mode — like the one that has long been available on iPads — for the Android TV. This would seem to suggest that Google is going to bring this to other devices, assumably just Android tablets. I could be wrong, though. Maybe it’s coming to phones too.
• Smart text selection floating toolbar w/ Assistant integration.
We also don’t have anything of substance to add this to rumor, but it’s an interesting one. A rumor earlier this month described some features along these lines. A feature called “Copy Less” supposedly automatically copies relevant information from apps and surfaces it when it’s needed, which sounds a lot like a feature to go along with a “smart text selection floating toolbar” to me.
Since this mentions that this floating toolbar will include Assistant, it’s also interesting to note that an Assistant icon has recently been added to the text entry boxes for unreleased builds of Allo.
VentureBeat also shared some other features that sound somewhat along these lines. The site suggested that proper recognition of text like addresses will finally come to text fields on Android, and finger gestures — like those knuckle gestures from Honor phones — could soon come to stock Android as well. We’re hoping that we’ll hear more about the details of these features soon.
• Restricted background activities from apps, like Chrome 57.
Chrome 57 just launched this month, and one of its most notable features is that it reduces power consumption of background tabs with stricter throttling. I don’t have much info of value to bring other than the verbatim quote above, but to me this suggests that Google is going to clamp down a bit on app background activities with Android O.
In [Chrome] version 57, the browser will delay timers to limit average CPU load to 1% of a core if an application uses too much CPU in the background. Intensive services that play audio or maintain real-time connections, like chatting through WebRTC, will be excluded.
If you want to extrapolate what this means based on what we know about Chrome 57, it seems like the bigger picture is that Google wants to further optimize battery life. This stricter throttling policy in Chrome 57 should result in 25% fewer busy background tabs, Google says. In other words, it looks like Android O will reduce power consumption of apps running in the background.
• Adaptive icons like Google Pixel.
This one is definitely one of the more vague items on this list. Calling the icons “adaptive” doesn’t really describe all that well anything that app icons do on the Pixel. My first thought was app icon shortcuts, but that feature is included in Android 7.1.1 — which is already rolling out to phones like the Axon 7.
So I think that what this person is referring to is dynamically changing icons, a feature that’s currently included with the Pixel via the Pixel Launcher. Assumably, whatever launcher that succeeds the Google Now Launcher, will include this feature. Interestingly, we were also told at one point earlier this year that the Google Now Launcher (or equivalent) could actually be baked into all Android O builds.
• Lots of improvements to MediaRecorder API.
The MediaRecorder API basically allows apps to capture audio and video and save that data to persistent storage, and apparently Android O is bringing some improvements in this area. We have no real speculation of value to add to this detail, but improvements here are definitely welcome.
On a related note, however, Google has long been making improvements in the area of audio latency, an area in which iOS devices have long been reigning champion. One of the biggest jumps forward we saw was a couple years ago was with the launch of the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P.
• Tons of enterprise stuff.
I’m not going to try to speculate what “tons of stuff” means here. But enterprise features are something that Google has been adding to Android for several years, so bringing features to stock Android that will allow Google to go head-to-head with Samsung’s Knox is not exactly something that would be hard to guess.
Rumors on 9to5Google Community
To make clear the lower confidence we have in this information, we’ve decided to share it here in the 9to5Google Community section. This is the medium by which we will be sharing unconfirmed rumors going forward. If our confidence increases, they will be promoted to a full report on 9to5Google.
We stand by the information in this post as being an accurate and honest representation of what we were told, but can’t guarantee it will remain reliable. We will also be providing a 1-10 confidence score for these rumors based on a variety of factors (including timing, source, and the context of the information provided).
Confidence score: 7/10
We haven’t yet been able to confirm these details with multiple sources, and that alone gives this rumor a significant downgrade. We also obtained this information second hand, although we’re fairly confident based on information we’ve received (that we haven’t published) that the original source is in a position to know these details. Finally, there’s the possibility that at this stage in development, Google still hasn’t decided on the software’s final feature set and things could change.
That said, we give this rumor a score of 7 out of 10 because the information comes from a source that has provided primary source documentation in the past that we’re fairly confident is legitimate. In other words, while we can’t assure you beyond a shadow of a doubt that these will be the features that Android O ships with later this year, we can say with high confidence that the person who provided these details is aware of its development.
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