Tech: Google's next version of Android is now available in beta form — here's what it can do (GOOG, GOOGL)
At its I/O conference, Google released the first beta version of Android O and talked about some of the new features in it.
Good news Android fans: You can now test out a new version of the operating system with some fun features.
At its annual I/O conference on Wednesday, Google announced the first public beta for Android O is now open.
Google representatives didn't go too deep into new details about the software. The company previously revealed some of the features when it released a developer preview of Android O in March.
Among the new features you'll see in Android O are:
- A picture-in-picture mode that lets you view YouTube videos and other compatible apps in a tiny window that floats over whatever else you're doing. You can activate the feature through the home button within a supported app.
- "Notification dots," which are tiny badges placed on app icons that inform you when those apps have new notifications. Instead of pulling down the notification shade to view a particular alert, you can now view it by pressing and holding on the icon of an app that has a notification dot.
- Autofill support for more apps, so you don't have to manually enter frequently used info all time. Google gave the example of having your Twitter login data saved and automatically entered right from the app.
- Smarter text highlighting, so you can select an entire name, phone number, address, or similar key items all at once by just double tapping on it. Depending on what you tap, you'll then be able to act further on what you've highlighted. You can add a phone number to your contacts, for example, or view a location in Google Maps.
- Google Play Protect, a security feature that the company says will automatically check your apps for vulnerabilities, then show you if everything is secure.
- A cleaner settings app that groups similar options together. Settings for WiFi, hot spots and mobile data, for example, are now collected together in a “Network & Internet” tab.
- More granular control over notifications, including the ability to “snooze” notifications for later.
- Promised improvements to battery life, Bluetooth and general performance. Google says Android O will put stricter controls on how much apps do in the background, such as accessing your location, to save memory and battery life. The company is also touting faster boot times.
- "Project Treble," which is said to allow device makers like Samsung or LG to issue their Android updates without having to wait for chipset makers like Qualcomm to certify their chips work with the latest versions of the software. Google has famously struggled to get people to actually update their phones to new versions of Android; only 7% of Android devices are using the eight-month-old Nougat update. This would be a big deal, but time will tell how much time this will actually save, though.
There are plenty other things, but the gist of the update is that it's focused more on addressing annoyances and fine-tuning performance than on offering flashy new features.
Note that you can sign up for the Android O beta on only a handful of Google devices; the only phones on which you can install it are Google's Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 5P or Nexus 6P.
As you should before installing any beta software, be aware of the potential downsides. The Android O beta likely has its share of bugs. And you should back up your phone before installing it, otherwise you risk losing your data if you try to revert back to a previous version of Android.
Despite all its new capabilities, one thing Android O still doesn't have is a name. Our money is on "Oreo."