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Here's What We Know from Google's Android O Sneak Peak
Posted March 22, 2017
Here's What We Know from Google's Android O Sneak Peak
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By Shirley Siluk. Updated March 22, 2017 10:34AM

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App developers are seeing the first preview of Android O, the next version of Google's operating system for mobile devices. Released yesterday, the first preview of the successor to Android Nougat features new limits to background app activity aimed at improving battery life, as well as more wide-ranging support for font displays and Wi-Fi connectivity improvements.

Google plans to release more developer preview updates over the next several months, Dave Burke, vice president of engineering, said in a blog post yesterday. More details will be revealed at the Google I/O developer conference set for May.

The company released the current version of its mobile OS, Android 7.0 Nougat, via over-the-air software updates in August. If the Android O update follows a similar schedule, users can expect to see the new version -- "O's" full name has yet to be determined -- later this year.

'Big Priority' on Battery and Performance

Unlike the developer previews for Nougat, this time Google is making the early versions of Android O available to developers via download and flash only, Burke said. A test version for consumers via the Android Beta channel will be made available as the company gets closer to a final product, he said.

One of the changes arriving with Android O will be new background execution and location limits that will make it easier for developers to create apps that don't overtax user devices and batteries.

"Building on the work we began in Nougat, Android O puts a big priority on improving a user's battery life and the device's interactive performance," Burke said. "To make this possible, we've put additional automatic limits on what apps can do in the background, in three main areas: implicit broadcasts, background services, and location updates. Because background limits represent a significant change in Android, Google wants every developer to get familiar with them, he added.

Most Users Still on Android Marshmallow

Android O will support greater font control in XML layouts, including changes to style and weight, and will also introduce improvements in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, Burke noted. One new Wi-Fi feature, Wi-Fi Aware, will allow supported devices to discover and communicate with other nearby devices without the need for an Internet access point.

Other new features arriving with Android O include notification channels to give developers greater control over how app users receive and view notification content; platform support and APIs for autofill apps; more control over icon displays; imaging app support for wide-gamut color; and a variety of enhancements contributed by Google's hardware partners.

Earlier today, Google also released its third annual Android Security Year in Review report, noting that Android Nougat introduced many new security features designed to stop dangerous apps.

"Using improved tools and the knowledge we gained in 2016, we think we can reduce the number of devices affected by PHAs [potentially harmful apps] in 2017, no matter where people get their apps," security team members Adrian Ludwig and Mel Miller wrote in a post on the Android Developers Blog.

Android Marshmallow 6.0 remains the most widely used version of its mobile OS, with a 31.3-percent share of users, according to the latest data from Google, collected earlier this month. Android Lollipop 5.1 is in second place, with a 23.1 percent share, while less than 3 percent of Android users have updated to Nougat 7.0 (2.4 percent) or Nougat 7.1 (0.4 percent).

Image credit: Google.

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