On the 7th of March, 2018, Google tickled our tech buds by intriguing us with some previews of Android’s ninth massive update, dubbed Android P. The first developer’s preview was released on the same day, and since, many people have been awarded the opportunity to try out the new version of the operating system by participating in Android P’s Beta program. Google has made this update available for many of its own devices, the Google Pixel range, as well as other non-Google cell phones including the Essential Phone, Nokia 7 Plus, Oppo R15 Pro, Sony Xperia XZ2, Vivo X21 UD, Vivo X21, Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S, and recently the OnePlus 6. Features that made the Android P laden Google Pixel stand out are now available for upgrade on the OnePlus6. As more and more people gain access to the new operating system, here’s what we’re all learning about the newest operating system version so far.
The biggest difference noted is the change of the user interface as a whole. Objects and features are given a more rounded bubble-like look across the GUI which some people are okay with, but some have heavily criticized. This change has affected all the menus and icons. The quick settings menu has been redone entirely according to this theme; it is customizable so that you can choose the settings you want to see and the order that you want to see them in, and new icons have been introduced for the corresponding setting options. Another major change to note that jumps right at you when you unlock the device is the fact that the clock which was previous on the right side of the notification bar is now shown on the left. The volume gauge slider has also been redesigned to fit into the rounded aesthetic of the rest of the interface. Users are also able to further customize the device’s theme by manually selecting color palettes in the device’s settings.
Particular features that we see in the Android P include a screenshot option added in the power menu, a usage based adaptive power system that maximized battery supply based upon your usage of the device, and smart brightness which adjusts the phone’s brightness based upon the user’s environment. The particular battery upgrade we’re most happy about is the fact that the phone picks up on your most used applications and prevents background processes that you’re not going to use from draining your power supply. Instead, the battery is reserved for your most used applications and you get the most bang for your watt on your device. The gesture features that made the Google Pixel range stand out are now also available on other Android P Beta devices. Through the settings menu, users can set a multitude of gestures to perform on any edge of the screen to bring up any command menu desired. Users are also able to utilize the side buttons to launch a variety of operations, the inbuilt usage of this being the pressing of both volume keys simultaneously to stop the phone from ringing.
A major security upgrade for the system is DNS over TLS support which encrypts the domain name system protocol using transport layer security. This ensures that the user’s privacy is safeguarded and all communications between a server and the device are encrypted with TLS to avoid malicious observer attacks. In addition to this, there is a new lockdown mode that has been introduced which inhibits unlocking the device with biometrics when enabled. In line with this, we could also expect the return of NFC unlocking to the device soon as more updates for the beta version roll out. Since Android Oreo version 8.1, Google has introduced neural network APIs to its Android operating systems and the Android P is no exception. Neural network APIs are used for running intense computational processes by making use of hardware-accelerated predictions and inferencing guesswork that anticipate future processes before they are carried out. NNAPIs are used in the identification of objects, faces, scenes, and frames in the camera application; they are used in the gallery to classify images and people; they are used in the auto-complete or auto-fill options to anticipate what you’re going to type next based on your behavior previously. Since the device is able to anticipate your next move, it is able to carry our processes in advance and since its predictions get better the more the device is used, it’s usually never wrong. This increases your CPU performance and the general response-back speed and timing on the device.
With all the latest developments explained, we are still watching over the user testing of the Android P OS to see what new updates Google rolls out. The operating system version is still in development and based upon feedback from users, Google is testing out newer GUIs and fixing security bugs that were discovered in the previous OS by enhancing TLS security and device access features. Google has warned all participating users through a release statement of any expected issues they may face in the fourth version of the Beta developer’s version. The warnings outline that some applications may not function as expected and battery and performance may be impacted adversely. Known issues in the update have also been listed. These concerns include excessive drainage of battery as the screen-off and screen-on features are tested in the updates, limitations of accessibility features such as Talkback, framework crashes when lock screen notifications are clicked, crashing and freezing of general user interface, instability of Bluetooth playback, call dropping, and the inability to factory reset the device, to which Google proposes that one should simply manually remove all Google accounts from the device. The Android P Beta version is a strictly opt-in update that users can take up on their own accord to test the latest developments and help Google in the feedback process.