What’s New in Android: O Developer Preview 2 & More

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Posted by: Dave Burke, VP of Engineering

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With billions of Android devices around the world, Android has surpassed our wildest expectations. Today at Google I/O, we showcased a number of ways we’re pushing Android forward, with the O Release, new tools for developers to help create more performant apps, and an early preview of a project we call Android Go — a new experience that we’re building for entry-level devices.
Fluid experiences in Android O
It’s pretty incredible what you can do on mobile devices today, and how easy it is to rely on them as computers in our pockets. In the O release we’ve focused on creating fluid experiences that make Android even more powerful and easy to use, and today we highlighted some of those:

  • Picture-in-picture: lets users manage two tasks simultaneously, whether it’s video calling your friend while checking your calendar, or reading a new recipe while watching a video on a specific cooking technique. We’ve designed PIP to provide seamless multitasking on any size screen, and it’s easy for apps to support it.
  • Notification dots extend the reach of notifications, a new way for developers to surface activity in their app, driving engagement. Built on our unique and highly regarded notification system, dots work with zero effort for most apps – we even extract the color of the dot from your icon. 
  • Autofill with Google simplifies setting up a new device and synchronizing passwords by bringing Chrome’s Autofill feature to Android. Once a user opts-in, Autofill will work out-of-the-box for most apps. Developers can optimize their apps for Autofill by providing hints about the type of data expected or add support in custom views. 
  • A new homescreen for Android TV makes it easy for users to find, preview, and watch content provided by apps. Apps can publish one or more channels, and users can control the channels that appear on the homescreen. You’ll be able to get started with creating channels using the new TvProvider support library APIs. 
  • Smart Text Selection: In Android O, we’re applying on-device machine learning to copy/paste, to let Android recognize entities like addresses, URLs, telephone numbers, and email addresses. This makes the copy/paste experience better by selecting the entire entity and surfacing the right apps to carry out an action based on the type of entity.
  • TensorFlow Lite: As Android continues to take advantage of machine learning to improve the user experience, we want our developer partners to be able to do the same. Today we shared an early look at TensorFlow Lite, an upcoming project based on TensorFlow, Google’s open source machine learning library. TensorFlow Lite is specifically designed to be fast and lightweight for embedded use cases. Since many on-device scenarios require real-time performance, we’re also working on a new Neural Network API that TensorFlow can take advantage of to accelerate computation. We plan to make both of these available to developers in a maintenance update to O later this year, so stay tuned!  
(L) Android O: Picture-in-picture, (R) Android O: Notification dots

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Working on the Vitals in Android
We think Android’s foundations are critical, so we’re investing in Android Vitals, a project focused on optimizing battery life, startup time, graphic rendering time, and stability. Today we showcased some of the work we’ve done so far, and introduced new tools to help developers understand power, performance, and reliability issues in their apps:

  • System optimizations: in Android O, we’ve done a lot of work across the system to make apps run faster and smoother. For example we made extensive changes in our runtime – including new optimizations like concurrent compacting garbage collection, code locality, and more. 
  • Background limits: up to now it’s been fairly easy for apps to unintentionally overuse resources while they’re in the background, and this can adversely affect the performance of the system. So in O, we’ve introduced new limits on background location and wi-fi scans, and changes in the way apps run in the background. These boundaries prevent overuse — they’re about increasing battery life and freeing up memory.
  • New Android Vitals Dashboards in the Play Console: today we launched six Play Console dashboards to help you pinpoint common issues in your apps – excessive crash rate, ANR rate, frozen frames, slow rendering, excessive wakeups, and stuck wake locks, including how many users are affected, with guidance on the best way to address the issues. You can visit the Play Console today to see your app’s data, then learn how to address any issues.

Android Go
Part of Android’s mission is to bring computing to everyone. We’re excited about seeing more users come online for the first time as the price of entry level smart phones drop, and we want to help manufacturers continue to offer lower-cost devices that provide a great experience for these users. Today we gave a sneak peek of a new experience that we’re building specifically for Android devices that have 1GB or less of memory — Internally we call it “Android Go,” and it’s designed around three things

  • OS: We’re optimizing Android O to run smoothly and efficiently on entry-level devices
  • Apps: We’re also designing Google apps to use less memory, storage space, and mobile data, including apps such as YouTube Go, Chrome, and Gboard. 
  • Play: On entry-level devices, Play store will promote a better user experience by highlighting apps that are specifically designed for these devices — such as apps that use less memory, storage space, and mobile data — while still giving users access to the entire app catalog.
The Android Go experience will ship in 2018 for all Android devices that have 1GB or less of memory. We recommend getting your apps ready for these devices soon — take a look at the Building for Billions to learn about the importance of offering a useful offline state, reducing APK size, and minimizing battery and memory use.

O Developer Preview 2, Now in Public Beta
Today’s release of O Developer Preview 2 is our first beta-quality candidate, available to test on your primary phone or tablet. We’re inviting those who want to try the beta release of Android O to enroll now at android.com/beta — it’s an incredibly convenient way to preview Android O on your Nexus 5X, 6P, and Player, as well as Pixel, Pixel XL, or Pixel C device.

With more users starting to get Android O on their devices through the Android Beta program, now is the time to test your apps for compatibility, resolve any issues, and publish an update as soon as possible. See the migration guide for steps and a recommended timeline.

Later today you’ll be able to download the updated tools for developing on Android O, including the latest canaries of Android Studio, SDK, and tools, Android O system images, and emulators. Along with those, you’ll be able to download support library 26.0.0 beta and other libraries from our new Maven repo. The change to Maven from SDK Manager means a slight change to your build configuration, but gives you much more flexibility in how you integrate library updates with your CI systems.

When you’re ready to get started developing with Android O, visit the O Developer Preview site for details on all of the features you can use in your apps, including notification channels and dots, picture-in-picture, autofill, and others. APIs have changed since the first developer preview, so take a look at the diff report to see where your code might be affected.

Thanks for the feedback you’ve given us so far. Please keep it coming, about Android O features, APIs, issues, or requests — see the Feedback and Bugs page for details on where to report feedback.


Android Developers Blog

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