Google on Aug. 21 officially released Android 8.0 Oreo, the latest version of its mobile operating system and the first to be named after a Nabisco sandwich cookie.
As is to be expected, Google claimed this latest one as smarter, faster and more powerful than its predecessors. The new features in Android O include a picture-in-picture capability, an Autofill feature for logging into mobile applications more quickly and support for Android Instant Apps, which enables users to use apps directly from their browser without the need for installing them first.
Also available with Android O are stronger security protections via Google Play Protect, Google's technology for scanning Android apps for malware and other security threats.
Available for Pixel and Nexus
"We're pushing the sources to Android Open Source Project (AOSP) for everyone to access today," said Sameer Samat, Google's vice president of product management in a blog. As always, the new Android version will first become available on Google's own Pixel and Nexus line of hardware.
Android O for 5X/6P and for Pixel is in the carrier-testing phase and will begin rolling out in phases soon, Samat said.
Google has also begun working with handset makers to get them to start installing Android O on their devices, Samat said. By year end, several hardware makers including Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Sony and Kyocera will roll out devices featuring the new operating system, he said.
Android O's picture-in-picture feature is designed to let users see and use two applications at the same time. The new feature includes something called notification dots, on which users can tap to quickly see new notifications in their apps and to take action on them. The feature is designed to let Android users keep on top of new notifications without being overwhelmed by them.
The Autofill capability, if enabled, can remember details such as users’ login information, so they don’t have to enter it each time they use an application. When combined with Android Instant Apps, the Autofill feature speeds up app use even more, Samat said.
Instant Apps Run Directly in the Browser
Android Instant Apps is a recently introduced Google technology that enables native Android apps to run directly from the browser, so users do not have to install the app. Google has positioned the technology as a unique way for developers to build and deliver their apps and for users to use them. Android O is the first iteration of the operating system to support the capability.
Android O also allows users to set background execution limits for the apps installed on their devices. The goal is to give users more control over how the apps they have installed run in the background, so as to ensure better power usage and system performance.
Google already has rolled out all the new features in Android O to the developer community in bits and pieces during the past several months, so the company can ensure that the apps work smoothly with the new operating system. The challenge for Google now is to try and get the thousands of device makers and carriers within the Android ecosystem to implement the new OS in a speedy manner.
Google only has direct control over its own Android hardware. In all other cases, the company can do little but wait for device makers and carriers to migrate to new versions of its operating system. As a result, new Android versions can sometimes take months and even years after Google's initial release to appear on some hardware devices.
For instance, a mere 13.5 percent of all installed Android devices currently run Android N, the previous version of the OS. More than 32 percent are still on Marshmallow, which at this point is two generations ago, while more than 29 percent is on the even older Android Lollipop version, released in 2014.