Users with recent Android devices should get a major system update over the coming months. Here's what to expect.
Android 8.0 – the next version of Google’s mobile operating system previously known as Android O – has been officially unveiled as Android Oreo.
In a blog post, Google said: “... we are officially introducing Android 8.0 Oreo, the latest release of the platform – and it’s smarter, faster and more powerful than ever. It comes with new features like picture-in-picture and Autofill to help you navigate tasks seamlessly. Plus, it’s got stronger security protections and speed improvements that keep you safe and moving at lightspeed.”
Android Oreo follows the release of Android Nougat last summer. It is a significant update. This is not the first time Google has partnered with a well-known brand for its Android Software. Android 4.4 was known as Android KitKat.
Android Oreo release date and handsets
Google's own Pixel and Nexus devices will be the first to get Android Oreo via the Android Open Source Project. During the announcement, Google said Pixel and Nexus 5X/6P builds had “entered carrier testing”.
The tech giant plans to roll Android Oreo out in phases. The Nexus 6 and Nexus 9, both released in 2014, will not be getting the Android Oreo update as Google only supports older handsets for two years with software updates.
Google added it has also been working to make Android Oreo available for Essential, General Mobile, HMD Global (Nokia), Huawei, HTC, Kyocera, LG, Motorola, Samsung, Sharp and Sony. Some of those companies have since made their own announcements too.
The list of devices announced so far includes: Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel C, HTC 10, HTC U Ultra, HTC U11, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Nokia 3, Nokia 5, Nokia 6, Nokia 8, OnePlus 3, OnePlus 3T, OnePlus 5. And no doubt announcements from other manufacturers will follow over the coming months.
As with previous Android updates, the rollout may take up to several months, depending on your handset and your mobile provider – if it comes at all. Old Android devices won't get the update, and based on past experience, not every recent device will get it either, with entry-level devices sometimes missing out.
Android Oreo new features
Android Oreo focuses on new features in two major areas Google is calling “Fluid Experiences” and “Vitals”.
Google Assistant from every app: Code found on the Android Developers website has revealed that Android Oreo will let you open Google Assistant from within third-party apps, removing the need to open it separately. It is likely to only work on supported apps, which will be few and far between in the first instance, but it does add to the multitasking nature of Android Oreo, and shows Google's significant push to promote its AI.
Picture-in-picture: one of the most significant developments in Android Oreo, this feature is focused on multitasking. It lets you keep one app, for example, Netflix, in a small floating window while checking your email (or anything else you fancy) full-screen.
Autofill: This Android Oreo feature makes the autofill feature available on apps outside of Chrome. This means that, with your permission, Autofill will remember your logins for Twitter, Facebook and more.
Smart Text Select: This feature automatically recognises items like phone numbers, place names and addresses, making it easier to select what you need quickly with a single tap in Android Oreo.
Notification Dots: This new feature in Android Oreo lets you quickly see your new notifications and easily clear them by swiping away.
Android Instant Apps: Android Oreo will let you jump straight into new apps from your browser without needing to install them first.
Runtime: The major change under the Vitals umbrella is extensive improvements to the Android runtime environment. What does this mean? Primarily, faster performance, much quicker boot times and apps that launch faster as well. Google says devices will boost twice as fast, which is a nice bonus for the rare times your handset needs a restart.
Google Play Protect: With Android Oreo, you'll be able to scan freshly downloaded apps on your phone for security threats. This Android Oreo feature will also give developers a bunch of new tools to help them produce apps that make more efficient use of resources such as CPU, memory and data use in a bid to improve battery life.
Background limits: Android Oreo has been designed to help minimise background activity in the apps you use least.
Google Lens, Assistant, Photos and more
Elsewhere in Android Oreo, there’s a bunch of updates related to Google Assistant and Google Photos: both major parts of the Android experience.
Google Lens: This tool is all about analysing live images rather than static ones, interpreting everyday objects like buildings, flowers and signs and providing information on them as you point the camera at them. Lens will be able to recognise what you’re pointing your camera at and offer to perform follow-up actions on that information.
Google Assistant will also be able to interpret written free-text queries as well as spoken ones and also process payment-related actions, bringing it up to par with Amazon Alexa.
Google Photos: The built-in photo app is getting a host of new features in Android Oreo, including tools to help you share photos with friends and relatives and the ability to print photo books directly from the Photos app on your phone. The photo books service will only be available in the US at first, though, with more countries coming on board later this year.
Emoji: Android Oreo is getting the fully redesigned emoji set, including over 60 new emoji.
Accessibility button: This redesigned button will let you quickly access from the navigation bar accessibility features, like magnification, and functionality within accessibility services, like Select to Speak.
Ambient screen: This feature highlights incoming notifications with larger fonts. It highlights the app name and gives immediate access to actions.
Find my device: Android Oreo comes with a feature that lets you locate, lock or remotely wipe your phone or tablet if it's lost or stolen - similar to Find my iPhone on iOS
Android Oreo developer features
For developers, Android Oreo includes new tools for app builders:
Autosizing textview: This tool automatically fills a TextView with text, regardless of the amount.
Fonts in XML: Fonts are now a fully supported resource type in Android Oreo. Developers can use fonts in XML layouts and define font families in XML.
Downloadable fonts and emoji: With downloadable fonts, developers can load fonts from a shared provider instead of including them in their APK.
Adaptive icons: In Android Oreo, developers can now provide a "full-bleed square shaped icon".
How to prepare for Android Oreo
When Android Oreo is available for your phone or tablet the software will be pushed to your phone automatically. To check if your phone is ready for the update, go to Settings, About Phone (or About Tablet) and click System Updates. You will then be guided through how to install.
Ahead of Android Oreo being released to your device, it's a good idea to enable Android's built-in backup tool. Go to Settings, Backup and reset and check 'Back up my data' as well as 'Automatic restore'.
This will keep your phone backed up automatically via your Gmail account. It means if something goes wrong with the update, you buy a new phone, or you just want to pull in your contacts, apps and more, you can simply sign in with your Gmail account and the data will be downloaded and restored.