Everything you need to know about Android P
Can an operating system care about you?
Android P just might. Google gave the world a load of details about the next version of its mobile operating system, due to launch in the fall. And more than ever, this is an Android update with a set of values attached.
While Google has a bunch of useful updates designed to get users to the information they want and actions they want to take faster, the real meat of this update was tacked onto the end of the Android portion of its Google I/O developers conference keynote on Tuesday: a set of tools to help the user guard against their Android device taking over their life.
This is an Android update with a set of values attached.
Many of the new features are designed to let users fight device addiction and promote “digital wellbeing” as well as “meaningful” engagement.
If that sounds familiar, you’re right. Facebook is making similar moves, adapting its service in the wake of recent criticism leveled at tech companies. Many argue that it’s not enough to simply create a popular service — they should also help ensure those technologies are being used to create positive outcomes.
It’s clearly an argument that’s resonated with Google. One of the most interesting updates in Android P is a new user Dashboard that will show how users engage with apps and how long they engage with them. Google says it’s working with developers to figure out what constitutes “meaningful engagement” for each app so users don’t just have a pile of numbers, but real guidance.
If a user decides they want to use an app less, they can set an App Timer. You set a time limit for how long you use an app, and after you reach that goal the app is grayed out to remind you that you shouldn’t be using it (you’re not locked out, though).
There’s also a new feature called Shush, which will automatically turn on Do Not Disturb mode when you put your phone face-down on a desk or tabletop, so it won’t even vibrate or make a noise if you get a notification. (No word if this will be the default or something you need to turn on.)
Finally there’s Wind Down, which lets you set a bedtime so the phone knows to gray out the display to discourage you from looking at it.
Another big theme in Android P is using Google’s AI to help users save time, battery life, and more. Android P will do more to predict which apps you use and when, optimizing your battery life throughout the day. Google says it’s seeing 30 percent fewer app “wakeups” — when the OS needs to spin up an app you weren’t running, something that can tax the battery — in Android P.
Android P will also add a new feature called App Actions. This is a new row of actions you can take that appears just below the Predicted Apps Row that appears when you swipe down. These buttons don’t just launch an app, they’ll perform a specific action such as calling your sister or starting a run. App Actions will change depending on the situation: If you plug in headphones, for example, one button may become a Play button for a music service.
Taking the App Actions idea to another level is Slices, where, instead of a button, a visual “slice” of the app can surface in search results. By interacting with the Slice, you can get in and out of the thing you want to do without actually launching the app. The idea is similar to interactive notifications.
Google’s also revamping the UI in big and subtle ways. Going with the trend away from physical home buttons, Google is giving more powers to gestures. Swiping up from the home screen will not only bring up the app switcher but also a row of predicted apps along the bottom. Onscreen volume controls will appear as a slider next to the hardware buttons.
Bonus for anyone annoyed when an app auto-rotates when you don’t want it to: some apps (like Gmail) will no longer rotate automatically and instead get a “rotate” button that you’ll need to tap for the rotation to happen.
But what about the question everyone wants to know: What dessert treat will Android P be called? So far Google hasn’t said, but it has all summer to eat pancakes, popsicles, and petit fours to figure it out.