How to get Android P features right now
THE LATEST OS TAKES THE BISCUIT FROM OREO.
WHILE MOST USERS with newer phones are already running Android 8 Oreo, plenty are still waiting for the update. But Google has recently released the public beta for the latest version — Android P. Not surprisingly, it can be installed on Google’s own Pixel and Pixel 2 phones, as well as models from OnePlus, Sony, Xiaomi, Oppo, Nokia and Vivo. For the rest of us, though, with a little elbow grease, it’s entirely possible to replicate some of the best features on older versions of Android. The best part is that no root access is needed, but most of the apps need to be sideloaded, meaning they are downloaded from sites and services other than the Google Play Store (we included instructions on how to do that). We ran through the instructions for a phone running stock Android Oreo, so keep in mind that some of your settings menus might be slightly different.
ANDROID P BETA
In many ways, some of the best features of Android P are behind the scenes and can’t be easily replicated. The new version focuses on offering a simplified, intuitive user interface, as well as improvements on battery use and audio. It even improves support for screen notches, if that is your thing. If you happen to have one of the supported phones (check at developer.android.com/preview/devices), then trying the beta for yourself is very easy.
It’s worth noting, though, that as a beta, you might experience some bugs or instability that will be ironed out for the official release. So before getting started, make sure everything on your device is backed up. To get the Android P Beta, check you are logged into your Google account and head to the Android Beta Program Website ( www.google.com/android/beta). Select ‘View your eligible devices’, then select the Enrol button next to your device and agree to the terms and conditions. It can take a little while, but you will receive a notification from Google that the update is ready to download, and it will walk you through the process.
ANDROID P LAUNCHER
One of the easiest changes to get the look and feel of Android P is to install the new launcher. Check out the XDA developers forum post here ( bit.ly/2Li8wqy), then download and install the APK file. Tapping your home button should prompt it to ask if you want to set it as your new default launcher. If not, head to ‘Settings > Apps & Notifications > Advanced > Default apps > Home app’ and select the Android P launcher. Another more complex option (albeit with more flexibility) is to use Nova Launcher ( novalauncher.com) and recreate the look of the Android P launcher manually. We have covered how to customise Nova Launcher in a previous guide (see issue 76, page 94), and you can find loads of great info via Google search.
Android P includes a new smarter way to control your automatic screen rotation, using a little icon that only pops up when the screen rotates. But you can get the same features, with even more customisation ability, using the free (with paid upgrades) app Android P Rotation ( bit.ly/2Nfep8D).
It might seem like a small thing, but Android P has a funky new volume slider. Instead of running horizontally up the top of your screen, it’s now vertical down the side. It still operates the same, but just feels more intuitive. Once again, some XDA developers have made the new slider available, and even added the ability to customise it. Download it to your device here ( bit.ly/2KZ5QBZ), install it (it will ask for some permissions) and then enjoy vertical volume sliding. For even deeper volume customisations options, check out the free (with paid upgrades) app VolumeP ( bit.ly/2rG1qEz).
While available from third parties and manufacturer customised versions of Android, until Android P you could not immediately edit a screenshot after taking it. It’s not a major change, but the ability to quickly trim down a screenshot before sending it to someone is a nice little time saver for many. And an XDA developer has made the feature available for anyone ( bit.ly/2uwBEUT) — just download and install it. You do need to share the screenshot to Markup after taking it (which is an extra step compared to Android P) but it’s still handy. Another option is the great third party app, Screenshot Crop & Share ( bit.ly/2b3mWMy).
In Android P, pressing the power button brings up the option to put your phone into a locked mode where biometrics such as fingerprint scanning or facial recognition are disabled and the PIN is needed. This makes it harder for someone to force you to unlock your device, or to try and fool the biometrics. Similar functionality can be achieved with a third-party app called Lockdown Mode from Android P ( bit.ly/2Ll6k1v). The only downside is that it needs to be run with your phone unlocked, rather than directly from the lockscreen, but is still a handy extra layer of security.
IT’S WORTH NOTING, THOUGH, THAT AS A BETA, YOU MIGHT EXPERIENCE SOME BUGS OR INSTABILITY THAT WILL BE IRONED OUT FOR THE OFFICIAL RELEASE.
Lockdown Mode allows you to temporally disable biometric security and only allow login with a PIN or password.
While the Android P launcher is great, Nova Launcher can give the same look with loads of extra customisation.
The free app VolumeP enables an Android P-style volume slider, as well as plenty of other options for audio control.
Screenshot Crop & Share allows you to quickly edit screenshots after taking them and share them.
The handy free app, Android P Rotation Control, provides smarter ways to control your screen rotation.
Sideloading an app means installing from a source other than the Google Play Store, and needs special permissions activated in the security settings.