Android O team hold Reddit AMA session
Google’s engineering team answered Android fans questions at the firm’s annual Reddit AMA, writes MICHAEL SIMON
1. Dark mode isn’t coming, so stop asking
Google teased us with dark mode on both the Android N and O developer previews, but it’s not making it into the full release anytime soon. The reason? “Reliable and consistent theming is hard.”
Numerous questions about themes and dark mode stacked up on the Reddit board, and Android engineer Alan Viverette addressed it thusly: “There are technical and logistical issues with theming. The technical side is largely solved in O with Runtime Resource Overlay
support (a Sony framework that allows the system to modify the look and feel of an app while it is running); however, we still don’t have stable APIs for describing what can be themed or adequate ways to verify that existing applications properly support theming.”
Instead Viverette thinks it’s more of a per-app issue: “We have seen many apps adopt standalone dark mode, which I think is a clear message that users want this feature and developers are willing to put in the effort to support it.”
2. Desktop mode might be coming... someday
Samsung’s DeX dock for the Galaxy S8 has us all dreaming of a desktop version of Android. It’s not going to arrive in Android O, but there’s hope. Dianne Hackborn’s response to a question about ‘laptop mode’ for Android left the door open: “We don’t have any plans to announce at this point. Window management improvements is an areas we are still very interested in and will continue to work on in the future.”
3. Lock-screen quick replies are gone for good
Early on in the Android N beta, Google allowed super-quick lock screen replies that let you respond to messages without entering a PIN or passcode. That feature was removed before the general release and now we know why: security.
And that means it’s not coming back. Selim Cinek writes: “Direct reply on the lock screen is still present
in Android O. For security reasons, we are requesting the user to enter their password when doing so. We tried to find a balance between security and usability, since a lot of users are not aware of the security implications when unconditionally allowing a user to reply from the lock screen.”
4. No blobs equals better emoji
Google is killing off the blob emoji in Android O. While it held something of a funeral for them during July’s World Emoji Day, we never learned why the squishy gumdrops were being retired. Now we know (and it’s not because of their looks).
Apparently, the blob was holding back the expansion of Android emoji: “Over the last few years Unicode has expanded the range of emoji
considerably and created new categories of emoji,” Google explained. “In parallel new messaging use cases have emerged (i.e. larger emoji used as stickers). The current design system did not lend itself well to supporting the expanding emoji set and these new use cases, so we needed a significant visual refresh.” With this change, new emoji should arrive more quickly.
5. Bluetooth audio will be much improved
Pixel users have experienced more than a few issues with Bluetooth audio under Android N. While the improvements have yet to hit the Android O beta, rest assured, Android O’s engineers have been working to rectify them. As Tim Murray explains, “We could see cases where random scheduler delay would cause BT audio artifacts, so we tried working our way through the entire BT pipeline to figure out exactly what guarantees were needed where to ensure that audio quality was perfect.”
What that means to all of us: Bluetooth audio will be much improved in Android O. “Our testing shows that BT audio reliability is drastically better versus N because of these changes,” Murray says. “We’re happy with how it’s turned out, and we hope you see the same kind of improvements.”
6. Wide colour gamut won’t be available on current Pixel
Among the many features in Android O is support for colour profiles, letting you customize your display with AdobeRGB, Pro Photo RGB, and DCI-P3 standards usually reserved for professional photographers and
• 64/128GB storage, microSD support up to 128GB or dual-SIM dual-standby functionality • Dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi • Bluetooth 4.2 • GPS, GLONASS • NFC • IR port • USB-C • 12Mp Sony IMX386, f/2.2 rear camera • 5Mp f/2.0 selfie camera • Rear fingerprint scanner • 3.5mm headphone jack • Stereo speakers • 5,300mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0 • 174.1x88.7x7.6mm • 211g
Google’s long-standing blob emoji (top) will be replaced by more cartoonish ones in Android O (bottom)