An­droid Oreo

Android Advisor - - Contents -

Never mind the name ru­mours, here’s the fi­nal prod­uct. It was al­ways go­ing to be called Oreo, wasn’t it? An­droid 8 is now avail­able for Google’s own de­vices fol­low­ing a sur­pris­ingly sta­ble beta pe­riod.

We’ve been us­ing it on Pixel and Nexus de­vices here at An­droidAd­vi­sor, and it’s a pleas­ingly re­fined up­date to Nougat. Google’s at­ten­tion to de­tail is im­prov­ing, and Oreo rep­re­sents an An­droid user’s dream of gran­u­lar cus­tomiza­tion mixed with gen­uinely use­ful and thought­ful tweaks to the user in­ter­face.

It’s an op­er­at­ing sys­tem that is reach­ing ma­tu­rity fol­low­ing the larger aes­thetic changes brought about

by Marsh­mal­low and Nougat. There aren’t any big new head­line fea­tures to show off here, but Google is wise to re­sist. The only thing to worry about now is how skin-heavy man­u­fac­tur­ers such as Sam­sung will bring Oreo to their smart­phones.

Avail­abil­ity

Oreo is avail­able to down­load now, for free, for Google’s Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X and Pixel C tablet. The dis­con­tin­ued Nexus Player also gets it.

De­sign

An­droid Oreo is an up­date lack­ing in a head­line fea­ture. Nougat was good enough on the Pixel and sub­se­quent it­er­a­tions from OEMs that Google is in the en­vi­able po­si­tion of be­ing able to make some core, some­times un­no­ticed but im­por­tant flour­ishes to its op­er­at­ing sys­tem.

I’ve been run­ning the pub­lic be­tas of Oreo on a 5in Pixel and now hav­ing used the full pub­lic re­lease can say it’s the best to date – but you knew that al­ready, didn’t you?

iOS and An­droid by and large at are their best at their most re­cent. There hasn’t been a Win­dows Vista sit­u­a­tion for ei­ther yet, and given the yearly, it­er­a­tive up­grade pat­terns of both, it’s re­as­sur­ingly un­likely to hap­pen any time soon.

Of course you’ll get the clean­est pos­si­ble Oreo with a Pixel, and while I like the min­i­mal­ist look, many pre­fer the slick 21st cen­tury skin of Sam­sung. But Google has in­dulged the fash­ion for white ’n’ clean and it’s a smart move. The dark greys in the menus of Nougat are gone in favour of white with blue ac­cents. This gives it a fresher feel, and the newly un­clut­tered Set­tings app, while slightly trick­ier to nav­i­gate with fewer main op­tions, is now less of a mine­field with more op­tions grouped into fewer ini­tial cat­e­gories.

Even if you tap into a set­ting cat­e­gory, there is still fur­ther to tap some­times with a lit­tle drop down menu for more ad­vanced op­tions. It makes sense, but com­ing from Nougat will take a lit­tle get­ting used to.

Other than this, Oreo largely looks the same – a new lick of paint as op­posed to a full ren­o­va­tion.

No­ti­fi­ca­tions

If Nougat brought more re­al­ized no­ti­fi­ca­tion de­sign, then Oreo im­proves it with lit­tle quirks that aren’t ex­clu­sively for power users. An ex­am­ple is the abil­ity to snooze no­ti­fi­ca­tions with a left swipe, mak­ing sure you don’t fully swipe it away. Tap the cog and set when you want the re­minder to ping back up again; in 15 min­utes, 30 min­utes, one hour or two hours. You can also undo: see right screen­shot.

This is sur­pris­ingly use­ful, par­tic­u­larly to set re­minders for spe­cific emails and IMs and is a good ad­di­tion to gen­eral An­droid house­keep­ing.

The no­ti­fi­ca­tion shade is of­fwhite now in­stead of grey, and pulling it fully down gives you quick launch icons on the bot­tom to switch Google ac­count user, Set­tings, or to edit the or­der of the com­mand icons.

Per­sis­tent no­ti­fi­ca­tions are now smaller and sub­tler and sit at the foot of the list, while an ex­cel­lent lit­tle an­i­ma­tion lets the no­ti­fi­ca­tion icons pop into their rel­e­vant pan­els when ex­panded, or flow into the lower bar when out of view so you can glance at the icons that usu­ally sit in the sta­tus bar down at the bot­tom of the shade. It’s a thought­ful and some might say un­nec­es­sary ad­di­tion, but I loved it and it makes to­tal sense.

This is in tan­dem with the gran­u­lar con­trols now af­forded to apps with no­ti­fi­ca­tion chan­nels, whereby you can mute cer­tain types of no­ti­fi­ca­tion from an app you don’t want to tailor your ex­pe­ri­ence ac­cord­ingly.

Pic­ture in Pic­ture

One of the big­gest draws for Oreo in Google’s mar­ket­ing of it is pic­ture in pic­ture, a clunky way of say­ing pop up. If you’re run­ning a video on your

phone in full screen and hit the home but­ton, you’ll re­turn to the home screen with a small pop up of the video still play­ing.

You can swipe down for it to dis­ap­pear or, as is in­tended, con­tinue watch­ing un­in­ter­rupted while you do some­thing else. This is great if you want to re­ply to text or check the time­line with­out stop­ping a video (you mil­len­nial mul­ti­tasker, you).

It works well from Chrome, and it’s easy to drag round the screen, or tap to en­large it slightly. But you’d as­sume it was great in YouTube right? Un­for­tu­nately Google has de­cided that is a priv­i­lege re­served for sub­scribers to YouTube Red.

Not only this, but even if you sign up to Red, which is $9.99 per month, PiP is limited to the US,

Aus­tralia, South Korea, Mex­ico and New Zealand. Sorry UK. I find this pretty an­noy­ing con­sid­er­ing the em­pha­sis Google put on its in­clu­sion in Oreo, only to ex­clude it from the Google-owned video app that most peo­ple use.

If you can get over that, then PiP works great, and even in split screen mode though jug­gling three win­dows on the 5in Pixel is a laugh­ably ter­ri­ble idea that I in­dulged in.

Tasty treats

A more use­ful thing for most peo­ple is aut­ofill for pass­words. If you’re logged into your Chrome ac­count and that ac­count has pass­words saved, the cor­re­spond­ing apps (if up­dated) sync with the data to aut­ofill the forms if you’ve not yet signed in. It works well, but not every app on your phone will sup­port it.

There’s also more in­tel­li­gent sug­ges­tions when high­light­ing text. For ex­am­ple, high­light an ad­dress, and the pop up menu will show ‘Maps’ be­fore ‘cut’ or ‘copy’. And those ad­dresses should now be eas­ier to select thanks to smart

text se­lec­tion, as Oreo is clev­erer at de­tect­ing an en­tire ad­dress in a block of text and se­lect­ing it all, though I found this in­con­sis­tent.

I found these fea­tures to work well, but not al­ways. There are still a few bugs to be ironed out in OTA up­dates, but it’s bril­liant to see Google im­ple­ment­ing whole OS changes to in­ter­ac­tion and en­cour­ag­ing de­vel­op­ers to get on board. It seems to be work­ing.

An­other neat touch by Google is adap­tive icons. With devel­oper mode en­abled you can change com­pat­i­ble icons to dis­play as de­fault, square, rounded square,

squir­cle (yes re­ally) or teardrop. This is for user pref­er­ence, but in the long run is so that users who opt for de­vices from OEMs like LG that re­ally mess with icon de­sign can tweak the set­tings so that all icons looks uni­form.

Oh, and emo­jis have changed. If you were a fan of the clas­sic ‘blobs’ An­droid is well known for, they are out in favour of new de­signs that ape adap­tive icons in all be­ing based on a more uni­form de­sign lan­guage.

I quite like them, but the changes have left Google at the wrath of the An­droid com­mu­nity, who ar­gue the uni­for­mity moves them closer to the vi­su­als of iOS.

Per­for­mance and se­cu­rity

I have not seen any no­tice­able per­for­mance gains since up­grad­ing to Oreo, de­spite Google in­sist­ing bet­ter bat­tery life. If any­thing, I now get less, with the Pixel some­times hov­er­ing un­der three hours screen on time with­out be­ing pun­ished very hard, which is rub­bish. Sys­tem op­ti­miza­tions, Google claims, are work­ing be­hind the scenes to clean ev­ery­thing up and get rid of tem­po­rary files in an ef­fi­cient way, but any im­prove­ments are tough to judge on An­droid’s al­ready best-in-class speeds on the Pixel. A bet­ter mea­sure will be load­ing Oreo onto a Gal­axy S8 to see how it deals with Sam­sung’s co­pi­ous UI changes and back­ground pro­cesses.

Oreo has back­ground ex­e­cu­tion and lo­ca­tion lim­its to have more con­trol over how pesky apps run when you’re not us­ing them to im­prove over­all sys­tem per­for­mance and stop degra­da­tion over time. It’s great to see this come di­rectly from Google rather than

leave it to OEMs to strug­gle over. Google claims the Pixel will book twice as fast, but it was never a slow phone. Google also pushes monthly se­cu­rity up­dates to its own de­vices, so the PIxel and Nexus are al­ways the most in­her­ently se­cure An­droid de­vices.

Vig­i­lant users of other hand­sets that will even­tu­ally get Oreo will ben­e­fit from Google Play Pro­tect, which scans 50 bil­lion apps per day to keep on top of the se­cu­rity of apps you have or haven’t in­stalled.

Ver­dict

An­droid Oreo is, ob­vi­ously, the best ver­sion of the OS to date. On the Pixel, it’s a clean min­i­mal­ist dream to zip about on. The thought­ful changes to no­ti­fi­ca­tions stand out above the plethora of be­hind the scenes tweaks that you’ll ben­e­fit from but never no­tice.

Oreo’s big­gest test will be over the com­ing months as it lands on de­vices by HTC, Sam­sung, LG and be­yond. It’ll be in­ter­est­ing to see how these com­pa­nies end up im­ple­ment­ing Google’s sen­si­ble changes but as ever, stock An­droid is where it’s at for the purists. Roll on An­droid P. Henry Bur­rell

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