Test driving the Android P Developer Preview
Samsung Galaxy S9 and Google Pixel owners are among the few to see Oreo so far, but the first preview for Oreo-successor, Android P, has already landed. Darren Yates investigates.
It may not yet have an official name, but the Android Developer Preview Show has rolled back into town, with Google unveiling the first preview of Android P, the follow-up to Android 8.x/Oreo released last August. With Oreo presenting so many architectural changes under the bonnet compared with its Nougat/7.0 predecessor, Android P looks set for more visible modifications, from its new roundedcorner design to its heavy overhaul of notifications, support for new centre cutouts, even a new home for the clock. We dive into Android P Developer Preview 1, round up the new big-ticket items and some of the less-well-known changes coming to the next version of Android.
INDOOR LOCATION TO WITHIN ONE METRE
GPS (global positioning system) can sort out your location outdoors quite comfortably, however, walk through a large shopping centre or corporate building and you’re still on your own. Android P aims to fix this by incorporating 802.11mc, a Wi-Fi protocol that’s been demonstrated by Intel since at least 2015, featuring what’s known as ‘Fine Time Measurement’. Android P phones will be able to ping nearby Wi-Fi access points that support this new ‘Wi-Fi Round Trip Time’ or RTT and receive back data packets featuring timestamps measured in nanoseconds. Have three or more of these access points and Android P will triangulate your location within a building. You won’t need to connect to the access point to get these timestamped packets and the ping process is one-way only — your device can ping the access point, but not the other way around. Google says it should be accurate to ‘within 1 to 2 metres’. While indoor navigation is one clear application, the big-G also sees a future for what it calls ‘disambiguated voice control’ — this combines smart-home tech with indoor location, so that Android P knows exactly which light switch you’re talking about when you say ‘turn off this light’.
NOTCH COMES TO ANDROID
When I first saw the notched display on the Apple X phone, I thought at the time ‘Yeah, nah’, but clearly, I won’t score a design gig at Google any time soon, for it seems Android is set to roll out its own notched-display support.
The notch is a necessary evil at the moment if you want a phone with front-facing camera sensors plus a full frameless ‘edge-to-edge’ display. If you look at Android P via Android Emulator, you’ll see under ‘Settings’ and ‘Display’ there’s a ‘display theme’ option that gives you three different cutout styles — ‘Narrow display cutout’, which appears designed for a single camera sensor and has a depth of half the status bar height, ‘Tall display cutout’, which uses the full status bar height, and ‘Wide display cutout’, providing enough space for at least two selfie sensors. The idea is that app developers can dial up the different cutout options and ensure their apps will work when these cutouts appear in real phones.
However, to accommodate these cutouts, it seems Android P has had to introduce another change and that’s moving the clock from the far-right to the far-left of the status bar. For phones with notches, it’s probably understandable, since there’s less room for system notification icons on that right-side if the clock remained there. Still, it’d be a nice tough if Android P eventually gave you the option to choose which side you want the clock, in case you don’t end up with a notched phone.
Android P Developer Preview 1 is now available at developer. android.com