Google today released the very first developer preview of the next major Android upgrade, Android P. Right off the cuff, it doesn’t look like the update features that many user-facing changes, but it does offer a lot of refinement that makes it a pretty worthy upgrade over Android Oreo despite it being in such early stages.
For one, notifications are seeing further improvements. In fact, they’re getting a design refresh in Android P with more curves and freshening up. With P, you can see in-line images and names of people such as those involved in a group chat. You’re also able to save replies as drafts to send later and use Smart Reply in more messaging apps.
Also worth noting is the redesign of the quick settings toggle array at the top of your screen. They’re a lot more circular now and look like they could appeal to those switching from another operating system.
Speaking of things at the top of your screen, Android P is also being optimized for the inevitable future filled with camera notches. We’ve seen many competitors to Apple introduce new Android devices with notch cutouts at the top of their bezel-less screens, so it makes sense for Google to implement tools to adjust the software for varying hardware designs. Of you won’t hear the word “notch” out of Google: instead, they call it a “display cutout.” Clever, Google. Real clever.
Also accommodating unique hardware are new optimizations for handling dual camera sensors. We’ve seen a strong increase of devices with two cameras on the back so Google will make it easier for apps to handle data from both in Android P. The company notes features like “seamless zoom, bokeh, and stereo vision” are some that can be implemented in third-party apps thanks to the new adjustments.
Android P is also including support for more photo formats, including HDR VP9 video and HEIF image compression. This means a) you’ll be able to deliver your users HDR movies from sources like YouTube and Play Movies on HDR-enabled smartphone screens and b) Android is now more in line with iOS in which it supports the most widely-used efficient alternative to a standard JPEG image file.
For Wi-Fi junkies out there, Android P will also support Wi-Fi Round-Trip-Time (RTT) which will let developers take advantage of indoor positioning within apps. This works by measuring the distance between different Wi-Fi access points. This feature might not sound all that important, but it could help apps that need to know where you are in buildings such as hotels or malls and offer up different services accordingly.
Finally, there’s a whole slew of developer features as well, including improved Autofill, better performance from ART and apps developed using Kotlin, further background improvements to increase your battery life, new methods to display GIFs and WebP animated images, neural networks improvements, security enhancements, and more. Basically, it’s a similar list to ones written about previous versions of Android in which there’s more in it for developers than the general public.
Considering this is the first developer preview, it’s probably not the best idea to install Android P right now. You can do it if you want as long as you have a Pixel or Pixel 2, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you live dangerously.
That being said, Google has also released a timeframe for when we can expect future developer previews of Android P that will likely include more user-facing changes as the company gears up for a public launch at some point in Q3 2018. We expect DP 2 to drop during I/O 2018, while the third and fourth should launch in June. The fifth should land right before Android P goes public. There will also be a public-oriented beta at some point, although we’re not sure when.