Google has unveiled a new version of Android in the form of Android 8.1 Oreo. It is a minor release, but still includes a number of under-the-hood changes as well as some feature upgrades.
According to the search giant, Android 8.1 is now available as a developer preview, so that the app developers can make their Android apps ready for the new Android version. The final release of the Android 8.1 will be available in December. It will start pushing out to Pixel and Nexus devices first, followed by devices from other manufacturers. However, a beta build of the 8.1 can be installed on the Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel C, Nexus 5X, and Nexus 6P devices right now. Google has already posted the factory images as well as OTA update files of the new version for these devices on its website. If you don’t want to go the manual way, you can enroll in the Android beta program and wait for the OTA update to automatically reach your phone. If you’re already a part of the beta program, there is no need to re-enroll.
What’s new in Android 8.1
Android 8.1 packs new features, developer APIs, latest optimizations, changes based on the consumer feedback, bug fixes and security patches.
Let’s start with the under-the-hood changes:
Memory optimization for Android Go
In order to provide a better experience on the Android Go configuration devices (with less than 1GB of RAM), Android 8.1 comes with a number of memory optimizations. The app developers will be able to provide different APKs in the same app for Android 8.1 devices with more than 1GB of RAM and devices with less than 1GB of RAM. Depending the signals in app, Play Store will also be highlight the APK version more apt for the particular Android device.
This should allow the app developers in bundling a lite version of their app within the main app, rather than publishing it as a separate app in the Play Store, as is the trend right now.
Neural Networks APIs
Google is also introducing a new Neural Networks API to allow the developers in better using the machine learning in their apps on Android devices. The new API enables hardware-accelerated inference operations on supported devices.
The search giant has improved how password managers and other apps use the Autofill framework, which was introduced in version 8.0.
Shared memory API
This new API lets apps allocate shared memory for faster access to common data. Apps can map anonymous shared memory and manage protection controls using this.
This new API allows the Android apps to obtain the wallpaper colour on the device in order to possibly change the appearance of its own elements.
In addition to the above changes, the developers can also expect see updates related to EditText, Safe Browsing actions in webview, video thumbnail extractor, and fingerprint management in Android 8.1.
Coming to the visible changes:
Google has tweaked the settings menu again in Android 8.1. It now includes a full search bar on the top to help users quickly find what they are looking for. Earlier, there used to be a search icon, but looks like most people missed that. The Moves menu has been renamed to Gestures in Languages and input. In addition, the ringtone selector will now use the full screen rather than appearing as a popup.
Quick settings and notification shade updates
Android 8.1 will show the battery levels of the connected Bluetooth devices right in the Quick Settings. Earlier the users needed to expand the quick settings toggle to see the level, but now it is right in the front.
Also, Google has made the notifications shade semi-transparent in version 8.1. So, rather than sporting a solid colour and hiding what is going on the screen behind that, it will now offer a little peek at whatever is going on in the background.
On-screen navigation buttons dim automatically
Android 8.1 will dim the software navigation buttons system-wide when they are not in use. This should avoid any distractions that these buttons may be causing the Android users.
‘Keep Wi-Fi on during sleep’ is gone
The option to keep or switch off Wi-Fi during sleep has been removed in the new Android version. It is unclear what the Android system will be doing by default in the absence of this setting, and how that would impact the battery life.
Updated Power menu comes to all devices
The new Pixel 2 phones were shipped with a new Power Menu, which rather than appearing in the middle of screen, showed on the right-edge near the power button placement. Now, the change is coming to all Android devices with Android 8.1 including the older Pixel and Nexus devices.
Oreo easter egg and Oreo icon in system notifications
Oreo has finally gotten a proper easter egg in Android 8.1 It replaces the the circular orange thing that was present in Android 8.0. You can check it out by going to Settings, then ‘About phone,’ then tapping a bunch of times on ‘Android version.’
Similarly, the system notifications will now show an Oreo icon rather than the circular thing.
In more notifications related changes, the Android apps can now only make a notification alert sound once per second. Alert sounds that exceed this rate aren’t queued and are lost.
Image Credit: Reddit