The latest version of Android is now out for public release, with it being called Android Pie. I take a look at the major changes falling under Google’s tagline, “ Powered by AI for a smarter, simpler experience that adapts to you”.
The biggest change to Android in Pie is the way a user navigates around the operating system. Taking cues from the iPhone X and an attempt to lure users to Android, Google introduced gesture navigation. Gone are the traditional 3 buttons that represented home, back and recent apps. In Pie, they are now replaced by a single home button from which all parts of the interface can be accessed. The reason for this move is to accommodate the trend of phones becoming bigger. Having gestures can now mean one-handed use is possible and more comfortable.
- Swipe up once – Access to recent apps in a card-based format. Swipe through the apps and selected wanted app. This action can be done in any app for the same result.
- Swipe home icon to the right – Takes you to the previous app used.
- Swipe up twice / Long swipe up – Opens up the app drawer.
- Long press – Opens up Google assistant
- Single tap – Takes you back to the home screen
- Press and hold the app in recents view – Activates a menu giving user split-screen multitasking option.
As with all things new, this may take some time getting used too. There is an option to revert back to the original three icon-based navigation, but it seems as though Google will be having the new gestures as its default init upcoming Pixel 3 later this year without the option to go back.
Adaptive Battery and Brightness
These two new features come off the back of the AI-outfit in the Alphabet company, Deepmind. Adaptive Battery learns an individual’s usage patterns and directs the power to only the apps you need at the time you need them for more predictable day-to-day battery life. Adaptive Brightness learns how you like to set the brightness of your device in different conditions and automatically does it for you. Google’s aim is for the phone to work for you around you making what you need when you need at your fingertips.
In a further push of integrating AI, App actions help the user in getting things done quicker. This feature will predict what you will do next, based on contextual analysis. An example would be in the mornings it will give you an option to access maps to get the route to work or if headphones are connected it’ll give options to fire up your favourite Spotify playlist. App actions will reside below the most used apps in the app drawer.
This has been a key topic in the tech world. In Android Pie, apps given permission for location, the microphone, camera and network status will no longer be able to access them when idle in the background. This means it will be harder for rogue apps to spy on users without their knowledge.
The 2018 software trend seems to be, how to monitor your phone use and working towards reducing it. Apple and Facebook have taken steps already and now in Android Pie, we see Google going down a similar route through Digital Wellbeing. It comes in the form of a dashboard under the settings menu, helping you understand how you’re spending time on your device;
- App Timer that lets you set time limits on apps and greys out the icon on your home screen when the time is up.
- Do Not Disturb, which silences all the visual interruptions that pop up on your screen.
- Wind Down, which switches on Night Light and Do Not Disturb and fades the screen to grayscale before bedtime.
Digital Wellbeing is currently in Beta and will officially launch to Pixel phones later this year most likely with the Pixel 3 announcement.
Android Pie will begin rolling out to Pixel phones. Along with devices that participated in the Beta program from Sony Mobile, Xiaomi, HMD Global, Oppo, Vivo, OnePlus and Essential, as well as all qualifying Android One devices, will receive this update by the end of this fall.
Android once again takes a step forward by refining a solid operating system. Pushing AI into android shows how Google is able to give the user what they want when they want, letting the OS just disappear into the background and let that do all the hard work.