Google’s annual I/O event has kicked off in California. And while developers get down to the nitty gritty of working on the Big G’s latest creations, there’s a host of new features for tech fanatics to coo over.
Android P, Google’s next generation smartphone software released to developers in March, has been detailed in full at the event, with a host of killer new features designed to put Apple on the shade. Here are five new things we’ve learned.
1) Curbing your smartphone obsession
It might seem counterintuitive, but it actually looks like Android P Google wants you to use your phone less. Its revealed a new usage dashboard that it calls ‘Digital Wellbeing’.
The idea is to show you just how much you use certain apps and how long you’re flicking through them. This might seem marginally terrifying for all of us smartphone addicts, but with growing evidence showing that such addiction is real, it’s a smart move.
You can set limits on how long you can use an app during the day. While it won’t become inaccessible, Android P will grey out the icon, making it less enticing. That should mean less time scrolling through the same Instagram updates 20 times a day.
2) Gestures, not taps
Like Apple with the iPhone X, Google seems to be going all in with gestures in Android P. It marks the biggest change in how Android works in years.
Users will now see iOS–style multitasking screens, with no more back button at the bottom of the display or square button for accessing the app tray. A short swipe up brings up open apps, while a long scroll up shows all available apps.
Meanwhile, a swipe across the home button at the bottom of the screen lets you flick between open apps. 3D Touch–style long presses also let users dive into an app’s settings. It’ll take some getting used to, but it promises to make Android a lot more intuitive.
3) Predictive app smarts
Artificial Intelligence (AI) plays a huge role in Android P. ‘App Actions’ is designed to work out what users are going to do next within their favourite apps, with the aim of cutting down the number of prods and presses needed to get where they want to go.
Google says this could be anything from showing a play icon when plugging in headphones while using Google’s streaming app, to recommending apps to download within Google Play.
4) AI for brightness and battery life
Screen brightness was a big issue with last year’s Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, with users complaining about the dull look of the display on both phones. This year Google says it’s using AI within Android P to adapt a screen’s brightness depending on the ambient conditions.
Its new Adaptive Battery function also uses machine learning to work out when to slow down a power pack and when to boost it, with the aim of ensuring smartphones can keep kicking for longer.
5) 11 phones can get Android P right now
As part of its new public beta testing programme, Google is offering Android P on 11 devices, including non–Google branded devices.
These are the Sony Xperia XZ2, Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S, Nokia 7 Plus, Oppo R15 Pro, Vivo X21, OnePlus 6, Essential PH‑1 and Google’s Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. Remember that testing versions are likely to be unstable.
A final version of Android P is due later this summer.