Google Android 9.0 P preview: Everything we know so far

UPDATE: Surprise! Android P is out now for developers

08 March 2018
by Stuff Staff

Android runs on the vast majority of smartphones the world over, so it’s no surprise that Google keeps the massively-popular mobile operating system in tip-top shape.

Granted, it can take a long while for latest versions to hit your own handset, if at all, but at least progress is being made for some devices, right? And it sounds like the next version could be right around the corner: leaked information for Android 9.0 P just hit the internet.

Which whimsical dessert-themed name will Google settle on this time, and when can we expect it to release? More importantly, what new features will Google pack into Android 9.0? Here’s everything we know so far.

WHAT WILL ANDROID P BE CALLED?

Google’s had a sweet tooth for some time now, and every major Android version has come with its own dessert-centric title. We’re coming off a string of names including Oreo, Nougat, Marshmallow, Lollipop, and so on and so forth.

So what about Android P? Well, we just don’t know yet. And even if we had a hint, Google has occasionally tried to throw people off the real scent in the past. But it’ll be something starting with “P,” which yields quite a few solid options. Bloomberg reports that Google is calling it “Pistachio Ice Cream” internally, but that the internal codenames typically don’t make it to market. That’s a bit of a mouthful, admittedly.

Honestly, we think Android 9.0 Popsicle sounds like a fine result, but they could also go with pie, parfait, praline, or panna cotta. And given past licensed names like Oreo and KitKat, maybe Android Pez could be an option too.

WHEN WILL ANDROID P BE RELEASED?

Last year, Android 8.0 Oreo appeared much sooner than anyone anticipated, with a beta version launching in March ahead of a full release in August. That was months earlier than previous versions, and it showed Google trying to get new OS versions into the hands of developers and testers as early as possible.

Will we see the same thing again with Android 9.0? Given the appearance of leaks, we wouldn’t be surprised to see another beta announcement pop up here in the next couple months.

Of course, a new Android version releasing is very different from the new Android being made available for your device through the proper channels. Smartphone makers are still terribly slow at supporting new OS versions, with Android Oreo only running on 1.1% of Android devices today (as of this writing).

Even if you have a brand new phone, it could be months after the official release before you see Android 9.0 available as an over-the-air update. Luckily, Google’s own Pixel devices (Pixel 2 XL shown) get first dibs on pure Android updates.

WHAT FEATURES WILL ANDROID P HAVE?

Back in February, Bloomberg’s report claimed that Android P would see a visual revamp, with new icons and design tweaks to put it closer to iOS devices. It’s not much more specific than that, unfortunately, but the report calls it a “dramatic redesign.” Comparatively, iOS 12 isn’t expected to bring about very significant feature or design shifts.

However, the developer preview doesn’t show anything we’d call “dramatic.” That said, it’s entirely possible that Google is saving the biggest visual tweaks for closer to the proper release, rather than rolling them out now to a smaller audience of developers and hardcore users.

As leaked, however, Android 9.0 does bring native support for devices with an iPhone X-like notch at the top, like the Essential Phone. The developer preview allows users to simulate the notch (which houses the front camera and sensors) even on a standard device with a typical rectangular display. The Asus ZenFone 5 will have a notch, and rumours and leaks suggest that upcoming phones like the Huawei P20 and Lenovo Moto X5 may both take on similar designs, so there are likely to be some device makers who appreciate the addition.

Bloomberg also suggested that Android P will support upcoming form factors like foldable or dual-screened smartphones, although the actual developer preview doesn’t specifically say anything about that.

So far, the first developer preview build mostly brings smaller compatibility tweaks and minor feature additions. Messaging sees some nice enhancements, such as image previews in notifications, quick SmartReply buttons, and the ability to save message drafts. Notification channels get some improvements, as well, plus there are accessibility benefits and support for indoor positioning for maps (like at shopping malls). Multi-camera arrays also see better native support in Android P.

Android P also makes some privacy and security tweaks, improves performance from the ART runtime, and seeks to improve power consumption (and thus, battery life) in a few key ways.

Bloomberg also reported in February that Google Assistant should also gain a larger spotlight in Android P, as the publication suggested that it will feature more prominently in the OS and that developers will be able to integrate it within apps. The home screen search bar may also be integrated with Google Assistant in some manner.

WHICH DEVICES WILL GET ANDROID P?

When it comes to the developer preview, the list of compatible devices is surprisingly thin: it’s limited to the current-gen Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, as well as 2016’s Pixel and Pixel XL.

That’s it. And that means that the slightly older Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, and Pixel C tablet are off of the update list for good. Ars Technica confirmed with Google that those devices won’t get the full version of Android P either.

As far as the full version of Android P, it’s too early to make any assumptions on which phones will wield it beyond the Pixels. This year’s biggest flagship phones, like the Galaxy S9 and Huawei P20, will probably get the update down the line, but support for older phones (and lower-end phones) is always severely hit-or-miss. And manufacturers haven’t been getting any better about updating their devices in quick fashion.

Comments

comments

Subscribe to the Magazine