The ninth version of Google's operating system comes with a slew of AI features, an easier navigation system, a dedicated night mode, and 157 new emojis.
Google has rolled out the ninth version of its mobile operating system — Android P or Android ‘Pie’ — and it wants to take care of your “digital wellbeing”.
Pie follows Oreo, Nougat, Marshmallow, Lollipop, and so on, and continues Google’s unique tradition of naming Android versions with sweet treats. But Pie is different because, as Google says, it has “artificial intelligence baked in” , making the operating system simpler and more tailored to each user.
One of the highlights of Android Pie is its focus on screen time management. The operating system comes with a range of features that allows users to control the amount of time they spend looking at their phones.
There is a Dashboard that helps you track how you spend time on the device, an App Timer that lets you set time limits on apps and grays out the icon on your homescreen when you have exhausted the minutes, a new Do Not Disturb, that does away with all pop-ups on screen, and Wind Down, which turns on Night Light and Do Not Disturb and fades the screen before bedtime.
Sameer Samat, VP of Product Management, Android & Google Play, wrote on the official blog:
“While much of the time we spend on our phones is useful, many of us wish we could disconnect more easily and free up time for other things. In fact, over 70 percent of people we talked to in our research said they want more help with this. So we’ve been working to add key capabilities right into Android to help people achieve the balance with technology they’re looking for.”
Google revealed that ‘Digital Wellbeing’ will officially launch “on Pixel phones this fall, with Android One and other devices coming later this year”. But these features are available in beta now for Pixel phones running Android 9.
Besides time-control tools, Android P is rich on AI. It comes with features like Adaptive Battery, which tracks your most frequently used apps and saves battery for them, and Adaptive Brightness, which learns how you like the screen display in multiple settings and apps, and fixes it for you. The AI-powered features become smarter and more personalised the more you use your device.
There is also App Actions, in which predictive AI algorithms can determine your actions depending on the context and displays on your screen. Sameer explained,
“Say it’s Tuesday morning and you’re preparing for your commute: you’ll be suggested actions like navigating to work on Google Maps or resuming an audiobook with Google Play Books. And when you put in headphones after work, you may see options to call your mom or start your favourite Spotify playlist.”
In the coming months, Google will be launching an additional AI feature, Slices, that will throw up relevant information from your top apps. So, “if you start typing ‘Lyft’ into Google Search, you’ll see a “slice” of the Lyft app, showing prices for your ride home and the ETA for a driver so you can take action more quickly and easily”, it said.
Google wants to make navigation simpler and more adaptive. Android 9 comes with a new system navigation featuring a single home button. “With a single, clean home button, you can swipe up to see a newly designed Overview, the spot where at a glance you have full-screen previews of your recently used apps. This is especially helpful as phones grow taller and it’s more difficult to get things done on your phone with one hand,” Google said.
Android P fully incorporates Google’s Material Design theme, and fills the screen with more white spaces and rounded corners. There is also a dedicated dark theme or night mode. You can even let Android P decide the right theme for your screen, based on your current wallpaper.
Lastly, Google has upped its emoji game. Android P comes with 157 new emojis, all of which had been previewed to Pixel users in June during the beta programme. Some of these new emojis include a superhero, a llama, and a gender-neutral family.
Google announced, “Starting today, an over-the-air update to Android 9 will begin rolling out to Pixel phones. And 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.”