Android Pie: Google on Monday launched the latest version of it’s Android operating system — Android Pie, that promises to make smartphones ‘smarter’.
An over-the-air update to Android 9 will begin rolling out to Google’s Pixel phones. The devices that participated in the Beta programme will receive the update soon, Sameer Samat, vice-president of Product Management, Android & Google Play said in a blog.
“ We are also working with a number of other partners to launch or upgrade devices to Android 9 this year,” he added.
“We’ve built Android 9 to learn from you — and work better for you — the more you use it. From predicting your next task so you can jump right into the action you want to take, to prioritising battery power for the apps you use most, to helping you disconnect from your phone at the end of the day, Android 9 adapts to your life and the ways you like to use your phone,” Google said.
Android 9 Pie is available now on Google Pixel phones
Google typically names its new flavors of Android alphabetically and after something sugary. For example, the previous Android version was called Oreo. Before that was Nougat, preceded by Marshmallow and Lollipop. Officially, Google is calling it Android 9 Pie, or just Android 9.
Android is the dominant mobile operating system on the planet, powering almost 9 out of every 10 smartphones shipped globally. So updates in the software could eventually signal changes for how most of the world uses its phones.
Android Pie mostly focuses on behind-the-scenes improvements designed to make Android phones work faster while saving precious battery life.
Top 5 Features of Pie
AI, But for Battery Life
Battery life optimization has been a big focus of Google’s past few OS updates, starting with Android 6.0 Marshmallow (with the introduction of Doze) all the way up to Android 8.0 Oreo (“Wise Limits”). Unfortunately, there were a fair number of complaints about severe battery drain with Oreo, particularly with Samsung phones. But Google has made continual improvements, and Android Pie has a new feature called “Adaptive Battery.” It applies machine learning to the problem of our ever-draining power cells.
I’ll Have a Small Slice
Usually when you search for an app on Android, the app icon itself comes up, as well as any other relevant results on the device or on the web. With Android Pie, Google is going to show you information that’s embedded within apps, offering you interactive app functionality from directly within search results. At a high level, Google says, it’s the company’s new approach to “remote content.”
One oft-used example is how photos show up in system searches. If you use your phone to search for a destination, like “Hawaii,” you won’t just get results for Hawaii’s time zone, or Hawaii-bound flights. You will also see results from Google Photos from your Hawaiian vacation. It’s also good for navigation shortcuts; if you search for “data,” you’ll get all the web results you’d expect for “data,” but you’ll also have quick access to the mobile data tab within your phone’s settings. Google is fond of using Lyft as an example: search results for “Lyft” will include estimates for times and fares for rides to work and home. This is similar in some ways to Siri Shortcuts on iOS, but instead of assigning a custom phrase to an app action, it’s just searching for that app and having the potential action pop up.
What a Lovely Gesture
In the new Android Pie, the familiar lineup of three navigation icons at the bottom of the phone has been replaced by a single, pill-shaped icon in the bottom center of the screen. Long-press this digital button, and Google Assistant pops up. Swipe up from it, and it will bring you to the latest app you were using. From here you can scroll horizontally through all of your open apps. You can also swipe horizontally on the new icon itself to swipe through open apps. Swipe up from the icon again, and it will bring you to your app drawer. Tap on it, and it will bring you home.
One element of this users might find jarring: the permanent back button is gone, although it appears to the left of the pill-shaped icon once you jump into apps.
Give Me a Break
Google’s new “digital well-being” software is the only part of the Android Pie OS that will still be in beta for a while longer. This latest software release includes a sign-up flow where people can now enroll in the well-being beta, but again, these features will officially launch in the fall. Also: It will only work on Pixel phones to start.
So what’s digital well-being? If you missed the announcement around this back at I/O, it’s Google’s initiative around limiting the amount of time you spend mindlessly scrolling on your phone. It may seem counterintuitive for a company that makes a smartphone operating system (and smartphone hardware) to encourage people to put their handsets down, but it’s all part of a larger (yet unproven) trend; Apple and Facebook have also launched efforts that mirror some of the tenets of the Time Well Spent movement.
The idea that Facebook could be listening to our conversations through smartphone microphones is one of the most persistent, and still unproven, conspiracy theories on the web. Android Pie will make that theory even more dubious. The software update “restricts access to mic, camera, and all SensorManager sensors from apps that are idle,” the company said around the time that the new OS was first announced. This means that once the app switches to “background” status—you’re no longer using it—that app will lose access to your phone’s mic, and if an app tries to access your camera, an error message is generated. Given how invasive app permissions can feel, this is a welcome update.