Android 9.0 P: the latest news and features from the beta

Android P comes this year as the successor of the outstanding Android Oreo. So far it doesn’t look like the update will blow us away. Apparently Hiroshi Lockheimer’s team is cleaning up the code and fulfilling new demands from providers. Of course, we don’t know anything about the name yet, but the Android P release timeline, including beta and developer preview, can be predicted. Now Google has started the public beta phase.

Under Lockheimer, Google has established a reasonable release plan of new Android versions. This takes place in several stages and is repeated annually. It traditionally starts with a developer preview, which was released for Android P on March 8.

Then the Google I/O follows at the beginning of May and here Google shows a detailed view of the next Android version. Usually a second edition of the Developer Preview is also included, which is then in beta stage and largely contains all new features for the release.

Only in summer is the final release of the new Android version due. Google last published the versions Nougat and Oreo in August. 

The manufacturers receive access to the source code in advance in order to start the development of updates. This has not accelerated the update speed of Android, but there is still hope that Android P will land on users’ smartphones faster than Nougat or Oreo.

Public beta available

Google launched the public beta phase of Android P at Google I/O 2018. Owners of Google Pixel (XL) or Pixel 2 (XL) and some other smartphones – complete list here – can register at Google, download and install the beta now – at their own risk, of course. 

We had a chance to test the features of the new beta, including app actions, new multitasking and navigation systems, and various neat features to manage what Google calls our ‘digital wellbeing’. For all the details about the new features, take a look at our dedicated article:

Find out our first impressions of Android P in this video:


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What will the P stand for?

Google usually announces the official name of the Android version via social media in the summer before the release of the final version. Until then, there’s a lot of guessing going on. Tech blogger Marques Brownlee and Android boss Hiroshi Lockheimer joked about Peppermint.

Pineapple is a current favorite among speculators, due to the fact that, when Google teased this year’s I/O location with a Google Street View based online puzzle, a pineapple cake featured as one of the objects in a puzzle scenario…a possible clue as to the next Android name? Or a red herring?

Pie? Pineapple? Peppermint, popsicle…pancake? / © AndroidPIT (screenshot)

What new features will come with Android P?

Android P features unveiled by the first developer preview

We expected to see the first Developer Preview on March 14th (Pi day) but Google avoided the obvious pun and instead released it on the evening of March 7th. This is an early version of Android 9.0, but it allows us to take a look at the functions that could be part of the final version:

Apart from what we’ve seen so far with the developer preview, software detectors have uncovered a few other clues that point to possible new in the next Android version, including call recording and improved IoT support.

Will we be able to record calls?

The next version of Android could officially unlock a previously hidden function and change it to be compatible with applicable law across the various markets Google operates in. According to Neowin’s analysis, recording of current telephone calls with Android P is to be officially possible. Up to now, there have only been implementations from individual vendors such as Samsung, OnePlus or Xiaomi using Android’s hidden APIs.

However, the new interface is implemented in such a way that both callers can hear a 1.4 kHz high beep every 15 minutes when the recording is running. This would be compatible with existing legislation in some countries.

Android could hide some features when inserting some SIM cards

Network carriers can already install Android apps when a SIM card is inserted. Android identifies the provider of the SIM card and it can recommend you to download a list of apps via wizard. Google also cooperates with providers in the development of Android. The next version might take this relationship one step further.

A new, particularly contentious feature is the concealment of the signal strength. Mishaal Rahman of XDA developers claims that Android P will allow providers to hide the bar chart for signal strength in the status bar at the top of the screen when inserting the SIM card. Rahman can’t think of a good reason why anyone would want to do that, and neither can we.

Just because the conventional diagram is hidden, the state of the signal quality is not completely hidden. You can still access the measurement data via apps. Still, an unnecessary detour through the Play Store has never been a good idea.

AndroidPIT Huawei Mate 10 2523
Android P should clamp down on camera abuse. / © AndroidPIT

Better integration of Android Things with Chromecast

Android Things, previously known as Brillo, is Google’s upcoming Android-based solution for embedded systems. Intended as an OS for the Internet of Things, it’s designed to be compatible with relatively lightweight systems (as low as 32MB of RAM). The OS is still in its early stages so don’t expect to see many Android Things devices commercially available this year, but Google is clearly working on tuning up the OS in the upcoming months. One such tweak is Chromecast integration, set to be rolled out with the release of Android Things based on Android P (9.0).

Our colleagues at XDA discovered a new volume control API on the Chromium Gerrit that enables the user to synchronize the volume level between Android Things and Chromecast devices. Although a small change, it’s a clear indication that Google is working to better integrate Android Things with Chromecast.

Since Android Things ultimately aims to integrate Android with every device in your household, we can expect to see more tweaks and changes aimed to integrate Android Things into the wider Google ecosystem as time goes on.

Preliminary conclusion

Judging from the current state of affairs, Android P will be a smooth update that tidies up old features and refines existing ones. Android P doesn’t seem to make a quantum leap like Android Oreo with Project Treble or Android Nougat with faster updates.

The increased security from background apps is reassuring, but it is also not exactly a milestone in Android history. But maybe the biggest feature still lurks undetected in a repository and is waiting to be revealed.

What do you hope to see from Android P? Have you tried the preview?

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Android 9.0 P: the latest news and features from the beta

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