Android O Packs New APIs Galore

Google has released the first developer preview of Android O, and it's chock full of new APIs. Google plans to test the Platform for up to six months before the public release, so developers have plenty of time to learn all the ins and outs of Android O.

At first glance, Android O targets developers more than end users. The forthcoming refresh to Google's mobile platform introduces a number of new features and APIs that developers can put to use within their apps. The biggest upgrades should lead to better battery life and improved notifications.

Google knows how important battery life is and that's why Android O includes new background limits. The platform introduces additional automatic limits on what apps can do in the background, specifically: implicit broadcasts, background services, and location updates. Allowing developers to tweak these background behaviors should help reduce the impact apps have on battery life. Google isn't beating around the bush here. The company said "we want every developer to get familiar with" the new background limits. It has plenty of documentation on the subject.

Next up, notification channels. This tool proffer to give end users more control over notifications and developers need to help. Android O's notification channels will let people block or change the behavior of each type of notification, rather than managing an app's notifications in bulk. The platform introduces new visuals and ways to group notifications that should make them easier for people to digest when on the run.

One of the new APIs controls autofill behaviors for password managers and logins. The Autofill API should make it easier to manage passwords and logins across apps and devices thanks to platform-wide support for autofill behaviors. Google says the autofill app stores and secures user data and lets them fill it where they want or need. Google says it has more APIs on deck to help flesh out this tool.

Android O includes the AAudio API for Pro Audio. Google says, "AAudio is a new native API that's designed specifically for apps that require high-performance, low-latency audio." Developers can put the API to use to read/write audtio data via streams The developer preview includes an early version of this API, meaning it's likely to change before the final version of Android O is released.

PIP finally comes to Android handsets in Android O. Picture-in-picture is already available to Android tablets, but now developers will be able to enable PIP in their handset apps. Apps will be able to put themselves in PIP mode to facilitate multitasking and resume full-screen behavior when warranted. The developer tools include controls for aspect ratio and custom actions, such as play/pause. PIP Builds on the split-screen multitasking tool added to Android 7 Nougat.

Adaptive icons are another helpful addition to Android O. These will allow developers to integrate their own apps with the native look and feel of device UIs. For example, Samsung's Android User Interface skin uses rounded squares for app icons. Adaptive icons will automatically adjust between circles, squares, and rounded squares to match the device UI skin, providing a more cohesive look. Adaptive icons work not only on the home screens, but also in the app drawer and system settings.

On the connectivity front, Android O supports the new LDAC Bluetooth codec and WiFi Aware. Developer tools will let app writers take advantage of these to improve the quality of audio playback and inter-device connectivity. Android O also adds new powers to the ConnectionService APIs, which will allow third-party calling apps to work with other audio apps, such as car head units.

Other new features found in Android O include new XML font resources, WebView enhancements, wide-gamut color for apps, keyboard navigation, and Java 8 Language API improvements.

As always, Google warns that it is early days for Android O. This early developer preview is not meant for consumers or primary devices. As expected, it is only compatible with more recent Google hardware, including the Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, Pixel C, and Nexus Player. Developers interested in the new platform will need to download the system to their PC and Flash it manually to their mobile device. Google expects to release several developer previews over the next few months before making beta versions available to public testers. The O Developer Preview includes an updated SDK with system images for testing on the official Android Emulator, A canary version of Android Studio 2.4, which includes most of the features mentioned above, is available for testing purposes.


Be sure to read the next Smartphone article: Google Makes Instant Apps Available to All Developers