Android P APIs Target AI, Location, Multimedia, Payments and More

The next iteration of Android is here. Google this week released Android P Developer Preview 1, an early build of its refreshed core Android platform. Android P is awash in new APIs for developers to put to work creating powerful apps that will bring new and exciting experiences to end users.

Android P takes steps to improve indoor positioning. The platform adopts support for the IEEE 802.11mc WiFi protocol, also known as WiFi Round-Trip-Time (RTT). This will give developers new power to use indoor positioning in their apps. Apps will be able to use the RTT API to triangulate location by measuring the distance between nearby WiFi access points. Google claims accuracy is as good as 1 to 2 meters, good enough for indoor voice-guided navigation. For example, a retailer will be able to use its app to help guide a shopper through a mall to its store.

Get ready to see more Android phones with iPhone-like notches. Android P targets all-screen devices and supports screens with cutouts. Google says new APIs are on deck to help developers customize their content for notched displays so the experience is seamless for end users. For example, developers can check whether the current device has a cutout by calling the getDisplayCutout() API, and then determine the location and shape of the cutout area using the DisplayCutout API. More information is available here.

Android P makes it easier to develop unique apps for devices that have multiple cameras. The Multi-Camera API lets apps access streams from up to three cameras simultaneously, such as two rear cameras, or a front and rear camera. This opens open features such as seamless zoom, bokeh, and stereo vision. The API also improves capture speed, while new APIs can be used to control display-based flashes and optical image stabilization.

New media powers abound. Android P bakes in support for HDR VP9 Profile 2 and HEIF image encoding. This means high-dynamic range content will become more widely available from sources such as YouTube and Play Movies. Moreover, the HEIF format improves image compression to help save storage and data consumption. Google said it is still refactoring the media APIs to control these functions and they will arrive in subsequent builds of Android P.

Google is looking to improve Android's smarts in P. It has expanded and improved the Neural Networks API by adding support for nine new operations (Pad, BatchToSpaceND, SpaceToBatchND, Transpose, Strided Slice, Mean, Div, Sub, and Squeeze). These will lead to more complex on-device machine learning calculations. 

Making mobile payments should be a bit easier in Android P. The refreshed operating system adopts the GlobalPlatform Open Mobile API. This means apps can use the OMAPI API to access the secure element on mobile devices for making smart-card and other payments.

The autofill behaviors introduced in Android O are new and improved in Android P. Google says the autofill framework adds new APIs that allow third-party password managers to improve the autofill experience, such as better dataset filtering and input sanitization.

Security updates are included in Android P, with a focus on fingerprint readers. The new Fingerprint Dialog API provides a standard system dialog to prompt users to touch the fingerprint sensor. Google says this should provide a more uniform experience across devices and clear up confusion with respect to managing text, passwords, and usernames.

These are the majority of the new APIs in Android P, though tons of other under-the-hood changes are packed into the new operating system. End users will enjoy improved messaging notifications, privacy, power efficiency, and more.

Android P Developer Preview 1 is for developers only. It must be downloaded to a PC and manually flashed to a Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, or Pixel 2 XL. Android P is not compatible with the older Nexus 6P and 5X handsets. Google expects to release the public beta of Android P later this year (likely during I/O) with the full release to arrive during the third quarter.

 
 

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