Google Android O: Everything we know so far

UPDATED: Developers have it, which means we have fresh details

Android Nougat is the best version of Google's smartphone-friendly OS to date - but it won't be the new kid on the block for long.

In fact, Google has just launched the developer's preview for Android O, which brings a raft of new features to the mobile OS. It's early, but we already have a good sense of some of the biggest features coming down the pipeline.

We'll get a lot more info soon at Google's I/O conference in May, but you don't have to trawl the web to get all of the latest details. We've gathered everything you need to know right here, including all the latest rumours and speculation, a possible final release date, and more.


>> The developer's preview is out now

Released on 21 March, the official developer's preview for Android O allows people to download and manually install the build to one of these devices: Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel C, Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, or Nexus Player. There's no public beta just yet, and the still-unstable build isn't recommended for daily or casual use.

>> Google will give it a sweet-sounding name...

We just don't know what yet. If there's a deal to be done, as there was with Android KitKat, the smart money would be on seeing Android Oreo become official, but Oatmeal Cookie is another front runner. There are plenty of more out-there ideas doing the rounds, though. How does Android Ozark pudding, or Android Ontbijtkoek sound?

>> It'll save more battery life

Following in the footsteps of Doze in the last couple versions of Android, O will introduce new restrictions on apps running in the background, limiting their ability to seep your battery life with broadcasts and location updates, for example. So long as developers conform to the standards, your apps still should work as intended while wasting less of your daily charge.

>> Notifications are getting some updates

Notifications can be a blessing and a curse, depending on how frequent, important, and annoying they are, and Google is working to make them even better. New notification channels will let you group together types of alerts from certain apps so you can skip out on less-essential ones, while background colour options can let developers highlight critical pings.

>> We'll get picture-in-picture videos

Don't want to stop watching Luke Cage or your favourite YouTube personality when messaging or looking up directions? Android O adds a new native picture-in-picture functionality that lets video apps keep a little windowed version running when you switch over to other apps.

>> And there's more

Based on the first developer's preview, we know that Android O will also have improved support for autofilling data from password managing apps, improved audio playback capabilities over high-end Bluetooth headphones, some sort of multi-display support, better keyboard support for Chrome OS, and adaptive home screen icons that can change based on your launcher of choice.

>> It may also add AI-friendly features

Two proposed Android O features we haven't seen yet in the developer's preview include Copy Less and Gesture Triggers. The former will suggest text you've got open in other apps while you're typing, so you don't have to copy and paste things yourself, and the latter will let you draw a letter onscreen to automatically jump into a particular app - so drawing the letter C would open up Contacts. Gesture Triggers might end up getting ditched, though - nothing has been confirmed in the run-up to launch.

>> We'll hear more at Google I/O

Google usually details its next version of Android at its developer conference, even if it doesn't give us juicy stuff like names or release dates any more (those come later now). At last year's I/O we got our first look at multitasking through Split Screen mode, rich notification replies, and Doze mode battery saving. Expect a deeper dive for Android O at I/O 2017, as well.

>> You'll be waiting a while to get it

If the sluggish uptake of Android Nougat is anything to go by, you could be waiting a while before your smartphone can update to Android O. It took four months for Nougat to go from developer preview to final, finished version with the Google Pixel phones, and we could be waiting a similar stretch this year as well. On the plus side, though, the in-line updates introduced with Nougat could make the process a little quicker.

Pixel and Nexus phones will be first in line, followed by the flagships from big-name brands. Got a phone that's more than two years old, though? You might be out of luck. Not every company keeps its old hardware up to date, so it's worth checking back closer to launch to find out if you're in line for an update or not.


>>> 21 March 2017

Android O is alive! Google surprise-released a developer's preview build today for recent Pixel and Nexus devices, and detailed out several key features and updates for the upcoming OS. We'll get a deeper dive into Android O at the I/O conference in May, ahead of a likely full release later this year.

>>> 7 March 2017

Venture Beat claims to have heard from a source about two new features coming in Android O: Copy Less and Gesture Triggers. The former uses AI smarts to grab text automatically, while the latter should make it easier to jump between apps - although it may also get dropped before Android O arrives.

>>> 20 February 2017

Google's Hiroshi Lockheimer likes to stir the pot on Twitter regarding the latest version of Android, and 2017 is no different. His latest tease suggests Android Oreo could be on the cards - but he also hinted at 2018's potential name with an image of the Japanese snack Pocky.

>>> 24 January 2017

Google confirmed that its annual developer conference will take place on the 17th to the 19th of May - and will likely be where we get a first official glimpse at Android O.