Android P – what you need to know

Android P could be the biggest operating system update from Google in years.

Announced at Google I/O 2018, the annual developer conference in Mountain View, California, Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, lay out the intentions of the company and its pursuit to becoming the most desired operating system on the market – answering the problems of its consumers (including the ones they didn’t know of).

Last year, Android released Oreo, which focused largely on internal changes than user-facing features. For Android P, the update is full of both visual changes and new features – keen to please loyal Android fans with an appetite for something new and exciting.

For Pichai, the updated operating system reflects “a timeless mission…” which focuses largely around “AI…enabling us to do this [the update] in new ways, solving problems for our users around the world”. Android P is a showcase of some of the company’s major advancements in both artificial intelligence and machine learning, and for some, it already contains features that are set to surpass iOS 11.

Google will use machine learning within P to predict what application a user will want to use next. This extends further into the user experience, where the operating system will predict the level of brightness the user may require at any given time. In addition, P will offer suggestions for a user’s next activity, including contacting a friend after reading an email or presenting a playlist of a band when searching for concert tickets. Nicknamed, ‘Actions and Slices,’ the anticipated next action sequence leans closer towards a unified experience amongst applications – where one speaks to the other.

Android P is also set to reduce mindless scrolling amongst users by putting the user back in control of the time they spend on certain applications. Encouraging a more productive use of mobile technology, Android P will help users understand where they are spending time in their device the most. The ultimate aim of this is to give users as much information as possible to help them remain balanced in their usage and manage screen time. For business users, an additional layer of control such as this can allow employees to feel less distracted, allowing the user to control when and for how long they access non-work-related applications.

A new system navigation system has also been introduced – aimed to make multitasking easier to complete and understand. Similar to the iPhone X, a swipe button will exist at the bottom of the phone to help users navigate and multitask between applications – perfect for users who need to split their time across multiple programmes.

For those concerned around battery use, Android P features Adaptive Battery’, developed by Alphabet’s AI-outfit, DeepMind. Adaptive Battery uses on-device machine learning to figure out which applications will be used in the next few hours. For apps that are not in use, ‘App Standby’ comes in – restricting inactive applications from draining the battery and encouraging a more consistent battery experience for the user.

Perhaps the largest turnaround for Android (and the first of its kind), is the emphasis this update plays on “Digital Wellbeing” which understands a user’s habits and priorities, allowing the device handler to switch off and wind down from conflicting notifications and focus on what matters. This extends further into a concept Google has named “Wind Down” which encourages better sleep amongst its user base by turning applications greyscale, easier on the eyes and a deterrent for use. This ultimately enhances focus and productivity the next day, but more importantly, aims to improves general wellbeing for the user.

Other features to note across Android P include Google Mail’s autocomplete, via ‘Smart Compose’ which will autocomplete messages for those on-the-go, whilst Google Photo will allow users to create a PDF with one single tap. Google Lens is also awarded an upgrade, where users can take photos of information on-the-move and transcribe this automatically into a document, PDF or notes format – transferring information quickly and easily.

For businesses, picking the right operating system for employee devices can be a crucial choice, and one which can have a profound impact on a workforce’s happiness and productivity. Android P aims to meet both requirements without impacting negatively on the other.

P is the biggest and most ambitious change to Android in some time. Rather than showing users all the ways they can do more, it’s creating features that help them to do less. Could this set a new standard for the industry and its responsibility to balance device usage and digital wellbeing?

The Android P is available today in beta, or for the full version, users will have to wait until later in the year when the final version is expected to be released (in line with the anticipated release of the Google Pixel 3).