Android Pie is Google’s latest mobile operating system they have been working on for 2018 and these are the new features you’ll find inside.
Google releases a new version of Android each year and with it comes a new name. The company likes to give these updates a name of a popular tasty treat. They also began going into alphabetical order for each new update. This technically began with Android 1.5 which was referred to as Cupcake. Android 1.6 was referred to as Donut and this tradition has continued since 2009. With the release of version 9 for the year 2018, Google decided to go with the name Android Pie.
Each of these new updates that Google releases to the world comes with a number of new features. For example, version 8.0 Oreo was the previous version of Android and in it, Google included a number of behind the scenes features including the Android Go platform, an API for username and password autofill applications, and more. Then with version 7.0 Nougat, the Mountain View tech giant worked hard to improve the security of the mobile operating system, improved the battery saving Doze feature, and finally added a way to view two applications on the screen at the same time.
New Android 9 Features
If you’re a fan of Android then you’ve likely been hearing a lot about this new update. This update includes features to improve your digital wellbeing, adds a completely new navigation gesture mode, brings some machine learning to the party, and more. Speaking of machine learning and artificial intelligence, this is what Google has used as a focal point with this new Android 9.0 update. The company has been working on machine learning technology for quite a number of years so far and it’s actually starting to pay off.
In the start, we had some very simple features in services like Google Now that would remind you where you parked your car. This wasn’t a feature to balk at or anything, but it just wasn’t something that was changing our daily lives. However, features like this did give Google an idea of what a future smartphone could become if some true machine learning technology was added to it. These types of A.I. features are quite popular in this latest update to Android but I can only imagine that it will continue to improve the user experience with each new update.
Android Pie Improves Battery Life
One of the first feature articles I did on Android 9.0 Pie was about how the update was going to improve the battery life of our smartphones. Sure, Google is always saying they are working on improving the overall battery life of Android with each update but they have actually been making progress. It’s just, that when people hear that an upcoming update brings battery life improvements then people start to expect changes that would double the amount of time they can use their phone or something.
This just isn’t possible without completely locking down the operating system and that isn’t what anyone wants. So, there’s a feature called Adaptive Battery in Android 9 that saves battery life by learning which applications you use and which applications you don’t use. A great example here is those pre-installed applications that a carrier or manufacturer adds to your phone. Even if you never use them then they could still eat up hardware resources and that results in less battery life.
With Adaptive Battery though, your Android Pie smartphone is actually keeping track of which applications you use and which applications you don’t use. This can seem creepy when you first hear about it but the data is all anonymized so it’s not like they have your name and application usage in a database somewhere. Think about it though, if Android Pie knows you don’t use Facebook, then anytime it asks for system resources they will get rejected because Adaptive Battery has learned you don’t use it.
Adaptive Brightness Improves Auto Brightness
Auto brightness has always been one of those features that you’re happy it’s there, but just never worked as well as it could have. This is because Auto Brightness wasn’t able to collect the data it needed to know which exact levels you wanted in certain environments and certain parts of the day. With regular Auto Brightness, Android would just use its ambient light sensor to detect if you were in a bright or dark place. Depending on how much light that sensor would detect, Auto Brightness would adjust your screen brightness level a certain percentage.
Which again, in general, is an amazing feature when you compare it to a smartphone that doesn’t have it. But, generic Auto Brightness would just use some various formula to tell the phone that if the ambient light sensor detects X amount of light then it will adjust the screen brightness level by Y%. Each company had their own formula they felt was the best but overall it was a very simplistic implementation. This is where machine learning comes into play and completely changes the game.
Over time, Adaptive Brightness in Android 9.0 learns the exact screen brightness levels you enjoy. Using another example, let’s say you are in a room with a certain amount of light and Adaptive Brightness kicks in to adjust your screen. If it’s too bright or not bright enough, then you go in and manually adjust it to show you want it. Again, this takes time but eventually, Android Pie will know what brightness level you want your smartphone to be at in certain environments thanks to the help machine learning.
App Slices and App Actions Predict Your Actions
Again, we’re going to continue doing down this machine learning train as both App Slices and App Actions both use it to try and make your life more convenient. This is another one of those features that may or may not seem creepy when you think about how much your smartphone is trying to learn about you. It is very dangerous to have this much information but as long as it isn’t used to identify you and it is kept secure, then it can truly make your life much more convenient.
Let’s begin with App Actions as its entire goal is to try and predict what you’re about to do next and then bring that to the surface where it’s most convenient for you to find. We are generally on a schedule every day and this results in us using our smartphones, in the same way, each day. Over time Android Pie will know that you enjoy watching Netflix when you get on that public transit, or that you start your daily exercise for an hour or two after you get home from work. This way, instead of you fumbling around trying to find that application, App Actions will offer a couple of suggestions near the top of your App Drawer.
App Slices works in a similar way application developers are actually able to help you instead of relying on Google to do things for you. With developers being able to take part in this feature, it actually makes App Slices more powerful in Android 9 Pie than App Actions. The benefits of App Slices will appear in the Google application so it can use what you’re typing to predict what you want. So let’s say you’re doing a search for Hawaii in the Google application then not only do you have your suggested Google searches at the top, but it can also dive into Google Photos and pull up any photographs that you took when you were there.
This isn’t just for Google applications either though so 3rd-party developers will be able to take advantage of App Slices as well. You could simply type in the word Lyft into the Google application and again, right below the web search suggestions you could see options to quickly book you a ride home, to work, to the gym, or that favorite restaurant you like to go to.
Android Pie Wants You to be Healthier
Each generation there’s some new type of technology that the generation before say is ruining our society. For me, it started off as TV and my parents would say too much TV would rot your brain and that I needed to go outside and play more. Fair ideology and all and going outside to play more isn’t something that would have been bad (minus the whole sun cancer stuff). It seems like each generation we have a group of people blaming something for one reason or another.
If it’s not too much television, it’s too many video games or too much violence and foul language in music. It always seems to be about something. Then at the start of the smartphone generation, we had rooms and houses full of people not interacting because they were looking down at their smartphones. Either playing games, on social media, or just bored and reading some online news article. This part actually reminds me of an old photograph of a train back in the day where everyone is reading a newspaper instead of being social and talking to each other.
We all know that too much of a single thing isn’t the best for us but there could really be some bad things going on at play this time. Entire digital companies are formed with the goal of keeping your attention. A big example of this is the free-to-play games that actually use psychological tricks to keep us playing. The list goes on and on but the idea is that most people don’t even realize it’s happening. So with Android Pie, Google has started its Digital Wellbeing program to not only inform you about what apps you’re using and for how long, but they also allow you to set reminder limits if you feel it has affected you in a negative way.
Brand New Navigation Gestures of Android 9
Along with bezel-less phones, navigation gestures are the new rage and its history is actually quite funny. Gestures have been used on electronic devices for ages but it seems like that was all reset when the first iPhone came out. It was as if smartphones were too technologically advanced for the market that companies like Apple and Google were trying to sell to. And in a way, I honestly agree with that still. Most people have their phones set up a new way and if you switch to a new user interface then they are completely lost.
Granted, that is to be expected for a certain percentage of people but smartphones were meant for the average person. They were the upgrade from the regular cell phone (now referred to as feature phones) and having a screen of application icons instead of just a few rows of buttons can be quite confusing for a lot of people. I remember when the custom ROM developer team Paranoid Android released Pie Controls and it completely changed the way I used navigation controls on my smartphone.
This was a custom ROM though and was solely used by Android enthusiasts but then Apple released the iPhone X and then Android OEMs followed suit. Smartphones are so ingrained in our lives that we don’t really even need buttons anymore. Sure, we still need ways to navigation around the operating system, but navigation gestures can make this a much more pleasing experience (for some people). So just like the display notch, Google had to keep up with the competition and added their own version of navigation gestures in Android Pie.
These Are Just the Highlights
Each new version of Android has thousands of engineers working on new code and new software features, optimizations, and more. The features I have talked about here are really just the tip of the iceberg and there are so many other changes that happened under the crust of Android 9.0 Pie. If you would like to dig into more details of this brand new update then I suggest checking out Google’s own landing page for the new update. You’ll learn about the features included in this article along with all of the complex APIs, behavior changes, non-SDK interfaces, and more.