Everything You Should know about Android P Developer Preview: Features and Changes

Google is known to offer surprises! And this around it is the launching of the new version Android P that is making the headline. Yes, Google has already revealed the first developer preview of Android P with a number of new advanced and exciting features.

In addition, it has made some noteworthy changes too, which are very crucial from an app developer’s perspective. The developers can download the initial version of Android P for the Pixel models.

Now if one compares Android P with Nougat or Android Oreo, the design changes are relatively smaller. Another vital information is that Google has informed the developers that they need to download the new version using a secondary device.

Therefore, let’s throw some substantial light on its vital features and then discuss the major changes that are important from a developer’s point of view.

1. The Wi-Fi RTT Gets Interior Positioning

Often Google faced problems related to appropriate interior positioning, which is linked with geo-location services. However, the new Android P has tried to address that issue, supporting the IEEE 802.11mc Wi-Fi protocol. This has been also referred to as Wi-Fi Round-Trip-Time (RTT). It is a useful asset that helps in indoor positioning of the apps.

indoor positioning

Now with this wonderful feature in your bag, it will be much easier for the location based apps to get an access to the nearest Wi-Fi connection with the help of RTT APIs. And there is no need to connect the device with APs in order to access RTT. So, this will ensure the privacy of the user as your device will become capable of measuring the distance of nearby Wi-Fi.

Now only three or more APs will be able to measure the exact distance within the range of one or two meters. This will provide a new dimension to the navigation development and controls.

2. Enhancements Related to Notifications

The notification cards in Android P have been given rounded corners that precisely matches with the aesthetic beauty of the app. A single line is separating one notification from the other. You would also come across new layouts with addition of contact images and profile pictures.

notifications

If we talk about the experience of messaging, then there is so much improvement there. While responding to a message, a user will be able to add action and even add other text directly from the notification. The new version lends its support to the images, exhibiting it on the messaging notification of your Smartphone. Apart from that, one other addition is that of new Notification.Person class, which helps in identifying the people who are involved in the interaction.

The new Android P also allows you to save the replies as drafts that are sent by the system if the user unintentionally closes the messaging notification. And wait, this is not all. Some other features include getting to know if it is a group conversation, setting the semantic action, which means marking the messages as read, unread, important ones and deleting. Android P also advocates the feature of smart reply wherein you can store the important replies in the messaging app.

3. Android P Enabled with Multi Camera API

Over the past few years the trends have changed and we are witnessing smartphones with more than one or two cameras. So, the Google has also planned that it would lend its support to multi cameras with the Android P preview. Having said that the user can stream simultaneously with two or more cameras with the help of API creating fused camera. It offers you a number of advantages such as zooming the lens, bokeh, and stereo vision.

Another significant development in the camera portion is the introduction of Session parameters that reduces the delay in taking pictures. The APIs also support the flash that lets you access the OIS timestamps for app-level image, generating the special effects and getting the stabilization.

4. The Option of Display Cutout Support

Now that Android P is on the carpet, you can get the advanced feature of Display cutout support, which brings the cutting edge latest and full screen content as well as display cutout for camera and the speaker. This is one feature that lets you manage your content accordingly and helps in determining the location and shape of non-functional areas.

In addition to that, the display cutout support can prove its worth when you have to adjust the height of the status bar and segregate content from cutout. In fact, you can make use of the getDisplayCutout () to find the location and shape of the cutout. Android P has also made an addition of the layoutInDisplayCutoutMode, a new window layout attribute determining when and how to display content around the cutout area.

The Android app developers have the support of Developer Option enabling them to develop and test a cutout for any device. You will have to test your apps with display output to make sure that content is displayed appropriately.

5. The New Virtual Screenshot or Markup Editor

Android P has introduced a new virtual screenshot editor, which is also referred to as the Markup. This feature is similar to what you find in iOS 11. The users can now crop and draw on the screenshot and basically if you love to show your creativity on the images, you would simply love it! You can edit, crop, rotate and add colors to draw the pictures.

The new built-in Markup screenshot editor fully supports the shortcut and allows you to edit the screenshot notification with only one tap of the finger. You get the markup for areas that you want to save and share on the social media platforms.

6. The Do not Disturb Option

It is sure that most users will like this feature. In the previous versions, we have seen that if you don’t want to get disturbed, you put your phone on the silent mode or Flight mode. However, the good news is that Android P has removed all those old options and introduced the Do not Disturb (DND) alternative.

dnd

The Do not Disturb will be available within the sound settings under the Behavior menu. You can set your own preferences, whether or not you want to receive the calls or use the repeat caller option. The feature also involves the pop up option as quick settings cannot be expanded.

7. Images Can be Decoded Easily for Bitmaps

Now, it is much easier to decode images for the bitmaps and drawables, all thanks to Android P for bringing the ImageDecoder feature that denounces BitmapFactory. You can draw a bitmap or drawable using a byte buffer file or URI. It offers you accurate scaling and decrypting the hardware with only one step. You can even postpone the decoding if you want to. However, all these advantages were absent in BitmapFactory.

  • Android P also facilitates you to decode the accurate size using the setResize () along with the target dimensions.
  • The getSampledSize () allows you to scale the image and get the sample rates for the dimensions.
  • In case of post processing please use the option android.graphics.PostProcessor.
  • The ImageDecoder.decodeDrawable() allows you create direct drawables.
  • If you want to add animated elements, then you have the AnimatedImageDrawable option to get GIF or WebP animated images.

8. The Feature Related to Animation

Google has come up with new AnimatedImageDrawable that allows you to doodle GIF and WebP animated images. This AnimatedImageDrawable is quite similar to AnimatedVectorDrawable in functionality in the RenderThread, which acts as a worker thread to decode an image and see that decoding does not obstruct RenderThread. You can get an image for which no updates are required.  The ImageDecoder will help in decoding the AnimatedImageDrawable.

9. Scheduling your Tasks with JobScheduler

Well, having the JobScheduler feature in your kitty gives you the advantage of managing the scheduled jobs and working at Doze, App Standby, and Background Limits changes. The users will find it easier to tackle network related tasks in Android P as the coordination is better with the network signals.

In fact, the jobs can set their own preferred criteria related to size of the data, signal preferences and setting the own network. The main function of JobScheduler then is managing the tasks according to strength of the network.

10. Support for HDR VP9 Profile 2 and HEIF image

The Android P also provides the luxury of in-built support for HDR VP9 Profile 2 HEIF image and Media APIs. If you love to watch movies or videos you can do so with the High Dynamic Range (HDR) and access it (videos) from various sources.

Apart from that you also will come across the HEIF, which is a popular format for images and helps in to compress the files. It allows you to save storage and network data. You can easily send the HEIF images using the backend server. In addition, the other popular image formats such as jpeg can also be converted to HEIF with the help of ImageDecoder or BitmapFactory. Alternatively, the HeifWriter helps to write HEIF still images with new Support Library from bitmap, byte buffer etc.

11. What about the Autofill Framework

Improvements in the Autofill framework has been introduced based on the feedback and suggestions from the users. The new autofill simplifies the task of filling out the forms and initially we saw its debut during the launch of Android 8.0. Google has tried to fix the bugs and also has brought new APIs to enhance the autofill experience. You get more options including input sanitization, compatibility mode and dataset filtering.

12. Introducing the Neural Networks API 1.1

The Neural Networks API was first introduced during the release of Android 8.1 and its key role is to speed up the on-device machine. Google has brought in further improvements in this feature and has added the support for nine new ops.

13. Enhancement in Security Features

Google faced complaints about security issues and so when Android P is making its debut, it is committed to offer robust security feature with fingerprint authentication for apps and devices. The user has to touch the fingerprint sensor for managing and positioning the text.

The system fingerprint dialog can be accelerated with FingerprintDialog API. So, start using the new system without any delay. The Network Security Configuration will assist in blocking the all cleartext traffic.

14. Some other Important Security Measures

The addition of GlobalPlatform Open Mobile API has been a big boost for the Android P as it allows you to open the mobile API for conducting NFC payments and also providing security to the transactions.  Thus, paying through the smart cards will be become securer.

15. Taking Care of User Privacy

In order to offer better user privacy, restrictions have been imposed on use mic, camera and all sensors from apps that are not used frequently. However, it is expected that these limitations will not create any issue to the existing apps.

Some other Vital Features Introduced in Android P

Android P also introduces some other pivotal features which are important to focus on. We can discuss them in brief:

  • The name of the portrait mode has been changed to rotation lock with a new feature that would rotate the screen even if the auto-rotate is disabled.
  • The pattern unlock will hide the swipe trail and you have to enter the full password instead.
  • The clock has now gone to the left of the mobile screen.
  • If you want to zoom any particular part, then you can use new magnifier tool.
  • Android P has also introduced vertical swiping transitions for opening and returning back to apps.
  • A new gear icon has been added to the top-left corner of all windows, which allows users to disable PiP permission for the app.
  • Android P also introduces Easter Egg. However, be careful of its brightness.
  • While pulling down the notification drawer in Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, you will feel the vibrations. However, you can also disable it if you don’t like it by going to the Sound Settings.
  • In the Settings section, you will come across many colorful icons although rest of the things are similar to that of Android O. In fact, features like Feature Flags are new and a few other settings have been reorganized.
  • The Always-on Display adds battery percentage to the center bottom of the screen in the Pixel 2‘s model.
  • Even steps have been ensured to improve the longevity of the battery life and so modifications have been made in Done, App Standby and Background Limits.
  • The volume bar which is mostly found on the top of the phone is gone and has been replaced at the same place where you find Power menu. Thus, it has a vertical position now.
  • The navigation bar has been given rounded corners and the dock is no more transparent. In the search bar we have the microphone icon that opens the Google Assistant.
  • Improvements have been made in the Arts performance to make the operation of all apps seamless. The ART performs the function of rewriting the DEX files with the help of profile information for on-device reducing the runtime up to 11%.
  • The Kotlin has also been optimized, which is a very popular language for Android with a number of advantages. Google has already announced that it will support Kotlin although it is not the official language. This makes your complier better to get optimal performance.
  • Android P will support apps with 64-bit hardware as Google has already announced that from November 2018 Google Play will require all apps to get updated.

Few Essential Changes from a Developer’s Perspective

The app developers have to get familiar with Android P very carefully and study each of its vital features in detail before implementing the required changes.

  1. The Developers can mend the API and see how the content is looking with the notch at the top. They have None, Narrow display cutout, Tall display cutout, and Wide display cutout.
  2. The developers need to ensure app compatibility, which means preparing the apps to adopt the changes that are coming with Android P without any problem or risk factors.
  3. The restrictions have been imposed on mic, camera and all SensorManager sensors from idle apps.
  4. The multi camera API provides an access streams from two or more cameras.  Devices having twin cameras will allow the apps to take more control.
  5. The Indoor positioning can be done with the support of Wi-Fi RTT (Round-Trip-Time) will calculate the distance of your device to the closest Wi-Fi.
  6. Now, the developers will be able to show conversations, attach inline images, and stickers with the new enhancing Messaging Style notifications.
  7. When they (developers) work with the new improved ART performance and optimized Kotlin language, they would develop apps that commences in quick time and runs seamlessly. It also does not consume more memory.
  8. The HEIF and HDR VP9 will support a new image file format that is twice as efficient as JPEG. The developers can develop the playback support for HDR in the apps.
  9. For better UI results, the developers will need to be more consistent on the fingerprint authentication. Android P also blocks unsecured HTTP by default.
  10. Changes also have to be made in the Autofill Framework, which simplifies the filing up of a form.

Conclusion

Google has introduced the Android P Developer Preview with a hope that it would become popular amongst the users. A number of significant changes have been made from the previous versions. As for the information, developers having Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL have been asked to download the preview version.

In addition to that, they also need to install an emulator on the computer. The Android P as of now is able accessible and available to developers only and not for common users.

Dhruv is Sr. Android Engineer at Mindinventory. He is passionate about Android and has got his hands dirty and feets wet with all things Android. He loves to explore the bleeding edge tech stuff. He is an early adopter and would like to stay up to date regarding latest trends in Industry.