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Android O Team’s Reddit AMA: 7 Things We Learnt

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Google’s Android team held a Reddit AMA session to answer user queries about the platform and as it usually happens, we got to learn a lot of things about the upcoming Android version 8.0 aka Android O. Here is the list of things that were revealed during the Q&A session on Reddit.

1. Android O name: The argument continues

While hoping that the official name for upcoming version of Android can be revealed in a Q&A session on Reddit is little far-fetched, some people were still optimistic. However, the Android engineers might have created further doubt about the name by indicating that every person in the team has their own suggestion for Android O’s name. The names mentioned during the session included Okra Pudding, Oak Tree Cookie, Ovaltine, and Oobleck.

2. Theming is not easy even on Android

While Android already offers more customisation options than most operating systems, the Android team revealed that there are still certain issues that prevent them from providing users further theming options in the platform. In a response to question regarding theming, Android team’s Alan Viverette said:

TL;DR Theming is not hard. Reliable and consistent theming is hard. There are technical and logistical issues with theming. The technical side is largely solved in O with RRO support (thanks Sony!); however, we still don’t have stable APIs for describing what can be themed or adequate ways to verify that existing applications properly support theming.

You might remember a dark theme making brief appearances in previous releases — since we already had a dark Material theme, we didn’t have to worry about APIs to describe the themeable properties; however, we were unable to convert every existing app (ex. Calendar, Photos, other bundled and core apps — even Settings was a challenge) to support dark Material theme and verify that it was properly supported.

3. Current Pixel color management

In what came as an interesting revelation, Google’s Android team clarified that the colour management feature from Android O will not be supported by the first-generation Google Pixel and Google Pixel XL. To recall Google Pixel XL 2 was recently tipped to come with Always On Ambient Display. Romain Guy from the Android team said, “Colour management will not be available on Pixel 2016. It’s a device-specific feature that requires calibration of the display on the factory floor, it’s thus optional and cannot really be retro-fitted on older devices (it would also have a potentially negative impact for users as the displayed colours would appear to have changed).”

4. Bluetooth audio fixes

As you might be aware, Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones were reported to be facing issues related to Bluetooth audio wherein the devices were facing connectivity issues. In the AMA session, the Android team assured that it has been aware of the problem and that the Bluetooth audio reliability in Android O is drastically better than in Nougat. Tim Murray from the Android team said, “The Android Bluetooth, audio, and performance teams actually did a lot of work to improve BT audio in O. We flipped the switch internally since the most recent developer preview because we needed a little more time to make sure that things were stable, so you haven’t seen the fruits of that labor quite yet.”




5. Android O and tablets

On being asked a question about the interface on Android tablets, Mike Cleron said that he doesn’t think that tablets is a space where once can meaningfully talk about “completion” and that its more about figuring out the next area of innovation. He further said, “We are continuing to invest in productivity use cases (keyboard-driven UI, multi-window, etc) but also — along with lots of other folks in the industry — working on what the next evolution of tablets should be. For Android, there are some interesting overlaps with tablets given the increasing success of Chromebooks and the recent addition of the ability to run Android apps on Chrome OS. We are working to make the Android developer stories for both form factors (tablets, Chromebooks) identical.”

6. Project Treble or Trouble?

One would expect Android team to face difficulties with the development of Android O but one of the team members described Project Treble to be the “biggest challenge” of the process. Project Treble essentially aimed to drive faster OS updates for Android. The team member said:

The problem we had to solve was that vendor and OS code was deeply intertwined. The device maker had to depend on the silicon vendor and had to wait until the silicon vendor released code, and then had to integrate that code. Treble makes it easier, faster and less costly for manufacturers to update devices to a new version of Android by creating a clean vendor interface.However, creating that interface was very deep surgery on Android. Invasive, complex engineering that took an enormous amount of effort to get right – media, graphics, location, so much. I think Dave summed it up pretty well: “I’m glad we did it, but it was a lot of work.”

7. Android O Android Wear

If you were wondering whether Android O will come with a sea of changes for the wearable platform or not, latter is your answer. Android team member Hoi Lam clarified that Android O will mostly be a “technical upgrade” for Android Wear. He gave an example by saying, “Wear will get background limits which will help preserve battery with O and users can expect more controls over notifications via notification channels. In addition, we have added new tools for developers to help implement complications and build watch friendly UIs.”

Android O: Current status

Android O is currently in developer preview and is expected to roll out widely in its finished form later this year. While the developers shared that they would have loved to improve the battery life further with the upcoming version, time constraint resulted prevented them from working towards it. There was also a mention of dedicated virtual reality mode and also “World Peace” but there is only so much that can be incorporated in an iteration of the platform.

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