Google released the fourth and last Developer Preview of Android O just a few days ago, revealing what are said to be near-final system images and finalized system behaviors, so virtually every major feature, tweak, and optimization that's set to debut with the new iteration of the ubiquitous mobile operating system is now known. With the OS being scheduled to hit the stable channel next month, now's the perfect opportunity to take an in-depth look at everything that Android O brings to the table.
One of the major user-facing additions that are set to be introduced with Android O is called Notification Channels, with that name referring to a native system feature that provides you with granular control over notifications sent by individual apps. If (e.g.) you're bothered by the fact that Facebook keeps reminding you that you haven't updated your profile in five weeks but still don't want to deprioritize its notifications because you want to know when someone mentions you in a comment, Android O will address that scenario and many others like it. Another convenient functional addition that Google prepared for its next OS build is the Picture in Picture (PiP) mode that already debuted on set-top boxes powered by Android 7.0 Nougat. This feature essentially allows you to run an app on top of another one and is even more versatile than the existing Multi-Window mode in the sense that the overlay app can be dragged around the screen and is still completely functional, meaning you'll easily be able to play YouTube while browsing Reddit and indulge a number of similar multitasking activities.
Apart from frontend additions, Android O is also set to debut a wide variety of backend enhancements and optimizations that are all meant to improve the overall performance of the OS. Google previously claimed that the next major revision of Android will boast improved boot times, quicker app launches, and better resource management that will lead to longer battery life. While all of those inclusions will work automatically, tinkerers will now also be able to manually deprioritize or completely disable background activities of certain apps, thus improving their battery life even further. Another addition related to user choice pertains to icon design, i.e. Adaptive Icons that are coming with Android O, allowing users to select one of a handful of icon styles that they want to use. All of those icons will also support Notification Dots, a new type of subtle visual prompts that are meant to be a non-intrusive way of designating particular apps that have notifications waiting for you. While Adaptive Icons and many other features of Android O will have to be supported by app developers in order to work, incompatible apps won't break any of those new system functionalities, Google previously confirmed.
Android O will also utilize artificial intelligence (AI) solutions to a much higher degree than previous versions of the OS did, and that fact is best reflected on its new contextual menu that will not only provide you with a wide variety of actions depending on the part of the screen that you long-pressed but will also attempt to guess your text selections and get better at predicting your intentions the more you use it. Furthermore, Google promised to improve the Bluetooth audio performance of various devices with Android O by shipping the new software build with Sony's LDAC codec that boasts support for some extremely high bitrates and should be able to deliver a much higher level of audio quality over Bluetooth, something that owners of the Pixel smartphones and a number of other Android handsets known for having poor Bluetooth audio quality are sure to welcome.
Possibly the biggest improvement that Android O will introduce won't be visible to users but may still be experienced by them, as the software will come with support for Project Treble, Google's ambitious initiative to rework the Android framework and separate it from low-level, hardware-specific software, thus making it easier for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to modify and update their custom Android builds. In a recent Reddit AMA, Google's software engineers claimed that getting Android O to work was by far the biggest development challenge they encountered while creating the OS but their efforts should be rewarded by the fact that monthly security patches and other updates should be distributed to Android O devices in a more timely manner in the future, at least if OEMs opt to take advantage of the newly created system structure that facilitates Android development. The caveat here is that the only devices that are truly set to benefit from Project Treble are those that will run Android O out of the box, so your current smartphone or tablet likely won't be supported any more efficiently going forward than it already is. Still, while its effects may not be immediately visible, this particular functionality promises major benefits for the Android ecosystem as a whole in the medium to long term.
Android O will start hitting the stable channel next month, with Google's Pixel, Pixel XL, and select Nexus devices being the first to receive the new version of the operating system. Before that happens, the Alphabet-owned tech giant is also expected to reveal what exactly the OS will be called and while there are many rumors on the matter, one thing is (almost) certain – users won't be getting Android 8.0 Octopus.