Google has just put out the sixth developer preview for Android Things, and among the many changes, the biggest one is bringing it up to Android 8.1. While Android 8.1 is actually still in beta in the "traditional" Android format (for smartphones, tablets, etc), it will be launching here in a couple of weeks. So it's good to see that Android Things is now on Android 8.1.
Outside of upgrading to Android 8.1, there is also an IoT Launcher in this developer preview. Google says that the IoT Launcher will allow "the user to see the current state of the device and change settings using a touch screen or USB input devices." With this launched, configuration settings like WiFi, locating the build ID and even checking for updates, can now be done interactively. This is going to make it easier for users to get started with Android Things. Google has also added in a command line flashing tool, which the team says was added due to the feedback from developers. The Android Things Console now has an option that is easier for flashing device images. So instead of using fastboot and adb commands like you would on a smartphone for flashing a new ROM or factory image, you can use android-things-setup-utility, which is an interactive command line. Google does have some documentation on how to use this, for those that may need a bit of help.
That's not all that is new in this update to Android Things, but it is some of the bigger changes in this developer preview. Google has also updated Play Services to support SDK version 11.6, in addition to support API level 27 (also known as Android 8.1 Oreo), as well as GPIO pin naming and some updates to the Android Things Console. As is usually the case with these developer previews, there's not a lot of major features going in here, but a lot of smaller ones and bug fixes. As these developer previews are gearing up for a major launch, Google and other companies don't usually add in a lot of new features after the first or second preview. Now Android Things is still a very new platform for Google, and it's really a developer-focused platform instead of for consumers. It's a platform for companies to build their IoT products on. Like light bulbs, smart outlets and other Internet of Things products.