Android 9 Pie began rolling out to Sony's Xperia XZ Premium, Xperia XZ1, and Xperia XZ1 Compact over the weekend, reportedly bringing new camera enhancements and a security patch. The security patch is brought all the way up to October 1, fixing a number of critical and high-severity vulnerabilities as well as at least one moderate-severity issue. Meanwhile, Sony's camera software for the Xperia XZ1 series is getting a facelift and new features such as HDR video enhancement and the addition of FullHD 960 frames-per-second slow-motion recording options. Beyond those Sony-specific inclusions, there are also several other Android 9 Pie features, such as Adaptive Brightness and Adaptive Battery functionality that, should arrive in tandem with the update. Those are AI-powered features that will control brightness and the resources used by apps in order to save battery. Moreover, screenshot editing tools and new UI associated with that in the notification shade should be present as well as new UI associated with volume controls.
Background: This particular update had initially been slated to arrive beginning in late October, according to Sony's own roadmap for Android 9 Pie. Moreover, the devices were also expected, albeit more speculatively, to be getting at least one other camera feature alongside the new firmware. Namely, according to the source, the handsets should able to use the display itself to emulate LED flash capabilities for the forward-facing selfie camera of each device following the with the new software. That's not necessarily a big deal but should help users at least take better images in low-light environments. At the same time, users commenting at the source are confirming that at least one major Android 9 Pie-specific UI feature – the new gesture navigation – is not arriving with the update.
With regard to the new gesture navigation itself, it may not actually be too surprising that it hasn't been included since it hasn't necessarily been widely lauded. The new style was included as a core feature of the update and, in effect, replaces single-tap buttons for navigating to recent apps, the home screen, and more under a single pill-shaped icon. Users can tap, slide, and swipe on that to bring those apps to the front, navigate between them, and accomplish the same tasks previously allowed by buttons. Not only is that new but many users feel as though it severely overcomplicates matters even by comparison to third-party gesture controls that had previously been implemented by OEMs themselves. While it's not unlikely the gesture navigation might appear in a later update, or even as a secondary option, Sony has opted to continue using its own more traditional navigation style for the time being.
Impact: Looking forward, Sony is also expected to deploy Android 9 Pie to at least three other mid-range handsets – the Xperia XA2, XA2 Ultra, and XA2 Plus – starting March 4. If the company holds to its previously-outlined plans, other variants of the Sony Xperia XZ1 should begin receiving updates before the end of the month. With that said, given the number of delays so far, it may take a bit longer for any of those to start and longer still for the rollouts to finish.