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Android O new features: battery life boost, privacy and more

The first preview for Android O is in developers' hands. Find out what new features are coming to Android smartphones this year.

Updates to privacy and app battery efficiency are just some of the changes coming with the Android O operating system.

Another year, another version of Android – we had Nougat last year, which means we’re moving onto O. We don’t know what sweet treat the latest version of Android will be named after, but our money is on Oreo, or maybe Google will take the healthy option and go for Orange.

In the meantime, the developer preview can give us an idea of some of the new features you can expect when Android O launches later this year.

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What’s new with Android O?

This developer preview is one of four before Android O gets an official release towards the end of the year. That means we may see more new features, and some of the ones we’ve detailed here may change based on developer feedback.

Background apps will be less of a battery drain

Android O adds new limits to what background apps and services can do. For example, an app that needs to keep up to date with your location will only be able to search a few times an hour if it isn’t being used, rather than whenever it wants.

If the app is in use it will update your location more often. This way you don’t lose any of the app or service’s functionality, but it won’t drain your battery as much when you aren’t using it either.

More control over privacy

Apps already have to ask your permission to access certain information on your phone, but Android O makes it easier to keep your personal data private.

You’ll now be able to choose which accounts are visible to other apps. That means the information gathered from an account you set up on an app to track your fitness wouldn’t be accessible from other apps without your say so.

Get control of your notifications

If you’re tired of your notification bar being clogged up with icons, then Android O’s update will be music to your ears.

Notifications will now be split into channels and you’ll have greater control over what is shown in your notifications bar. For example you could make it so emails from certain people will give you an alert and an icon in the top bar, while others will be stay hidden until you open your email app.

You can also edit how you are notified. In a messenger app you could make it so a text from your mum makes your phone vibrate, while a text from your partner gives a notification light, vibration, sound and it appears in your notifications bar. You can adjust how notifications show up on your lock screen, too, which is becoming more important with the popularity of always on displays.

Android O is making it easier to fill out online forms

It seems every app asks you to fill in data. Sometimes it’s just a username or email, but shopping apps will need your address and card details, too. Android O wants to make this process as simple as possible by upgrading the autofill feature.

Autofill enters your information for you in apps and the upgrade will let you choose different templates. This means you can have one profile with your work email and address and one for your home. Or maybe you want to set one up for a family member.

There will be a new Autofill app, which will hold all your address, username, passwords and card details.

Picture in picture

Sharp, large smartphone screens are great for videos, which is why Android O is making them more accessible. Picture in picture means you can carry on watching a video while using a different app.

Your BBC iPlayer catch up will no longer be interrupted by emails and texts since you’ll be able to keep the video playing in the corner while you respond. It will make multi-tasking easier and make better use of the large screens on phones, such as the newly announced Galaxy S8.

And a bunch of smaller updates…

  • Your apps will get more colourful since Google is widening the colour gamut for developers. This will be especially useful for artistic apps that let you draw and paint on the touchscreen, as well as photo-editing apps.
  • You’ll be able to send audio from Android O smartphones to two different Bluetooth speakers simultaneously.
  • App icons are getting more useful. They can now be animated and extra information can be displayed, such as showing you how many unread messages you have on your Gmail icon.

There are no details on which smartphones will eventually receive Android O yet, although it’s a fair bet that Google’s own Pixel and Pixel XL will be top priority.

For more on all the latest smartphones, check out our Mobile Phone Reviews

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