The first public beta of Android Oreo 8.1 has been released to the Android Beta Program community today. The new build is OPP5.170921.005 and it is the same across all eligible devices in the program. That includes the Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel C, Nexus 6P and the Nexus 5X.
It has been suspected that this first maintenance build of Oreo was going to be here quickly after the Pixel 2 launch and that has proven to be the case. Oreo 8.1 does bring some noticeable changes from an end user experience but for developers, there are some significant changes.
From a user perspective, there are minor changes to the UI like colors on the settings menu, a new ambient screen on the original Pixel lineup and Bluetooth power indicators on the notification shade. Most of these are in the new Pixel 2 lineup already but are no going out across other Pixel and some Nexus devices too.
For developers, the API level is up to API 27 but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are other new APIs along with refinements to other features of the platform. Here is the rundown.
Neural Networks API
The Neural Networks API (NNAPI) provides apps with hardware acceleration for on-device machine learning operations. The API supports on-device model creation, compilation, and execution. Apps typically do not use NNAPI directly; instead, NNAPI is meant to be called by machine learning libraries, frameworks, and tools that let developers train their models and deploy them on Android devices.
Added WallpaperColors API
Android 8.1 Developer Preview (API level 27) adds support for managing wallpaper colors. This feature lets you create a
WallpaperColors object from a bitmap, a drawable, or by using the first three most visually representative colors. You can also retrieve details of the first three noticeable colors of a wallpaper.
Improved Targeting for Low-RAM Devices
Android 8.1 (API level 27) adds two new hardware-feature constants,
FEATURE_RAM_NORMAL, to Package Manager. These constants allow you target the distribution of your apps and APK splits to normal- or low-RAM devices.
These constants enable the Play store to promote a better user experience by highlighting apps especially well-suited to the capabilities of a given device.
Changes to Notifications
Apps can now only make a notification alert sound once per second. Alert sounds that exceed this rate aren’t queued and are lost. This change doesn’t affect other aspects of notification behavior and notification messages still post as expected.
Autofill Framework Update
The Developer Preview adds support for custom descriptions that the Android System shows in the autofill save UI instead of the original representation of the data. This is useful, for example, when you want to mask a credit card number and show only the last four digits. To learn more, see the
Programmatic Safe Browsing Actions
By using the
WebView implementation of the Safe Browsing API, your app can detect when an instance of
WebView attempts to navigate to a URL that Google has classified as a known threat. By default, the
WebView shows an interstitial, as shown in Figure 1, warning the user of the known threat and giving them the option to load the URL anyway or return to a previous page that’s safe.
FingerprintManager class has introduced the following error codes:
FINGERPRINT_ERROR_LOCKOUT_PERMANENT– The user has tried too many times to unlock their device using the fingerprint reader.
FINGERPRINT_ERROR_VENDOR– A vendor-specific fingerprint reader error occurred.
For the vast majority of readers, none of this will mean much unless you develop on Android. The takeaway is that Google is continuing to tweak and improve the platform in Oreo 8.1.
For those of you who decide to add your phone to the Android Beta Program, remember that this is beta code and you could run into issues. The final release is expected in December so unless you are into bug hunting (and living with them) you may want to wait until then to install it on the stable channel.