A bit unexpected, Google has announced the Developer Preview of the next generation of Android, Android O. The program is designed for those who want to check out what is coming in the next version as well as developers who want to start preparing their apps for the build. It is not intended for general consumption and should not be considered a beta! At this point, Android O is very much an alpha or even pre-alpha build and I highly recommend non-developer readers not to install it on their daily devices. To give you an idea of just how alpha this build is, it isn’t even in the Android Beta program yet. That’s still focused on Android Nougat 7.1.2.
On the preview page, Google highlights five key areas in which O will be focused: Notification channels, picture-in-picture viewing, autofill, adaptive icons and multi-display support. All of these are aimed at making the platform more flexible and considering that Android now runs on Chrome OS, the ability to do some of these things will become ever increasing in importance.
Notification channels are designed to allow you to setup channels for particular types of notifications. For example, if you want a channel with all of your social network notifications or all your email notifications, you can do it. This concept is strikingly similar to that of Google Inbox which allows you to bundle email under specific types. This should make triaging your notifications easier as you can focus on a particular type, not just seeing them on a per-app basis like you do in Nougat.
Picture-in-picture viewing is pretty self explanatory as based on the documentation, it would work much like PIP does today on televisions and other compatible devices. Autofill is also self explanatory as it borrows the concept from Chrome and allows you to auto populate information into forms in apps and the device itself.
Android O will be introducing the notion of Adaptive Icons. Google probably explains this and the use case better than me. Here is what they say on the developer page for the feature.
Android O introduces adaptive launcher icons, which can display a variety of shapes across different device models. For example, a launcher icon can display using a circular shape on one OEM device, and display a squircle on another device. Each device OEM provides a mask, which the system then uses to render all icons with the same shape. The new launcher icons are also used in shortcuts, the Settings app, sharing dialogs, and the overview screen.
This should cut down on the number of OEM custom icons for their launchers as they simply provide a mask on how they want that icon to look. Interesting concept but based on my preliminary reading, it will depend on developers and OEMs actually following the API guidelines.
If you want to read about all of the changes, the Android O Features and API page is a great place to go. It can get a bit technical but it will give you a good flavor of where Google is going with this build of Android.
For developers and those who are into pain, if you want to download the preview, you can do so for your Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Pixel C, Pixel and Pixel XL from the downloads page.