A Week with Android Oreo – Tasty & Lovely

On Monday, right in the middle of the eclipse, I was on a flight out to, ironically, the Google campus in Mountain View.  At the same time all those shenanigans were going on, Google dropped Android Oreo out to the Android developer community for the Pixel lineup and the Nexus lineup.

Of course, all of this while I’m in the air on craptastic Wi-Fi on a plane.

When I landed in San Jose and got to my hotel, I immediately started the upgrade process as my Pixel XL was a part of the Android Beta program.  20-odd minutes later, I was running Oreo and after living with the latest iteration of the platform, I have to say it is lovely.

Readers of this site – and frankly any Android-centric site – will know that there are not a massive amount of changes that have come with Android Oreo.  There are a few nice things like Picture-in-Picture and notification channels but overall, you are looking at a sped up and smoothed out Android Nougat.  But where Oreo excels is speed and battery performance.

I’ll tackle the latter first, battery performance.  My Pixel XL with Nougat was no slouch when it came to managing battery performance.  Using the things learned in Marshmallow, Nougat did a great job of managing apps and their power consumption.  Most of this was a feature named Doze.

In Android Oreo, Google took the next logical step by enabling power management of apps that run in the foreground as well as in the background.  It means that apps are more tightly controlled on the access they have to things like GPS, Wi-Fi and the like while they are in the background.  Making calls to those antennas in your device are big battery drains so limiting is key.  They did that and it works brilliantly.

On Tuesday, I was in meetings all day at the Google Mountain View campus.  It was a good day, focusing on Google Cloud Platform (for the day job), and my Pixel XL was with me from 7:00 a.m. through until 9:45 p.m. that night.  It did not see any charging until I got back to my hotel but I had an impressive 22% battery remaining at the end of the day.  That included multiple Google Maps sessions (to and fro from the Google campus), email, calendar, texting, Facebook Messenger, etc.  In other words, a normal day of use for me.  back in March, I was at Google Cloud Next in San Francisco and has a similarly long day.  As I rolled out of Moscone West that night at about 10:00 p.m., I was in the red zone.  I had less than 10% battery remaining.

Fundamentally, nothing has changed on my Pixel since March.  I’m running more or less the same apps I’ve always been running and I didn’t make any more calls or use Google Maps any more (in fact, I probably used Maps less as I was within walking distance from my hotel to the Next show).  That means Oreo saved me about 12% of my battery over Nougat.  That’s stout.  That’s very stout.

On Wednesday I pretty much had a repeat performance which in my mind solidifies that Google got battery management right in this release.

The second aspect of Android Oreo that has impressed me this week has been the overall speed of the release.  To be fair, my Pixel XL was never a laggard.  It has always felt speedy and frankly, it wasn’t until I reviewed the Huawei P10 that it ever felt lagging in anyway.  But the Pixel XL is my daily driver and there were times when I would switch between apps or if I had a lot of apps running, it would hesitate.  Not often and not enough for me to contemplate my life choices, but it would from time to time.

Since update to Oreo, I’ve not experience any hesitation.  The transitions from apps has been smooth and fast and flicking over to my Google cards in the Pixel launcher has not stuttered at all.  Again, somewhat like the battery performance, I’m not really doing anything different in my usage than I did with Nougat.  In fact, if anything, I’ve probably been flipping between apps more just to see if I can get it to slow down (and if the new battery saving features cause apps to hesitate).

I appreciate that these are subjective observations on my Pixel with Oreo and that everyone’s mileage will vary depending on the way they interact with their device.  But for me, Android Oreo is a welcome upgrade and brings some significant battery savings while not compromising the speed of interactions with the phone in general.  Likewise, I appreciate that it is early days.  Having had the upgrade on my phone for not even a full week, just a business week, I know that things can change.  But for those of you who have a Google device or if your manufacture has indicated they will be upgrading their devices to Oreo, I think you too will be pleased with the latest Android tasty treat.