Ah, the fun of trying to read between the lines… or in this case, a wallpaper. Google released a set of wallpapers yesterday on their Instagram account for Spring 2018. That in itself is not news. The Mountain View company has released such seasonal wallpapers for several years now. But what grabbed everyone’s attention was this one:
The Android faithful know the next major version of Android is currently referred to as Android P. And Popsicle starts with P. Is Google giving us a bold and clear hint?
Google has released the first Android P based developer preview of Wear OS today, giving developers a chance to take a sneak peak and giving consumers a preview of what to expect in the next major release for the platform. The developer preview is aimed squarely at developers and only works on the Huawei Watch 2 Bluetooth or Huawei Watch 2 Classic Bluetooth. Installing the preview is a manual flashing process and Google has made it clear, this is not ready for consumers to test out.
As for as new features are concerned, there are some exciting ones to look forward to in this build. A dark theme will now be available and will be set as the default. This should improve glanceability of notifications and other information on watches.
A new commit in the Chrome OS Gerrit suggests that Android P framework testing is already underway for the platform. This could allow for P support to roll out at the same time or very close the release of the update for phones later this year.
As readers may know, Android apps in Chrome OS run in Android Framework, which was updated to Nougat last December in Chrome 61 but, interestingly, the Oreo framework never rolled out. The reason for the skip isn’t clear but it could have simply been focus shifting to get as many Chromebook builds updated to run Android in general. The number of Chromebooks supporting Android apps has significantly increased over the course of the last year, in particular the last four months.
The framework is what allows Android apps to run in Chrome OS and for developers, gives them a standard API level across Android devices and Chromebooks so their apps will run on both and with the same feature sets.
As to be expected, the dominant Android news this week has been the release of the first developer preview for Android P. While the code is still considered alpha and not near completion, you can already pick out areas of important changes in the upcoming release.
One minor change that has surfaced is a slightly revamped Pixel Launcher. The Pixel Launcher was introduced with the original Pixel phones and Android Nougat. It was tweaked slightly on the Pixel 2 lineup and Oreo and appears again to be set for a minor tweak with Android P and, presumably, the Pixel 3 lineup. But you can try it out today on any phone.
There has been a lot of press today covering Android P and the first developer preview dropping. That is certainly news worthy because, honestly, it came a week or two earlier than expected. But what is not news is the fact that the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P and Pixel C tablet will not be getting Android P, officially at least. Google has made it very clear and very public when support for these devices would end, both in major releases and security updates.
While we can debate all day long if two years of software support is too short, it is the number that Google settled on and has published for support of devices. The only exception, and likely the way going forward, is the Pixel 2 lineup which gets three years of major updates. For the Nexus 5X and 6P, major build support ended in September 2017. That means Android Oreo was the last major build.
As they did with the release of Android Oreo, we now have a rough timeline of the scheduled releases of Android P. First, the not-so-shocking news. It is going to be Q3 of this year before the public release of Android P happens. That falls right in line with previous Android releases and fits with the expected release of the next generation of Pixel phones.
With the release of the first developer preview today, it looks like the next one isn’t going to drop until early in May. That, again, isn’t shocking. Google’s developer conference, Google I/O, happens the first week in May. When DP2 gets here, it is expected to be available to the Android Beta program for registered and supported devices.
In a somewhat unexpected move, Google has released the first Developer Preview of Android P, the next major version of the platform. While it was expected to be released this month, perhaps even on 3/14 (Pi… get it?), it seems that the wait for this alpha build was much shorter than expected.
Before going into the details of what is new in this build, let me first be very clear. This build is alpha. It is not going to be stable and, in fact, is not even supported in the Android beta program. In order to get it, you have to side-load it so it is really intended for app developers only. If you really, really, really want to download it, you can do so here but brace yourself. It is not going to be a smooth experience. Also, keep in mind that this alpha build is only available for the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL.
An interesting new commit has been found in the Android code review Gerrit that could allow your phone to become a Bluetooth keyboard or mouse for your computer. There commit has two parts to it. The first enables the HID (Human Interface Device) Profile in the Bluetooth stack while the second adds Profile Proxy to the HID stack.
In theory, by enabling these features, your Android phone becomes another HID and allows it to perform functions of those devices. Any Bluetooth keyboard, mouse or trackpad that you connect to your computer or phone is a HID. This commit turns your phone into one.