There has been big news in the Android world as Google has finally announced a new update. The Android Oreo, named after what is arguably one of the best known biscuits on the face of the planet. This update aims to bring great new features to the table, some that I believe will change the way many developers create their apps as they continue to move forward in the ever changing mobile landscape.
If you have read any of my previous blog posts regarding the android updates then you may remember that each year I like to hand pick my favourite features and give a brief overview of them. Please note I won’t be covering every single feature that is released in this update, so if there are other aspect you are looking for then head over to the official update website where you can read more.
So let’s kick start this blog post with perhaps the most exciting feature to be released and that is Android Instant Apps! Originally announced at Google I/O last year Android instant apps allows users to run an application without actually having to install it! You may be thinking at this point what kind of witchcraft is this? So let’s go through an example to get a bit more detail about how exactly it works.
Let’s say you have just finished watching Rick and Morty and you keep hearing about the ever so popular Szechuan sauce that keeps popping up everywhere on the internet. Unfortunately you can’t just head out to Mcdonalds and buy it as they have discontinued the sauce, so you think “hey I’m going to make it myself, how hard can it be?” You visit Google to have a look for some recipes and notice someone from Buzzfeed had the exact same idea and decided to remake it and write an article about it. So you click on that link and instead of going to the website you get taken to the article within the native app “How is this possible?” you may ask, because I don’t have the Buzzfeed app installed on my phone. Well that’s the point, this is how an instant app works. When you clicked on that Buzzfeed link the article section of the native app was downloaded onto your phone for you to use giving you a native experience. Then once you’re finished the app data is removed from your device.
Now it’s not just Buzzfeed that has built in this functionality, there have been many early adopters who have expressed fantastic results, the New York Times crossword is a very interesting example. Their crosswords sessions have doubled since implementing the feature, which I think is pretty dynamic. I have no doubts that many developers will, when they see these kind of results, push to build the functionality into their own apps to boost engagement.
(Side note: This feature isn’t enabled by default! So head over to your settings to enable instant apps and experienced native apps without the need to install them!)
Next up is the Picture in Picture feature, this is a feature originally introduced in Nougat on Android TV so some of you may already be familiar with this functionality. However, if not then I’m sure you will know about a similar feature in the YouTube app where if you are in the middle of playing a video and navigate to another page, the video you are currently watching shrinks down into a small view in the corner of the screen. You can navigate throughout the YouTube app whilst the video continues to play, then if you decide to continue watching the video as normal you simply just click it.
Picture in Picture mode essentially works in the same way, though the main difference is you don’t have to stay inside the same app. For example if you are watching a tutorial on YouTube on how to turn on instant apps, instead of stopping and starting the video to make sure you’re following the steps correctly, you can just hit that home button and have the video playing in the corner of your screen and follow the steps.
Moving on from Picture in Picture we progress onto Notification dots. Notification dots are essentially badges that show when a notification associated with an application has been received but not yet actioned or dismissed. The aim is to notify the user of a notification in a non intrusive way.
If you’re familiar with Android Shortcuts you will know that by holding down on the app icon you can view shortcuts. With notification dots the process is very much the same. If you notice a notification dot on one of your apps, by holding down on the icon you will be able to glance at the notification. You can then dismiss or act on the notification.
Of course this feature may not be for everyone, especially if you’re not exactly on top of actioning your notifications, however, don’t worry you can disable the notification dots in your settings.
So that’s just some of the features you can expect in the new update, which now leads us onto the important question, “when will I be able to get the update?” As always this will depend on the kind of device you have. If you have a pixel / nexus device then it’s rumoured that the update will be rolled out at the end of the month. For other manufacturers it’s rumoured for the end of the year. Either way you will have a lot of great new features to explore once the update is available.
In the meantime I recommend you head down to your local newsagents and pick up a pack of Oreos to help with that Oreo craving!