Google has unveiled its latest smartphone operating system update, Android 8.0 Oreo. The company’s range of Pixel and Nexus devices are the first to support it, but many third-party vendor’s such as Samsung and Sony have confirmed they will release the update in the coming months.
Android 8.0 brings several new features, such as picture-in-picture, faster boot time, Autofill, and much more. Several of these changes will be immediately noticeable to end users, while others are under the hood and not as noticeable during use.
Picture-in-picture lets users manage two tasks simultaneously on any size screen, and Google has made it easy for developers to support the functionality in their apps.
Oreo has received a boost in overall performance, so apps run faster and smoother than before. Other benefits include optimised battery life, start-up time, graphics rendering, and stability.
There are changes to background location and wi-fi scans, and the way apps run in the background. These new limits are designed to prevent unintentional overuse of battery and memory in all apps, so existing and upcoming apps will need account for these additions.
Developers now also have better visibility over the health of their apps. The new Android Vitals dashboard aggregates data about apps, which can be used to pinpoint and fix common issues, such as excessive crashes, frozen frames, slow rendering, excessive wakeups, and more.
Setting up a new device and synchronising passwords is easier with the inclusion of an Autofill framework. Apps with form data can use Autofill to manage common text information or reuse usernames and passwords.
Autosizing now automatically fills a TextView with text regardless of the amount. By setting preset or min and max text sizes, the text will adjust to fill the available TextView space.
Fonts are now a fully supported resource type and can be used in XML layouts. Together with emoji, fonts are also downloadable and can be loaded from a shared provider instead of being included in the app, so you can get updated ones at any time and not be limited to the existing ones on the device.
Other useful developer features and functions of Oreo include:
- Adaptive icons that the system displays in different shapes and animates interactions, whether it is in the launcher, shortcuts, settings, sharing dialogs, or overview screen.
- Shortcuts and widgets can be added and pinned to the launcher from within apps.
- Wide-gamut colour for apps that use embedded wide colour profiles to display more vivid images on capable displays.
- WebView multiprocess mode is now enabled by default, which has the ability for apps to handle errors and crashes.
- New Java 8 Language API support with improvements to Android Runtime that enable it to run up to two times faster.
There are other improvements in Oreo that Google has not widely publicised on its Android Developers site. By doing some digging in pre-release versions of the OS, keen developers have discovered some new APIs and developer features.
- New splash screen API that easily allows app loading screens to be added to hide app booting or between heavy activities inside the app.
- Added ADB commands for VR testing, such as toggling of enables persistent VR mode and setting of custom display properties, make it easier to test out VR features for apps.
- Virtual SD card command to test how an app will work with the slower speeds of an SD card on devices with SD card functionality without needing the physical device.
Preparing apps for Oreo
The release of an updated OS like Oreo means existing Android apps will need to be tested to make sure they offer the same or better experience. User flow can be tested by installing the app onto a compatible device or emulator running Oreo.
Google recommends paying attention to the system and API behavioural changes in Oreo, such as background location limits and notification channels. There are also various networking, security, and identifiers changes to be mindful of.
Although the initial priority may be to ensure an app runs well on Oreo, it is important that it continues to perform as well on older versions of Android. Early feedback from a small group of testers or users is valuable in ensuring compatibility, which can be then be followed by a staged rollout.
Owners of Google Pixel, Pixel XL/C or Nexus 6P/5X can already download and install to Oreo. Third-party manufacturers have committed to releasing the update to their phones, and initiatives from Google such as Project Treble will help to bring it out quicker and to more devices than in the past.
With constant OS updates coming out across various platforms, the challenge for developers is to ensure apps remain compatible, and retain the performance and security standards that users demand. Find out how Planit's Digital QA team can help you ensure compatibility and mitigate the risks associated with these external influences.