Google is rolling out Android Pie, the latest version of its operating system, to phones across the globe — starting with its own Pixel devices.
While Google officially started the rollout Monday, most won’t see their phones update this week. The company started pushing updates to its phones, as well as to select models from smartphone makers including Sony, Essential, Xiaomi and Vivo. Google did not specify a time frame when it will come to other phone makers; that’s a decision that is ultimately up to each phone company. In the past, it has taken months for a rollout to reach the Android ecosystem — in fact, the last Google Android OS was released in February and is running on 12 percent of Android phones, according to Google’s metrics.
However, as the world’s most dominant operating system, changes to Android forecast how most of the world will be using their phones in the future. Here are key things to know about Android Pie:
AI? Aye-aye: Google has been pretty clear that it sees its future lies in developing better artificial intelligence. Proof of that belief is all over Android Pie, from its features that read your battery consumption and adjust to your needs, to the “adaptive brightness” feature that does the same for the intensity of your screen.
Google has also been working on its digital assistant — Google Assistant — to give people better answers to their questions and greater hands-free control over their phones. Those little assists are also showing up in text form, with what Google calls App Actions. App Actions will automatically suggest activities for you, based on the time of day and what you’ve done with your phone before.
Google offers this example: “Say it’s Tuesday morning and you’re preparing for your commute: you’ll be suggested actions like navigating to work on Google Maps or resuming an audiobook with Google Play Books. These little prompts will appear just below the search bar on your page of apps."
Finding your way around: Android Pie also sports cosmetic changes aimed in part at making it easier to search through your phone. The biggest change to the way Android looks is the navigation system, which now consists of one on-screen software button rather than the three icons that have served as Android guides in the past.
With a single button, Android users will now have to swipe up to see their most recently used apps or to switch back to the last app they had open.
Digital well-being: Google’s also introduced its own set of tools aimed at giving people information on how they’re using their phones. These tools are still in early testing, even for those who are able to download the operating system. Google said in a blog post that it will fully launch in the “fall” but did not give a more specific time frame. For those who want to sign up for the beta, they’ll see features such as detailed breakdowns of how often they’re using particular apps. They’ll also get access to features such as “Wind Down” mode, which will put your phone into black-and-white at a prescribed bedtime.
A deeper slice: Android Pie will also have a new feature, called Slices. (Yes, pun intended.) A “slice” is essentially a preview of an app: Type something such as “Lyft” in the search bar, and you’ll get a look at the cost and time estimate for a ride near you without having to open the app. The goal here seems to be getting you into apps faster but also to have more of your phone’s navigation come in through the search bar — rather than having you flip through pages of applications. It will roll out later this year.
Overall, Android Pie shakes up a lot about how we navigate our phones — which also happens to give Google more ways to touch your smartphone experience — with App Actions, with search and voice. “Google is aiming for a more seamless [user experience] with its design changes in Android Pie,” analyst Mark Hung of Gartner said in an email. “For example, with slices, the OS will surface more adjacent information that the system anticipates the user may want to reduce the number of taps or swipes.”