Google Unveils Android Oreo

Google has officially given the eighth iteration of its Android mobile operating system a nickname: Oreo.

That name should come as little surprise, given Google’s proclivity for naming the successive versions of Android after various desserts. Before the official unveiling, Google simply called this version “Android O,” leading to much speculation that the final name would be “Oreo” or, barring that, “Oatmeal Cookie.”

Android Oreo is not a minor release: in addition to some behind-the-scenes upgrades such as improved battery life (achieved via limiting background processes), the latest version of the OS also gives users adaptive icons and badges, picture-in-picture support for smartphones (which makes two apps visible at once), and granular control over notifications.

For developers, the goodies include support for wide-gamut color, audio and WebView enhancements, and Java 8 APIs and runtime optimizations (which means improved app performance and stability).

“We’re pushing the sources to Android Open Source Project (AOSP) for everyone to access today,” read an Oreo-related posting on Google’s blog. “Pixel and Nexus 5X/6P builds have entered carrier testing, and we expect to start rolling out in phases soon, alongside Pixel C and Nexus Player.” By the end of the year (at least in theory), hardware manufacturers such as Essential, Samsung, HTC and Motorola should receive the Oreo upgrade.

For those interested in building Android apps, the latest version of Android Studio 3.0 has some new tools and toys for developers, including an SDK for Instant Apps, which allows users to run apps without needing to install anything. There’s also support for the Kotlin programming language, which has seen its popularity climb over the past several months.

This fall, Android Oreo will compete against Apple’s iOS 11, which features everything from keyboard improvements to augmented-reality (AR) support. Which side will “win” isn’t really a question; the mobile world is effectively a duopoly between Google and Apple. The bigger question is what comes next: As Google plunges deeper into the realms of machine learning and voice recognition, Android could evolve into a platform for consumer A.I.

In the meantime, when it comes to building Android apps, Oreo offers the smoothest experience yet.

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