Android P: New features, release date, and everything you need to know

Google's latest mobile operating system is here -- and we have all the details currently available.

Video: Android P: Google launches first developer preview

Google has given developers a taste of Android P, the next major version of its mobile operating system. It's still early days, and trying to decipher just what Android P brings to the table and what that ultimately means for users and the platform will be an ongoing process.

That said, we do know quite a bit about Android P in its current state. Here's everything we know -- and everything you need to know -- about Android P.

Android P: Availability

  • The third public preview build of Android P is now available
  • This is the fourth preview for developers

Users can sign up to help Google test Android P through the Android beta program.

The latest updated build of Android P, while more stable than previous releases, is still a beta. Users who install the preview will need to have some patience and willingness to deal with bugs, as some features or apps may not work. That said, the update is the first release candidate and is considered a near-final build.

For the first time, the beta is compatible with devices outside of Google's own. Devices from Nokia, Vivo, OnePlus, Xiaomi, Sony, Essential, and Oppo can install the Android P beta. The third public preview build isn't quite available for third-party devices, but should be in the next couple of weeks.

Read also: Google announces Android P, now available in developer preview

android-p-release-schedule.jpg
(Screenshot: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet)

The final release is schedule for later this year, with one more beta build expected before a final release in Q3.

Read also: Google makes developers solve puzzle to discover I/O 2018

Android P: Developer features

  • Second developer preview contains new APIs, ML Kit
  • It did add support for iPhone X-like display notches
  • As of the third developer preview, Android P APIs are finalized

Cut-out support

With the initial release, Google focused on giving developers access to new APIs, changes, and tools required to build apps for Android P. For example, Android P offers cutout support for devices that will use the iPhone X-like notch at the top of the display.

Read also: Android P will stop apps from silently using your phone's camera and mic

Track users indoors and HEIC support

Other features include the ability to track a user indoors using Wi-Fi RTT to within a meter or two. Other improvements include HEIC image support, which amounts to better compression for photos, and more storage for the user.

App Actions and a Slices API

Also announced during the keynote, developer tools for App Actions and a Slices API make it easier for developers to integrate deeper into the Android operating system.

ML Kit

Additionally, Google announced ML Kit to help developers take advantage of the company's machine learning technology on a device.

You can read more about developer features included in Android P in this post, or you can dig into the security and privacy improvements here.

Android P: Consumer features

  • New gesture navigation
  • New Google Material Theme
  • Controls to curb phone addiction
  • An official dark theme!
  • Adaptive settings for battery life, screen brightness, app suggestions

With Google's approach to the first Android P preview, major features and changes that the average user will care about were, for the most part, missing from the initial release. With the second beta, however, we have a better idea of what to everyday users can expect from Android P.

Read also: How Android P plans to turn your phone into a bluetooth keyboard (TechRepublic)

Gestures

First and foremost is the new look and navigation method. Instead of a trio of buttons along the bottom of the screen, each one representing a different navigation method, Android P uses gestures. When enabled, a user swipes up to view recent apps along with app suggestions. A swipe to the left or right on the new single button will quickly switch between apps.

Material theme

Also making its first appearance in Android P is a revamped, more subtle design Google has called Material Theme. The Material Design approach isn't new to Google or Android, but the new theme adds white space and rounded corners.

Dark theme

Hints that Google has been working on an official dark theme for Android have been around for awhile now, but with the latest preview we finally have a dedicated setting to switch between a light and dark theme in Android P. Or, if you prefer, you can let Android P decide the right theme based on your current wallpaper.

New dashboard to curb phone addiction

A new dashboard in Android P will detail how much time you've spent on your phone or tablet in a given day, which apps you use the most (organized by time), how many times you unlock a device, and the number of notifications you've received. The dashboard is part of Google's new well-being initiative, which aims to help users curb smartphone addiction.

There's also a new Do Not Disturb tool called Shush that automatically activates whenever a phone is placed screen down on a table or desk.

Adaptive Battery and Adaptive Brightness

New adaptive settings for battery and display brightness learn your habits over time and allocate dedicated resources and battery power to the apps you typical open at a given time of day or location. Adaptive Battery and Adaptive Brightness will help improve performance and battery life.

App Actions

Another AI feature, called App Actions, learns what common tasks you complete at a specific time, place, or when an accessory is connected to the device. For example, App Actions will suggest a playlist when you connect Bluetooth headphones.

157 new emoji

The early June update to Android P includes 157 new emoji, all of which will be avaialble in the final Android P build when it's released to the public this fall. New emojis include a llama, a superhero, and a gender-neutral family.

image-2018-03-08-at-2-09-00-pm.jpg
(Image: Google)

Android P: What's in a name?

  • Android P is not the software's official name
  • Google has teased Pineapple upside-down cake

As is tradition, Google will likely name the next version of Android after some sort of confection. From Gingerbread and KitKat to Nougat and Oreo -- the precedence is there.

And with Google's history of working with name brands when it comes to naming a version of Android, it's entirely possible Android Pop Tart is up next. Then again, there's parfait, peanut brittle, popsicle, pumpkin pie, or praline.

Read also: Google I/O 2018 set for May 8 to May 10 (CNET)

Recently, Google made people work through an online puzzle to determine the date and location of its I/O developer conference. As part of that, it teased a picture of Pineapple upside-down cake. Is that what Android P will be called?

We should know more about its name later this fall.

Previous and related coverage

Android P: All the new features and tools announced (so far)

Here's a look at what's inside Android P. Just remember there will be more features and capabilities added later in the preview. Google will have more to share at Google I/O 2018 in May, too.

Android Oreo vs Android One vs Android Go: All their differences, explained

We look at the three different Android experiences Google is now managing and explain where each one fits in the mobile industry.