Google releases Android O in beta, rolls out Android Go for entry-level devices

Already, there are more than 2 billion active devices with Android, Google boasted at the I/O conference.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

Google on Wednesday announced Android O is available in beta and highlighted several of its features at the Google I/O developer conference. In a significant move, Google announced it's adding support for a new programming language, Kotlin.

It's fully Android runtime compatible, fully interoperable with developers' existing code, Google's Stephanie Cuthbertson said during the I/O keynote address. It will be mature and production-ready from Day One, she said.

Google has invested in security enhancements, OS optimizations and developer tools to keep Android devices in a secure and healthy state, Cuthbertson said. With Android O, the company is introducing Play Protect to show how Google uses machine learning to scan apps for viruses and malware.

In terms of OS optimizations, Android O comes with a twice as fast boot time, accomplished through extensive changes to Android's runtime. Google is also adding Play Console Dashboards to analyze top issues that cause problems like battery draining and crashes.

Google announced several other updates with Android O, some of which came to light when Google released the alpha version of the Android O developer preview in March. With the new OS, Google has committed to giving users more control over push notifications, as well as improvements to battery life via limits on app background activity.

Other new features include autofill for apps. When a user downloads an app on a new device, it will automatically suggest the right username for that app. It "takes the pain out of setting up a new phone or tablet," said Dave Burke, VP of engineering for Android.


Burke also highlighted the new "smart text selection" feature that improves copy-and-paste functionality. A user can double tap anywhere on a phrase and the whole phrase is selected. If a user taps on an address, the whole address is selected. On top of that, the machine learning model classifies it as an address and offers Maps suggestions.

Additionally, to help developers take advantage of machine learning, Google will later this year roll out TensorFlow Lite, a project based on TensorFlow, Google's open source machine learning library. It's designed to be fast and lightweight for embedded use cases. Google is also building a new neural network API that TensorFlow could use to accelerate computation for real-time performance.

Along with the revamped mobile operating system, Google unveiled Android Go -- a way to bring Android to devices with limited connectivity. Android Go is packaged as an OS, apps and Google Play -- all shipped together with 1 GB or less of memory. Android Go will ship in 2018 for all Android devices that have 1GB or less of memory.

Apps in Android Go will be optimized for low bandwidth. Last year, Google announced the launch of Youtube Go in India. Google Play will show all of its available apps with Android Go, but it will highlight those designed for Go.

Android Go could help Google connect with the hardest-to-reach mobile users. Just this week, Google reached more than billion active devices with Android, CEO Sundar Pichai in the keynote address.

Meanwhile, arguing that "platforms are only as good as the apps they run," Burke noted that 82 billion apps and games were downloaded last year on Google Play.

Burke also stressed that Android is moving far beyond smartphones, with momentum in areas such as tvs, cars, watches and laptops. Android Wear, for instance, is now supported by 24 of the world's top watch brands.

Android Things, Google's IoT platform, is used by thousands of developers in 60 countries so far, with a full launch coming this year. NXP has developed modules with Google's Android Things platform, which appliance and home goods makers can simply add to their products. NXP and Google are also bringing Android Things to smart cities.

Android Auto, meanwhile, is supported by more than 300 car models. And earlier this week, Google announced it's partnering with Audi and Volvo to bring Android-based infotainment systems into their next-generation vehicles.

The Android O updates extend to Android TV, which gets a revamped home screen that should make it easier for users to find the content they want. Apps can publish one or more channels, and users can control the channels that appear on their home screen.

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