Android 8.1 has arrived – here’s everything it brings

Update: Android 8.1 is rolling out to Pixel and Nexus devices now and we have full details of what it brings.

We knew Android 8.1 Oreo was coming in December, but we didn't have to wait long, as it's already now rolling out.

That of course only applies if you’re using a Pixel or recent Nexus device, specifically the Pixel 2Pixel 2 XL, Pixel, Pixel XLPixel CNexus 5X, or Nexus 6P, but if you’re rocking any of them keep an eye out for the update because it should be available for your device soon if it isn't already.

Android 8.1 isn’t a huge update, but it does enable the Pixel Visual Core on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, which is a co-processor that improves the speed of processing HDR photos, as well as making them less of a drain on your phone’s battery.

Specifically it apparently makes them five times faster while using less than one tenth of the energy.

Interestingly, new features could be programmed for the Pixel Visual Core over time, so this is just the beginning.

If you don’t have one of Google’s latest Pixel devices then there are still things for you in the update to 8.1, as it should bring bug fixes, security patches and a new Neural Networks API, designed to accelerate on-device machine intelligence.

What this will mean in real terms is unclear, but AI looks to be one of the next big smartphone battlegrounds, with the likes of the iPhone X and Huawei Mate 10 boasting AI features.

There are also some smaller changes as part of Android 8.1. For example, you'll now be able to see the battery levels of connected Bluetooth devices on the Bluetooth settings screen, there'll be less chance of screen burn-in because the status bar will change color in some apps, and several emoji have been redesigned.

Go light

The biggest beneficiaries of Android 8.1 could be those on low-end devices though, as Google has also crafted the Android Oreo (Go edition).

This is a lightweight version of Oreo applied to any device with 512MB to 1GB of RAM, which includes performance and storage improvements, a new set of lightweight Google apps and a tuned version of the Google Play Store which highlights the apps designed to work well on your device.

These features will apparently cause apps to load up to 15% faster and could save over 600MB of data each year, while still offering all the same security features as full fat Android 8.1.

If you’re not rocking a Google device then you might be waiting a while longer for any of these updates, but Pixel and Nexus users should have a shiny new Android version any time now.

Via Google Blog

James Rogerson

James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to, and and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.