Android P has begun its developer preview, meaning that it's now available for developers, or those curious enough to check out some unfinished software. We're guessing that you fit one of those two groups, right?
Just like 2017's surprise announcement of Android Oreo, Google unveiled this year's big upgrade a few months ahead of Google IO 2018, where it will dive deep into what to expect from the final release of P – except its name. What will 'P' stand for? We have a few ideas...
Based on our hands-on experience, detailed below, Android P appears to focus more on overhauling the visual design of the operating system than how it works, though leave it up to Google to still make countless changes and improvements in the coming months.
Looking to download Android P for yourself? You'll need one of four phones currently supported: the Google Pixel, Google Pixel XL, Google Pixel 2 or Google Pixel 2 XL. More devices will support the software shortly after its final release, like the Google Pixel 3, but if you want beta access, going Google is the only option.
We'll add new information to this article as we hear it, but while we wait for more official info nuggets to drop, we’ve also come up with a list of things we want from Android P, because as good as Android Oreo is there’s always room for more improvement.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The next version of Android
- When is it out? Probably August 2018
- How much will it cost? It will be a free update
Android P release date
Google brought out the first developer preview of Android P in early March 2018. We expect the cadence of beta updates to hit every few months until the final version lands in August 2018, a year after Android Oreo landed.
Of course, it will be available first for the Google phones listed above, but it will also likely make its retail debut in the Google Pixel 3 nearing the year's end.
Android P first impressions
After the trial and error that always comes with the delicate process of flashing a smartphone, we finally have Android P loaded onto a Google Pixel XL. It didn't take long for us to notice a few small, but appreciable tweaks to the visuals from the initial setup screen.
Text is more sharp, there's generally more color in the menus, transition animations have been touched up, and some stuff has been moved around. It looks and feels fresh, even in this very early software build.
Looking for the time? It's now on the top left corner of the screen. App notification icons pile next to it, which could get dicey if A.) you use a lot of apps, or B.) your next Android phone has a notch (Google has planned ahead for this, thankfully.)
The Pixel Launcher now has a rounded-off edge, matching the look of notification windows that you see when you wake up your phone. This is obviously a minor touch, but it plays into the overall look that Google is going for with P.
Ambient Display has been overhauled, at least compared to what came before it on Pixel XL and what currently exists on the latest Pixel 2 XL Oreo software. The date and day of week no longer display underneath the time, but it still displays app notification icons.
The biggest change here is that down at the screen's bottom, it displays the battery percentage, so that you don't have to wake it to know whether you need to plug in or not. We look forward to Google making more updates to Ambient Display as the dev preview continues.
iPhone X-sized notch
Buried in the display settings, the preview allows developers, and by extension, us and anyone else who installs the preview, to simulate a notch on their phones. Offering three different notch options, Google lets developers test their apps using a hypothetical notch before more devices with the feature release, which will inevitably happen. I'm sure some people will leave this feature on for fun, but it looks pretty silly on the Pixel XL's humongous bezels. Plus, seeing app notifications hiding because there's no more space? Not so much fun at all, really.
We're still digging around Android P and will be installing new updates as they come, so stay tuned.
What we want to see
Android is in quite a polished state by this point, but there are always improvements that can be made, such as the following things.
1. Wider, faster availability
Android has long had a fragmentation problem, with many devices stuck on very old versions and even those which will ultimately get the latest release often taking many months to do so.
With Android P we’d like to see Google push to get the update on more devices, faster. This is largely in the hands of manufacturers, but Google might be able to do something to help.
In fact, Google is already working on this somewhat with Project Treble, a feature which should mean it’s less work for manufacturers to update their devices.
It remains to be seen how much difference that will make, but we’re sure there’s more that could be done in any case.
2. Movable search bar and date widgets
One of the things we typically praise about stock Android is that it’s free of bloat, but that can also mean it’s light on features, such as the ability to move the search bar and date widget.
They are currently glued to the bottom and top of the home screen respectively in the stock version of Android Oreo.
Most people will probably be happy with that, but we’d like the ability to move them anywhere on the screen with Android P, like you can with most widgets.
3. More customization
On a related note, we’d love to see more customization potential in general with Android P.
Some third-party launchers let you customize gestures, screen transitions and the like, but for the most part what you see is what you get with Android Oreo.
There’s nothing stopping you switching the stock launcher for a third-party one to gain those options, but then you lose the Oreo look and feel, so for Android P we want more customization built-in.
4. Make the Pixel Launcher available on all devices
While your device may get Android Oreo, it probably won’t get it as Google intended unless it’s a Pixel phone, so we’d like to see the Pixel Launcher made available for third-party handsets too, so users can choose between Google’s take on Android and that of their device’s manufacturer.
The Pixel Launcher is actually available on Google Play, but only for Google’s own devices, so with Android P we’d like to see its availability and compatibility widened.
5. Feature parity
Even once you get a new version of Android on your device, you won’t necessarily get all the features straight away.
For example, Google Assistant took a while to arrive on many devices even once they had Android Nougat, and Google Lens doesn’t come as part of the core Android Oreo update.
With Android P we’d like to see any and all features, especially big ones like those above, be made available for all devices running the software and to come as part of the core Android P update.
6. Picture-in-picture for every app
Picture-in-picture is one of the big new features of Android Oreo, but it’s actually quite limited, with many apps not supporting it.
That may well change over time, but if it’s not fixed as part of Oreo we want to see it available for most or all video apps as part of Android P.
7. A focus on tablets
While Android is great on phones, there’s a sense that less focus has been put on the tablet experience in recent years, and that’s all the more noticeable now that Apple has launched the tablet-focused iOS 11.
Google could learn from this, and we’d like to see it add the likes of system-wide drag-and-drop and more native tablet apps with Android P. Bringing Google Assistant to tablets wouldn’t hurt either.
- We also have a wish list for Android Wear 3.0