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Android P Hands-on Review | Digital trends

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Julian Chokkattu / Digital Trends

Artificial intelligence is officially the buzzword of 2018. Almost every announcement that came from Google I / O, the company's annual developer conference, was tied AI in any way or form. So it's no surprise that Google has more machine learning and A.I. in one of its core products ̵

1; Android.

The next version of Google's mobile operating system is here, called Android P. We will not know what dessert it will be (my vote is on peppermint or popsicle), but you can immediately download the Open Beta if you have a compatible device. Google released a developer preview in March, but this week's show brought even more details. We'll take a closer look, but you can read about all the new features in our Android P manual.

Editor's note: Because Android P is in beta, new features and visual designs can be used, removed, or added before the final release is released later this year.

Visual and navigation changes

Goodbye, sharp edges. One of the first changes we noticed when we turned on our Google Pixel 2 XL with Android P is how it all looks now. The notifications are rounded, the tiles for quick settings are in decent circles, and the Settings app has been redesigned into a more colorful, rounded user interface. It makes the OS more friendly, and we're happy with the change – though we're sure there will be a vocal opposition to it.

Perhaps the most drastic change is the navigation menu. Gone are the Android navigation buttons in favor of a single, pill-shaped icon. As with iOS on the iPhone X, Android is now all about gesture navigation: Swipe instead of tapping on icons. It's a welcome move unraveling the screen, but there's still room for improvement. In our demo, Gesture Navigation was disabled by default and had to be enabled, but it's still not clear which mode will be the default when Google plays Android P.

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Julian Chokkattu / Digital Trends

The button in pill shape behaves almost exactly like the old home button: tap it once and you go home; Hold down the key and you will open Google Assistant. As soon as you jump into an app, the back button appears on the left side of the Home button. It works just like it did before, but it looks a little edgier, it's not filled in and it's smaller. The look is not identical to the new round theme, but it is undoubtedly more compact.

There's no recent button to get an overview of the recently opened apps, but there is another way to conveniently get them: Drag the Home quick button on the right to return to the previous app. You can also press and hold it right to move through all your recent apps. To close some of these background apps, swipe halfway up the bottom of the screen to see the overview of the current videos. With a full swipe open your app drawer.

Passing the Android navigation keys in favor of a single, pill-shaped icon.

We like the new gesture navigation method, but like all new changes, take some time to get used to it. Our biggest problem is that the pill-shaped home button occupies the same place as the conventional navigation buttons. It looks a little embarrassing, with a small pill icon sitting directly under a long, rounded and rectangular Google search bar. We think that the pill-shaped home button looks better than the old circular home button – either way, we hope for even more visual improvements here before the final release.

Jump up to the notification tray, and you & # 39; I'll notice a nice haptic feedback if you pull it down. The clock is now on the left side of the system tray, the fast settings area is now filled with more round tiles. It looks cleaner, but we're sad that some features are disappearing – you can not tap tiles like Wi-Fi to see networks within the same interface. Instead, you must hold down the key to go to the appropriate section of the Settings app. You can still tap these tiles to turn settings on or off. If you tap the Settings icon at the top of the taskbar, you'll need to swipe down if you've moved down the notification bar. We like the visual changes here, but it feels like a step back in functionality.

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Julian Chokkattu / Digital Trends

A new brightness slider reveals some of the machine learning in the game in Android P. Its screen still adapts to the ambient light, but the adaptive brightness is learning now from the manual adjustments you make all day. It automatically adjusts to what you want, although it also relies on the environmental sensor to detect the lighting. The idea behind it is that you do not have to constantly change the brightness manually. We did not spend enough time to see if it was more helpful than before, but it's cool to see the slider move automatically.

Slices and Actions

Machine learning brings two more additions to Android P: Slices and Actions. The latter predicts actions you will take, and two buttons are injected into the app drawer. For example, if you want to text a friend, they may have a quick shortcut that you can tap to open your default messaging app and jump directly to the contact. Other examples include reordering food through your preferred delivery app at a certain time of day. We have not had a chance to try this because it's not in the open beta, but we'll update this post as it becomes available.

Machine learning built into Android P can help put everything together for the end user.

Slices adds more details or "slices" when you search your phone for content and apps. For example, if you type Lyft, you may see some deep links in the Lyft app, such as a driver that will take you home or to work.

These two new features require support from developers to really work, but the machine learning baked into Android P can help put everything together for the end user. Nevertheless, we will only be able to see it closer to the official version of Android P.

Richer Notifications, Quality of Life Improvements

Android handles notifications incredibly well, and Google continues to add solid improvements to each version to make the experience even better. Android P now features Smart Replies embedded in notifications. These are basically predefined answers based on the way you normally respond. Because it depends on learning the way you react, you may not immediately find it useful. They look a little strange when they hover in the middle of a notification, and they do not work with any app yet.

The actions you can take on alerts now look much better – "Answers" and "Mark As Read" are no longer separated, but float in the notification bubble. The font changes here really help to make the interface cleaner.

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Julian Chokkattu / Digital Trends

There are a lot of other changes that just improve the OS's everyday usability. For example, Do Not Disturb is no longer a mess of confusing options. Instead, tap it once and the operating system will completely block all picture and sound interruptions. You can even turn your phone face down to turn it on. It is simple and incredibly effective.

Do you always have problems with the volume controls? If you now increase or decrease the volume, the media volume is changed by default, and the visual pop-up window is located vertically next to the volume rocker (at least on the pixel). It is still unclear whether this will sit next to the volume control on all phones. If you want to change the audio profile of your phone, you can tap a key three times to switch between modes: Sound, Vibration Only, or Mute. A settings icon takes you to the full volume control menu. It is a pleasingly beneficial change.

It's clear that we spend too much time on our phones, and Google wants to address this in Android P.

You can now take screenshots by tapping the new icon in the Power menu. Hold down the power button and edit screenshots as you take them. This long overdue feature allows you to tag, rotate and quickly share screenshots.

Another nice touch on the main screen is that when you press the microphone in the Google search bar, a voice is triggered directly. Search with Google Assistant instead of simply passing your text to Google Search. It's a great way to integrate the wizard a bit more in your daily life.

Does the screen of your phone sometimes rotate when you do not want it? One of our most popular new features is a new icon that pops up to the right of the Home button when you turn the phone – the app does not rotate automatically. Instead, tap the icon and it will spin. When you turn the phone back to portrait orientation, the button reappears and you can tap to return to normal view. It's such a handy change that removes the frustration of automatic rotation.

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Dan Baker / Digital Trends

To notice a trend? These changes may be minor, but together they dramatically improve the daily Android experience, and we love them.

Some other changes to the quality of life that are worth noting are the enlarged view when you move the cursor to text (as in iOS); a new alarm tile in the navigation bar so you can see when your next alarm is scheduled; more details in the Night Light tile, which reminds you when night mode sets in; a new section in the settings menu that displays recently received notifications; and the fact that you can now see the battery life on the always-on display.

If you continue to wipe some notifications without interacting with them, the operating system also asks if you want to stop receiving these alerts completely. A new Manage Alerts button at the bottom of your notifications provides additional features, such as turning notifications on and off, app by app.

Some of these changes may depend on your smartphone manufacturer, but we're thrilled to memorize Android

Digital well-being and less time on your phone

A recent poll by Motorola, Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital revealed that more than 53 percent of respondents (born in the 1990s and early 2000s) described their phone as their "best friend". It's clear that we spend too much time on our phones, and Google wants to address this with a few "digital wellbeing" features in Android P.

It's hard to see if they will reshape our lives for the better.

Digital Wellbeing has four key components, but unfortunately only one is available in the Open Beta. The updated Do Not Disturb option we mentioned earlier helps block all warnings completely so you can focus on the task.

But more is coming. Use an app timer to set how long you can use an app. Once you reach the limit, the app icon will be displayed in grayscale to remind you to adhere to your limit. This is a helpful feature for which the user needs to make some adjustments, but it is a great complement.

There will also be a dashboard where you can see the hourly and daily time in an app. You just want to know which takes up most of the time. You may not want to see that you have spent five consecutive hours on Facebook, but hey, maybe this realization will make you take a step back and do something else.

The last feature is called Wind Down, and it's a lot of steps that are taken when you tell Google Assistant that you're ready for bedtime. The entire smartphone screen is displayed in grayscale so you do not have to click icons, and it also switches in Do Not Disturb mode.

We are thrilled to see these new features in Android P. It's hard to see if any of these will change our lives for the better, but it depends on you how you want to use them, and that's crucial. Some may require special hardware on smartphones, but we will learn more about this initiative in the coming months.

Improvements Under the Hood

As with any update, there are things that happen under the hood are not immediately noticeable. One of the most important is Adaptive Battery. Google said it is working with its DeepMind department to analyze user behavior so that the operating system can predict the apps that you're most likely to use next, and resources accordingly. Google said that this will result in a 30% reduction in CPU wake-ups, which should improve battery life. We will continue to test this during the beta phase and see if we notice a significant difference.

Another important addition is that apps running in the background can no longer access the microphone or camera. It is disturbing to think that was not the case before, but we are grateful that it is here. There is now a consistent fingerprint authentication request for all apps and services, so it looks the same throughout the operating system.

This consistency is another ongoing issue, not just for Android P, but for all Google apps and services. Google helps developers integrate their material design elements into their apps, thanks to a Material Theme Editor that unifies the design. Of course, it all depends on whether the developer is on board.

Android P also has notch support, for the increasing number of phones that have a small section above for both camera and handset.

Big Changes ahead

The final version of Android P will probably be released sometime in August, though that does not mean your phone will receive the update. This is the fragmentation problem of Android: It needs manufacturers and carriers to publish the updates. What's promising is that the open beta of Android P is available on more phones than ever before, not just on Google Pixel phones. And thanks to Project Treble from Android 8.0 Oreo, which allows manufacturers to deploy Android updates faster, we can definitely expect Android P on a wider range of phones in 2018. No matter, Android P could be one of Google's biggest updates for Android in some time. Android 7.0 and 8.0 were largely under the hood updates, but this time there are many more visual changes and additions. We're still getting used to the new gestures, and apart from a few disagreements, we're pleased and excited about what's new.

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