Install for New Features
The Android 8.1 update, at least the first version, is a pretty modest update for the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P. That said, if you want to give some of Android 8.1's changes a whirl in October or November, you'll need to do so via the Developer Preview.
A lot of Android 8.1 features won't interest end users. That said, developers are probably going to love the changes Google's included in the first beta.
Added Neural Networks API
The Neural Networks API (NNAPI) provides apps with hardware acceleration for on-device machine learning operations. The API supports on-device model creation, compilation, and execution. Apps typically do not use NNAPI directly; instead, NNAPI is meant to be called by machine learning libraries, frameworks, and tools that let developers train their models and deploy them on Android devices.
Changes to Notifications
Apps can now only make a notification alert sound once per second. Alert sounds that exceed this rate aren’t queued and are lost. This change doesn’t affect other aspects of notification behavior and notification messages still post as expected.
Improved Targeting for Low-RAM Devices
Android 8.1 (API level 27) adds two new hardware-feature constants, FEATURE_RAM_LOW and FEATURE_RAM_NORMAL, to Package Manager. These constants allow you target the distribution of your apps and APK splits to normal- or low-RAM devices.These constants enable the Play store to promote a better user experience by highlighting apps especially well-suited to the capabilities of a given device.
Autofill Framework Update
The Developer Preview adds support for custom descriptions that the Android System shows in the autofill save UI instead of the original representation of the data. This is useful, for example, when you want to mask a credit card number and show only the last four digits. To learn more, see the CustomDescription class.
Programmatic Safe Browsing Actions
By using the WebView implementation of the Safe Browsing API, your app can detect when an instance of WebView attempts to navigate to a URL that Google has classified as a known threat. By default, the WebView shows an interstitial, as shown in Figure 1, warning the user of the known threat and giving them the option to load the URL anyway or return to a previous page that’s safe.
Added WallpaperColors API
Android 8.1 Developer Preview (API level 27) adds support for managing wallpaper colors. This feature lets you create a WallpaperColors object from a bitmap, a drawable, or by using the first three most visually representative colors. You can also retrieve details of the first three noticeable colors of a wallpaper.
The FingerprintManager class has introduced the following error codes:
- FINGERPRINT_ERROR_LOCKOUT_PERMANENT – The user has tried too many times to unlock their device using the fingerprint reader.
- FINGERPRINT_ERROR_VENDOR – A vendor-specific fingerprint reader error occurred.
Google's bringing some of the Pixel 2's features to the original Pixels and the company's two Nexus devices.
Beta testers digging through the Android 8.1 beta have also discovered a few other nuggets including a colored nav bar in Settings that dims, a new power menu design, a new Oreo icon in System Notifications, automatic dark and light themes, and new battery life indicators.
If those sound interesting, give Android 8.1 a try. Remember, you can always drop back down to official Android software if Android 8.1 is too buggy for your tastes.