Google’s confirmed the next version of Android Oreo and Android 8.1 will land for Pixel devices and select Nexus devices later this year.
The first update to Google’s Android Oreo operating system is in the works. Android 8.1 Oreo missed the company’s Pixel 2 launch event, but the company’s confirmed some of the update’s changes, an Android 8.1 Developer Preview, and the Android 8.1 release window for Nexus and Pixel devices.
Now that Android 8.1 is confirmed we want to take you through a few things you need to know, right now, about Google’s first major Android Oreo update.
Will My Device Get Android 8.1 Oreo?
Google’s Android 8.1 Oreo update will be the first maintenance release for the operating system. Google designated it as MR1 in its announcement. Fortunately, it looks like all Nexus and Pixel devices running Android Oreo will get the software.
The Android 8.1 Oreo update is confirmed for the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Pixel C, Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL.
Android 8.1 Release Date
Last year, Google released its Android 7.1 Nougat update alongside its Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones. Android 7.0 rolled out in August (like Android 8.0) and Android 7.1 rolled out in October. Google’s doing things a bit differently this year.
Google’s Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL arrived on October 19th and the official Android 8.1 release date is confirmed for an unknown date in December.
Android 8.1 Developer Preview
Google’s released its Android 8.1 Developer Preview giving Nexus and Pixel users a chance to try the software ahead of its public release.
Those interested in trying the Developer Preview can obtain it in one of two ways. You can enroll your device in automatic OTA system updates through Google’s Android Beta Program. This is the most straightforward way to get the Android 8.1 update on your Nexus or Pixel.
Or, if you prefer to manually install software, you can download the appropriate Android 8.1 Developer Preview system image and flash to your device.
Android 8.1 Update: What’s New
The update is in beta which means an official change log is out of reach. That said, we know quite a bit about the Android 8.1 update’s changes.
The current version of Android 8.1 Oreo includes several key improvements to Notifications and Autofill. Here’s the change log for the first developer preview:
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.
This is the first Android 8.1 beta so the change log can, and probably will, change ahead of the update’s release in December.
November Android Oreo Update
The December release means Google will release at least one, probably two, security patches before Android 8.1 officially arrives for Nexus and Pixel devices.
The company’s November patch, slated for release on November 6th, will bring more than just the usual security updates for Pixel phones. It’ll have at least one key bug fix on board.
For more on the November Android Oreo update, take a look at our roundup.
Nexus 5X Android 8.1 Oreo Impressions & Performance
Before we get into an early look at the update's performance on the Nexus 5X, a few notes about the installation process.
The first Android 8.1 Developer Preview is a fairly sizable download, 895MB if you're moving from the latest Android Oreo build. It will likely take you three minutes or so to download over a fast Wi-Fi network. The installation took about six minutes on our device.
We recommend putting aside 15-20 minutes of quiet time to monitor the download and the installation for problems. If you're installing a Developer Preview for the first time, you might want to put aside 30+ minutes to get the job done.
We've been using Android 8.1 Oreo on the Nexus 5X for a little awhile now and so far, the update is performing well in key areas like battery life, connectivity, and UI speed. We've also been testing our core apps and services.
Battery drain is a common issue on beta software, but we haven't noticed anything on our Nexus 5X. Battery life is still about the same as it was on Android 8.0 Oreo.
If you do start to encounter battery life issues, take a look at our guide to fixing bad battery life or consider downgrading to official software.
We've been able to connect the Nexus 5X to multiple routers including eero. Speeds are fast and reliable. We've also successfully connected the Nexus 5X to several Bluetooth devices including headphones and speakers.
The Nexus 5X feels snappy with Android 8.1 on board. It's still early, but animations and transitions are smooth and we haven't experienced any lag or general sluggishness.
The only issue we've encountered during our short time with Android 8.1 is a random reboot. The phone random rebooted itself while we were using Chrome. If that's the only issue we see during the beta process we'll be in good shape for the final release. We're obviously not counting on that though.
Android 8.1 is working out nicely, but we've only used it for a few hours. If you're feeling leery, you probably should wait for long term feedback or, in some cases, for Google to roll out the final version of the Nexus 5X's Android 8.1 update.