Google’s confirmed the next version of Android Oreo and Android 8.1 should land for Pixel devices and select Nexus devices later this year.
The first major update to Google’s Android Oreo operating system is in the works. Android 8.1 Oreo missed the company’s Pixel 2 launch event in November, but Google’s confirmed a lengthy change log, an Android 8.1 Developer Preview for Nexus and Pixel devices, and the official 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.
Devices like the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P are getting older, but it looks like all Nexus and Pixel devices running Android 8.0 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 with an Android 7.1.1 release in early December. Google’s doing things a bit differently this year.
The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL arrived on October 19th and the official Android 8.1 release date will land sometime in December. The company hasn’t confirmed a specific date.
Google’s Android 8.1 release appears to be going as planned. The company recently released the Android 8.1 Developer Preview 2 and it still says it’s targeting a December release for the official software.
Rogers, a Canadian carrier, says Android 8.1 is coming soon though it hasn’t confirmed a specific date.
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.
If you prefer to manually install software on your Pixel or Nexus, 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 from 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.
Beta testers have also discovered some additional changes including a colored nav bar in Settings that dims, a new power menu design, a new Oreo icon in System Notifications, and automatic dark and light themes. Google’s brought some of these features over from the Pixel 2.
Google recently released a second Android 8.1 beta and the Developer Preview 2 fixes several bugs and problems from the first release. Highlights include the activation of Pixel Visual Core for Pixel 2 devices and a new Hamburger emoji. The cheese is now in the right place.
Google says the final version of Android 8.1 will include new features, APIs (API level 27), and the company’s latest optimizations, bug fixes, and security updates.
December Android Oreo Update
Unless Android 8.1 arrives tomorrow, Nexus and Pixel users will get one more security patch before the Android 8.1 update arrives.
Google typically rolls out its monthly security patch on the first Monday of the month, but the December security patch will roll out on Tuesday, December 5th.
If you’re interested in the security patches coming to your Nexus or Pixel device this month, you can take a look at the full list of changes right here.
March Nexus 5X Android 8.1 Oreo Impressions
Before we get into an early look at the update's performance on the Nexus 5X, a few notes about the installation process.
If you're currently running the Android 8.1, and we assume most of you are, it shouldn't take you too long to transition from an older Android 8.1 build to this one.
It took us just a few minutes to download and sideload the software onto our Nexus 5X.
We've been using the March Android 8.1 Oreo on the Nexus 5X for a few days now and the update is performing well in key areas including battery life, connectivity, and UI speed.
Battery drain is a common Android problem, but we haven't noticed anything on our Nexus 5X. Battery life is about the same as it was on the last build.
If you do start to encounter battery life issues, take a look at our guide to fixing bad Android Oreo battery life.
We've been able to connect the Nexus 5X to multiple routers including eero mesh Wi-Fi. 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 the new Android 8.1 build on board. It's still early, but animations and transitions are smooth and we haven't experienced any lag or general sluggishness.
So far so good. That said, if you're feeling leery, you probably should wait for the OTA. If you're feeling especially nervous, wait for long-term feedback to arrive.