Just earlier, it was revealed that Google’s upcoming Android update will be named Android Pie. It has, until now, been referred to as Android P due to the company’s policy of using alphabetically sequential product name initials.
With Android Pie, the company will be introducing a long-awaited gestures-based navigation system, along with a wide spate of refinements to the user interface. Here are all the additions Google has packed into Android Pie OS, and what they mean for you.
1. Gesture-based Navigation
Google’s efforts to avert user furore is evident with their choice to hide this major new feature in the menu. Disabled by default, gesture navigations brings the intuition of gesture-based navigation commands we’ve seen on the iPhone X.
Represented by a single horizontal bar on the bottom, the new navigation interface still takes up valuable screen real estate, negating a major potential advantage of this new feature.
Tapping on the bar brings you home, which is represented by a new animation. The application closes with a motion to the left, as compared to the zooming animation we’ve seen on previous iterations of Android. This helps lead users into the Overview feature, where open applications are displayed side-by-side.
As on previous iterations, swiping left and right in Overview helps to navigate between open applications, but users are now able to scroll between the apps by dragging the bar left and right too.
The Overview screen is triggered by swiping up slightly from the bar. Otherwise, a full swipe would trigger the app drawer instead. That is my second gripe with Google’s Android Pie implementation of the system: ambiguous gestures might indeed be solved over time through muscle memory.
But constantly switching between phones, or usage in different scenarios (performing an urgent task with your non-dominant hand, or with wet hands) would prove difficult.
Sliding the home bar left and right also instantly scrolls among your open application, which gives you haptic feedback to provide a more intuitive experience. Releasing the finger at your app of choice returns you to its interface.
Again, though this feature is useful, users are still limited to quick switching between the current and the last app used. The iPhone X, for comparison, is able to switch to any open application by swiping on the bottom bar.
The back button, which has disappeared, will reappear in situations and contexts where it can be used.
The lowdown: the new system is a step in the right direction, but misses out on maximising screen utility. The contextual back button is a smart idea, but Xiaomi’s implementation beats it by a mile: swipe up to access the homepage, swipe up and hold to access the Overview interface, and swipe from the left or right edge to go back.
2. Improved Multitasking
Multitasking has come to a new point on the Android platform. While split-screen has been around for quite a while, its true usefulness has been limited due to the on-screen keyboard taking up most of the display.
Thus, when Google introduced the toggle between the last used app, which is accessed by double-tapping the overview button (the one that brings up your live apps), it was met with great fanfare.
Android Pie, thankfully, preserves this feature, which can be accessed by swiping the home bar to the left. It actually even goes one step further, by allowing users to copy text in the overview screen without having to open up the application.
3. Smart Little Features Abound
While still appearing as a tile in the menu section of the pull-down notifications shade, tilting the screen prompts a rotate icon to appear on the navigations bar. This allows you to quickly flip the phone when you need to show your friends pictures from that awesome holiday you just had.
The volume slider can be accessed when pressing the volume keys, but this time, it appears vertically right next to the volume controls, allowing you to easily manipulate it with your thumb.
The power menu, prompted by holding the power button, now includes an option to snap a screenshot. These screenshots can also be instantly edited by tapping the image as it appears, allowing users to immediately edit and share images without having to dive into the gallery.
This continues to Android Pie’s App Actions, which gives users buttons on their home menu depending on the context. For example, connecting your headphones will put Spotify and calls on home screen, just a touch away. Launching your ride-hailing app like Lyft will immediately give you prices for a ride home or to work.
Location-based suggestions also come in helpful: the OS learns your habits and gives you navigation information for the commute to your workplace and your favourite audiobook just a touch away in the morning. Reaching work, your most commonly used workplace apps will be suggested instead.
4. We think usage limitation is pointless, but that’s just us
Following the trend we have observed in the tech world lately, Android Pie bakes in (pun intended) app usage statistics and an option to limit the time spent on specific apps.
There are plenty of applications available in the Play Store that does this, and we can see why some might find this essential to their productivity (and indeed, sanity). However, we’re still pretty perplexed: whatever happened to good old discipline?
They’ve also added a Wind Down mode to the Do Not Disturb function that was present on the previous iteration of Android, Oreo. In addition to muting notifications, Wind Down schedules your phone to prepare you for rest by fading the screen to greyscale. This is meant to discourage users from interacting with their phone for long periods, but we think this is just plain troublesome.
Android Pie shakes up the design language we have all become familiar with by adding a pop of blue. This is useful in identifying activated functions and settings. Most notably, the quick-access menu section the notifications shade now features a blue circle when a setting is activated.
Other design features they’ve added include a new (at least, to Android) magnifying glass feature when you press on your text field. This allows you to more accurately append letters between the ones you’ve already typed out.
The always-on lock screen now features a percentage indicator, which lets users figure out if their phone is fully charged without needing to wake up their phone.
The clock has also been moved from the right to the left, and the notifications bar up top has also been truncated. This means that fewer notification icons can appear, presumably to accommodate the growing number of Android devices that sport notches. The extended row of notifications icons can still be viewed by pulling the shade down.
The notifications cards are now rounded to match the rounded corners seen on most Android phones, too.
The full list of additions Android Pie brings can be found at the Android website here.