Android P is shaping up to be a substantial update for Google’s smartphone operating system, with new AI-powered features, a major navigation change, and a suite of tools aimed at curing smartphone addiction.
Google released a developer preview of Android P in March, but announced many more features on Tuesday during its I/O developers conference. The update will become generally available later this year.
On Android P, Google is using its AI chops to improve battery life. By predicting which apps you’re likely to use at a given time, and shutting down other apps that are running in the background, Google says it can reduce CPU usage by 30%. Android P will also learn how uses adjust screen brightness in different situations, and will attempt make those changes on its own.
Third-party developers will get to tap into Google’s AI powers as well. A set of tools called ML Kit will help them add features like on-device image labeling, face detection, text recognition, landmark detection, and smart replies to their apps.
Getting things done faster is another major focus for Android P. A feature called “App Actions” will suggest shortcuts from third-party apps, both within the Android app launcher and from the search bar. Users might be able to quickly launch a Google Play Music artist from the app launcher, for instance, or order movie tickets from Fandango while searching for Avengers: Infinity War.
There’s also a feature called Slices, which are similar to App Actions, but will allow parts of an app’s interface to appear elsewhere in the Android interface. While searching for Lyft, for instance, you might see a “Home” button along with estimated travel time, distance, and cost.
To further speed up navigation, Android P will take a page from the iPhone X and offer a swipe-based menu bar. In place of the home button, users will see a pill-shaped icon at the bottom of the screen, which they can swipe up to reveal recent and suggested apps. Another upward swipe will reveal the app tray. Users can also swipe horizontally on the pill to switch between recent apps. (Phone makers won’t have to use this menu bar, but it’ll be available by default on Pixel and Android One phones.)
As usual, Android P will also include some smaller—but still pleasant—improvements. Pressing a phone’s volume keys will no longer adjust ringer volume by default. Instead, they’ll control media volume, so the phone doesn’t start blaring unexpectedly from video or music playback. Quick access to vibrate and silent options will still be available, and the entire volume control slider will move from the top of the phone to the side, right next to the physical buttons.
Rotation lock will become less of an annoyance as well. Android P will automatically detect when the phone’s in landscape mode and offer a shortcut button to switch orientation.
Saving you from your phone
Finally, Android P will tackle the issue of smartphone addiction. The Dashboard feature will let users monitor how much time they’ve spent in each app. App developers can enhance the dashboard with more granular statistics if they wish. (YouTube, for instance, will display total watch time across all platforms.) If you’re using an app too much, you can set a time limit, after which the app icon will turn grey to discourage further use.
Android P will also add a feature called “Shush,” which automatically activates Do No Disturb when the phone is lying screen-side down. A new mode called Wind Down is meant to discourage phone use before bedtime, turning on Do Not Disturb and switching the screen to grayscale.
Android P will launch later this year, but it’s available now as a public beta on 11 phones, and not just those made by Google. In addition to the Pixel and Pixel 2, the beta can also be downloaded on the Essential phone, Nokia 7 Plus, Oppo R15 Pro, Sony Xperia XZ2, Vivo X21UD and X21, and Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S. Google says the wider availability is thanks to Project Treble, an initiative it launched last year to accelerate he Android upgrade process at the chipset level.
Jared Newman has been helping folks make sense of technology for over a decade, writing for PCWorld, TechHive, and elsewhere. He also publishes two newsletters, Advisorator for straightforward tech advice and Cord Cutter Weekly for saving money on TV service.