News: 21 Cool New Features & Changes in Android P

21 Cool New Features & Changes in Android P

Even though most phones don't have Oreo yet, Google has now released the first developer preview build of Android P. It's only available on Google's own Pixel devices for now, but we're already digging into it to highlight all of the features and changes.

There's no word yet on exactly what "P" stands for — Pie, Popsicle, Pudding, Pineapple Upside Down Cake — it's anyone's guess at this point. But we're all but certain this will officially be Android 9.0, and we know for sure that it's bringing lots of changes along with it. So if you have a Pixel or if you're just curious about the future of Android, we'll highlight all the major new features below.

1. Support for Notches

We learned from Bloomberg a while back that Android P would include support for the iPhone X-style notches, but now it's official. With the release of Developer Preview 1, we now know how Android P will handle the various implementations of notches — check it out here.

Images by Jake Peterson/Gadget Hacks

2. Turn-by-Turn Directions Indoors

With Android P, Android devices gain support for the IEEE 802.11mc Wi-Fi protocol. This wireless protocol (also known as Wi-Fi Round-Trip-Time) enables indoor GPS-style tracking.

With the proper hardware support, apps can use Wi-Fi Round-Trip-Time (RTT) to measure the distance between RTT-capable Access Points. Using this information, the app can then determine your location within a building and provide you turn-by-turn directions indoors. The new RTT API can also use a multilateration (MLAT) algorithm to estimate your device's position when your device detects three or more Access Points.

Not only does this API make navigation in bigger indoor areas (such as malls) easier, it also can be used to improve voice assistants. Instead of telling your voice assistant, "Turn off the lights in the Bedroom," you could instead say "Turn off the lights," and the assistant would use RTT to determine your location in your home (pending your mesh router is RTT-capable) and turn off only the lights in that particular area.

3. New Transition Animations

Not only has Google added some color to the Settings menu in Android P, but transitions animations have changed. When entering into different options, an animation similar to blinds rolling up occurs, reflecting the action. However, when returning from the option, the animation is reversed, reflected by an animation of blinds being pulled down. Check out the GIFs below for a visual representation, or read more about it here.

Images by Dallas Thomas/Gadget Hacks

4. Volume Rocker Controls Media by Default

A common pet peeve of the Android community has been how the volume rocker operates. By default, the volume rocker will adjust the volume of the ringtone first and only adjust the media volume after a song or video has played. While there are ways to change this (such as this method), our hope was for Android to eventually change the default operation. Well, Google heard us and it seems Android P contains this change.

With Android P, media controls are the default volume adjusted when using the volume rocker. In the new volume menu, Android P includes a toggle to adjust the ringer as well. With one tap, users can quickly toggle between "vibrate" and "mute." For an in-depth breakdown of all the changes, check out the link below.

5. Multi-Camera Support

Android P allows developers to access streams from two different physical cameras simultaneously using the multi-camera API. This API requires either dual rear cameras (which most smartphones have nowadays ) or dual front cameras. Using the multi-camera API, features such as seamless zoom by using each camera stream and improved bokeh effects are now possible in third-party apps.

Android P also includes several additional camera improvements, such as a new Session parameter which will reduce the time need to capture to take a photo, and an API for display-based flash support. Additionally, Android P includes support for external USB/UVC cameras.

6. HTTPS Is the Default for Apps

When you browse the internet, there are two protocols that a website can use: HTTP and HTTPS. The main difference between the two is that the latter is encrypted, which means your data is safe. Unfortunately, not all apps utilize this protocol for communication, which opens you to potential dangers. Well according to XDA, all applications built for Android (starting with Android P) will send and receive data via HTTPS by default. This ensures your data is better protected as you communicate with the app's servers.

7. Restoring Your Device Requires a Passcode

Android P will now encrypt your backups using the device's PIN, pattern, or password. Therefore, in order to restore your device with this data, users will first be required to input one of these authentication methods to "unlock" the data for usage. This adds another layer of protection for your data.

8. Unified Fingerprint Authentication Dialog

Many apps use the fingerprint scanner as a way to speed up authentication into your account. With Android P, the operating system will standardize the look, feel, and placement of the fingerprint authentication dialog, providing a more uniform experience no matter what app you are using.

9. Lockdown Mode

Android P allows you to temporarily disable biometric authentication methods and Smart Lock. Especially in a situation of distress, you can momentarily prevent someone from forcing you to unlock your device using these methods (such a law enforcement requiring you to scan your fingerprint). With these methods disabled, a person is required to use your PIN, pattern, or password to unlock your device.

Image by Justin Meyers/Gadget Hacks

10. Background Apps Won't Have Mic Access

It looks like Android P might actually stand for "privacy," as it appears Google is adding a few features to strengthen user protection. One such protection is preventing idle background apps from using your microphone. While Android Oreo did limited background services, Android P is taking even more steps to ensure that malicious apps don't record your conversation without you knowing.

Discovered by XDA, when an app is installed, it is given a UID, a unique identifier which is never modified. When the app, identified using the UID, enters into an idle state, Android's audio system will prevent any access to the microphone to record audio. If an app attempts to gain access, Android will send it empty data.

While Android has introduced protection before for this specific problem (Android 6.0 Marshmallow blocked default microphone permission), this additional measure improves the automated process and better protect its users.

11. Background Apps Won't Have Camera Access Either

In addition to preventing idle apps access to your microphone, Android P is also preventing access to your camera. The process is similar to the mic, utilizing the UID to identify apps. According to XDA, when the UID is idle, Android will generate an error message and stop access if it tries to use the camera.

These two additions are necessary steps to clean up Android's image of being unsafe. While malware and vulnerabilities will still exist, by adding this to native code, the average user transversing the ecosystem of Android will be a little bit safer.

12. Alert Tone When Your Call Is Being Recorded

Android already supports call recording. However, OEMs rarely enable the feature on their phones because of privacy and legal issues. In cases where phones are able to record calls, Android P will include an alert tone which informs all parties that the conversation is being recorded, according to XDA.

When Android detects the use of the call recording API, the system will play a tone every fifteen seconds, alerting the other party that they are being taped. The inclusion of this tone makes Android's call recording API more in line with some states' two-party consent laws, which require both parties to be aware of the recording for it to be legal.

13. Autofill in Browsers

One limitation of Android Oreo's implementation of Autofill was its inability to work with browsers. Well, with Android P, it looks like this will change. According to XDA, Android P addresses this limitation and allows password managers like LastPass to populate login info into browsers. The developers of both password managers and browsers will have to update their apps to integrate the new code. Dashlane has already implemented the update, and currently, autofill is working with Chrome.

14. Hidden Signal Strength Numbers

For those of you who like seeing your cellular networks strength in decibel-milliwatts (dBm), you're not going to be happy. Another feature discovered by XDA, Android P will now allow carriers to restrict the numerical value of signal strength.

While these numbers aren't typically viewed by average users, they do give more accuracy on your current signal. And this information can help find the cause of poor reception. The only solace in the matter is that this limitation in Android P will be confided to carrier-branded devices so unlocked phones will be unaffected.

Image by Jon Knight/Gadget Hacks

15. Modifiable LTE Signal Bars

If the missing dBm wasn't bad enough, according to XDA, Android P will include the ability to alter how LTE bars are displayed to users. One modification possible is not requiring dBm values to display max signal strength. By allowing carriers to alter this, users could be presented with a disingenuous LTE signal. And unlike the hidden signal strength numbers, this isn't limited to just carrier-branded phones.

Image by Jon Knight/Gadget Hacks

16. Messaging Enhancements

Messaging apps received a number of improvements with Android P that enhance the overall experience. For example, developers can now make images viewable in the notification shade for incoming messages. Smart Reply is also available, allowing you to quickly reply to messages using suggested responses created by analysis of the incoming messages.

(1) Images in Notification, (2) Smart Reply. Images via Android Developers

Developers can also update their apps to save unfinished messages as drafts so that you can finish typing later. Currently, Android Messages supports all these features, but developers can build these features into third-party apps.

17. Intelligent Notification Channels

In Android P, Notification Channels are even more useful. According to Ron Amadeo, next to notifications you typically dismiss will be a red minus sign. If you tap it, it will say "You usually dismiss these notifications. Keep showing them?" You will then be presented with an option to "Stop notifications" or Keep showing." By choosing the former, you can block those type of notifications from appearing on your device.

Images by Dallas Thomas/Gadget Hacks

18. Screenshot Editing

With Android P, Google has finally leveled the playing field when it comes to screenshots. With Apple introducing the feature in iOS 11, you knew it was only a matter of time before Google brought the feature to Android. With Android P, you can now edit your screenshots immediately after taking them. While the feature is a little barebones in Developer Preview 1, expect both Google and OEMs to build upon the feature in future releases.

Just like the iPhone, Android might soon be able to edit screenshots. Image by Justin Meyers/Gadget Hacks

19. An Easier Way to Take Screenshots

With Android P, taking a screenshot is no longer limited to the power + volume down button combination. Recognizing the difficulty of this combo (especially with stuck buttons), Google introduces an additional way to take screenshots — by using the power menu.

By adding the ability to take screenshots to the power menu, you'll no longer have to place your hands awkwardly thanks to your phone's button placement. Additionally, Android P takes us one step closer to a button-free smartphone future, as taking screenshots now doesn't require the use of hardware keys at all.

20. Lock Landscape Mode

For those of us who hate the accidental rotation of their phone's display after sudden movement, Android has always included the ability to lock the screen in portrait mode. However, let's say you lock your screen in portrait mode but want to read a comic which is easier to view in landscape. Currently, the only way to switch orientation was to re-enable auto rotation from the Quick Settings. With Android P, this just got a whole lot easier.

First discovered by Android Police, when you lock your display orientation and shift your device to landscape, a fourth icon will appear in your navigation bar to left of the back button (in the default layout). Selecting this button will change the orientation to landscape and lock the rotation. When you want to return to portrait mode, you can rotate your phone then select the same button to adjust your display and lock the position.

Image by Dallas Thomas/Gadget Hacks

21. Battery Percentage in Ambient Display

This update is pretty straightforward and already included in Galaxy devices running Android 8.0 Oreo. The Ambient Display will display the current battery percentage. This issue has been heavily sought out since 2017. A user requested the feature in June 2017 with about 3,800 individuals showing support for this addition. Many people will be happy with its inclusion.

Image by Dallas Thomas/Gadget Hacks

Is That It for Android P Features?

With Android P, it looks Google is focusing on under-the-hood changes which improve the overall experience for the user. While there are rumors of a visual overall, there has been nothing concrete so far. Once we know something for certain, we'll make sure to add it to this list.

We have some time before the start of Google I/O on May 8, 2018, so stay tuned to Gadget Hacks for the latest news and rumors about Android P. Are you excited about Android P? What is a feature you hope they include? Let us know in the comment below.

Cover image by Jon Knight/Gadget Hacks


#4-8 is information discovered by XDA-Developers but with no citation given. #3 is already outdated as the issue tracker was updated and the statement retracted.

I just wanted to apologize for my error. It was an honest mistake. I didn't mean to address this so late, I only now saw your comment. I added the links to XDA and updated the issue tracker. Thanks for letting me know.

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