Google has publicly released Developer Preview 4—otherwise known as Beta 3—of Android P (9.0) this week, detailing the update in its release notes. This release primarily brings bug fixes and performance improvements in an effort to solidify the OS before it is released, which Google estimates as Q3 2017. Of note, Android Oreo (8.0) was released on August 21, 2017, while Android Nougat (7.0) was released on August 21, 2016, making a late-August release seem likely.
As with other releases, Developer Preview 4 is available on Google's Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel, and Pixel XL phones, as well as the Essential Phone, Nokia 7 Plus, OnePlus 6, Oppo R15 Pro, Sony Xperia XZ2, Vivo X21UD, Vivo X21, and Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S. For users without any of these devices, an image is also available in the Android Emulator. Users with Developer Preview 3 already installed will shortly receive an Over-the-Air update with the preview.
According to the release notes, Google considers this release as intended for "early adopters and developers for daily use, development, or compatibility testing," noting with boilerplate text that "this release may have various stability, battery, or performance issues on supported devices," and that some apps—both Google and third-party apps—may have difficulties running on Developer Preview 4.
The user-facing interface changes for Developer Preview 4 are somewhat minimal. In the launcher, the dark launcher visual theme added in Oreo 8.1 on the second-generation Pixel phones—which had been controlled by the color of the selected wallpaper—now has a manual toggle, according to Android Police. This is not the oft-requested "night mode" that has appeared and disappeared in Android Developer Previews for the last several years, as this only affects the launcher. The feature watchers at Android Police also noted changes to the controversial and largely ill-received gesture navigation, including making previews in the app switcher larger than before.
SEE: System update policy (Tech Pro Research)
Android P brings a number of a changes to the OS, foremost among them built-in support for screen cutouts, similar to the iPhone X, the release notes said. OS-level support would make it easier for device manufacturers to support these screens in Android devices, though it is yet to be seen if this design trend will continue to persist, or if this will wind up as another short-lived fad.
Dave Burke, Google's vice president of engineering for Android, noted in a recent blog post that this version of Android P "takes us very close to what you'll see in the final version of Android P, due later this summer." As such, business users and developers should work with the preview to make sure that their apps are fully compatible and that they can support the latest OS update within their company's device management protocols.
According to the release announcement from Burke, the Android engineering team will answer technical questions about Android P in a Reddit AMA on /r/androiddev on July 19 from 11:30 - 1 PM (Pacific Time).
The big takeaways for tech leaders:
- Google has publicly released Developer Preview 4—otherwise known as Beta 3—of Android P (9.0) this week.
- The Android P Developer Preview 4 is open for anyone, but is intended by Google for use by early adopters and developers to be able to test apps.
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James Sanders is a Writer for TechRepublic. Since 2013, he has been a regular contributor to TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research.