Oddly enough, most Android phones aren’t running the latest iteration of the platform. In fact, according to Statista, as of September 2017 the Android market share was dominated by Marshmallow (6.0) at the top, followed by:

  • Lollipop (5.1)
  • KitKat (4.4)
  • Lollipop (5.0)
  • Nougat (7.0)

One must turn to Google’s own stats to see where Oreo (8.0) lands in the version market share. As it stands, Oreo is in use by .5% of devices. That does make sense, as so many hold onto their devices (devices that aren’t capable of running the latest iteration of the OS). Nevertheless, everyone in IT wants to know about the future, not the past. To that end, it’s always good to be up to speed on what is coming down the pike; said pike is currently filled with delicious Oreo version 8.1. Generally speaking, those .1 releases tend to focus on bug fixes from the major update, as opposed to bringing new features to light. Android 8.1 does offer a couple of exceptions to that general rule.

When will I get 8.1?

Of course, there’s no telling when Oreo 8.1 will land on your device. My daily driver, Essential PH-1 is still running Nougat (7.1.1), while my OnePlus 3 is associated with the OnePlus Beta program for 8, and currently running 8.0.0. If you happen to be a Pixel/Pixel 2 owner, you’re in luck and 8.1 has already started rolling out. Pixel 2 owners are also getting a special upgrade to the device camera (more on that in a bit).

But what changes are coming to Android 8.1? Let’s take a look.

Visual Core

This is the big update for the Pixel 2 camera. The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL already sport the best cameras of any mobile device on the planet. However, when they were released a special chipset called “Visual Core” was dormant. Visual Core includes eight Image Processing Unit cores and 512 Arithmetic Logic Units. When you combine Visual Core with the Pixel 2 AI, the HDR+ processing process is five times faster and uses one tenth of the energy. What this ultimately means is third-party camera apps will gain access to the blazing fast HDR+ feature on the devices. With Android 8.1, Visual Core is finally unlocked.

It should be noted, however, that although Visual Core will be unlocked in 8.1, the option isn’t enabled by default. Users must enable the Developer Options by going to Settings | System | About Phone and tapping the build number until a notification pops up to inform you that you are “Now a Developer.” Within the Developer options, go to Debugging and enable Camera HAL HDR+.

That “best in breed” camera you have in your hands is now even better.

Say ‘Cheese-burger’

Remember the shock that spread through the digiverse in 2017? What might have been the single most scandalous story to hit the news cycles? That’s right, I’m talking about Burgergate. Google designed the cheeseburger emoji with, gasp, the cheese below the patty. Burger aficionados know that design removes the all-important barrier to moisture from the bun.

Who am I kidding? All that need be said is Google redesigned a single emoji.


The other notable changes

As you might expect, there aren’t a plethora of major changes (especially ones that steal the spotlight from Mr. Cheeseburger). However, there are some important minor updates and fixes to come. For instance:

  • Battery life of Bluetooth devices: If you have a Bluetooth device connected to your smartphone, you’ll now be able to see how much charge remains in the connected device from within the Quick Settings shade.
  • Safer Browsing: This is a new feature that will allow third-party applications to detect WebView attempts that point to malicious URLs.
  • Fingerprint security: It will now be possible to configure your device to disable the fingerprint scanner, once an unregistered fingerprint attempts multiple times to unlock the device.
  • Audio: A issue has been fixed, wherein the Nexus 5X wasn’t able to play audio through the device speaker. For Pixel 2 and 2 XL devices, the distorted audio while streaming issue has been fixed.
  • Notifications per second: Applications are now restricted to pushing one notification sound per second.

That’s all folks

Android 8.1 isn’t bringing much to the table, but what it does bring is actually pretty important. Both the Safer Browsing and Fingerprint security offer security improvements, whereas the Bluetooth battery life feature keeps users abreast of how much power their connected devices contain. And anyone with a Pixel 2 or 2 XL will enjoy the improved camera performance.

And of course … CHEESEBURGER!!!!!