Google has released the Android P developer preview, continuing the trend of a March release for the next version of its mobile operating system. At this point, it’s still extremely early for this version of Android, so we certainly shouldn’t expect it to be stable. However, it does give app developers and Android enthusiasts a chance to try it out.
You’re probably already aware, but just a reminder: don’t install the Android P developer preview on your main device yet. Google and the Android team both released details on the developer preview.
Perhaps the biggest change in the Android P developer preview is the addition of support for that iPhone X-like notch so many smartphone makers are trying to imitate. Google describes this feature as “display cutout support,” and it basically just allows developers to see how their apps will work on an Android phone that sports a notch.
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Mobile World Congress brought quite a selection of Android devices that tried to mimic the iPhone X by building in a notch, so it’s probably a good thing that the Android team is catering to this trend fast. The Android P developer preview includes seamless support for the cutout so that it can manage features like the height of the status bar so that content is separated from the notch. Developers can also try out some new APIs to figure out whether a particular device has a cutout and if so, what size and shape it is. Then they can experiment further with how their apps will work with that cutout in place.
The Android P developer preview includes an easy way to simulate a cutout on any device it’s being run on. The Google team recommends that developers test their apps with various cutouts so that they can make sure their apps show up correctly on devices that have them.
Another notable change in the Android P developer preview is improvements in notifications for messages. The Android team has prioritized function and visibility for the notifications in their new MessagingStyle notification, which will allow users to reply to messages inside the notifications themselves. Images will also appear in the notifications, and smart replies will also be included, making it fast and easy to send standard responses to messages from the notifications. The developer preview also includes notification channels so users can customize various channels by blocking them individually.
The Android P developer preview also includes multi-camera support allowing users to access multiple streams at the same time from more than one physical camera. This feature is aimed at devices with dual-cameras, either on the front or back. The Android team explains that being able to access both cameras at the same time enables developers to create features that aren’t possible using only one camera, like bokeh effects, stereo vision and “seamless zoom.”
The API in the preview version also allows developers to select either a logical or “fused camera stream” which switches automatically between multiple cameras. Given how quickly dual-lens cameras are becoming a standard on high-end flagship smartphones, it makes sense that the Android team would work on this aspect.
The Android P developer preview includes many other improvements under the hood, which developers will just have to experiment with to learn more about. At this point, the OS version is in its earliest stage, so there’s only support for the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL. The developer preview version also still isn’t in the Android Beta program, which means it must be installed manually.