Oreo, Ontbijtkoek or Orange curd? Google releases Android O developer preview

Google has released the first developer preview of the next mobile operating system, Android O, but has yet to choose its full puddingy name.

For the moment, the team has only released a few of the features available through the latest version, though it seems to have set its targets on one of the most frustrating challenges for the mobile industry and users alike; battery life.

“Building on the work we began in Nougat, Android O puts a big priority on improving a user’s battery life and the device’s interactive performance,” the team said on its blog. “To make this possible, we’ve put additional automatic limits on what apps can do in the background, in three main areas: implicit broadcasts, background services, and location updates.”

The work here has been coined as Background Limits and will focus around reducing the strain placed on devices by apps operating unbeknown to the user. It’s not uncommon for users to be using several apps at once, though the new feature will limit what these apps can actually do by distinguishing between foreground and background apps.

To be a foreground app, it would have to meet one of the following conditions:

  • It has an activity visible to the user
  • It has a foreground service
  • The app is bound to another app which has met the foreground conditions. Such examples include wallpaper service or a voice or text service

Should none of these conditions be true, the app would be considered in the background and subject to the limitations of the new system.

Obviously developers can dictate how much functionality fluctuates, but it will lower the chances of these apps contributing to poor user experience on devices. By using JobScheduler, lets an app arrange to perform work when the app isn’t actively running, but does also give the system freedom to veto these jobs should it impact overall performance.

One way the team are attempting to improve battery life is through Broadcast Limitations. Occasionally, a user may notice several apps are receiving broadcasts simultaneously, resulting in poor performance. With the updated system, apps can no longer register broadcast receivers for implicit broadcasts (i.e. broadcast that does not target that app specifically/one sent to all registered users not necessarily just the ones impacted).

Location limitations is another way which will theoretically improve battery life. The new system will how frequently background apps can retrieve the user’s current location. As a starting point, background apps will be allowed to receive location updates only a few times each hour, though this will be adjusted dependent on feedback and impact on performance. The distinction is made in the same way as previously mentioned with the performance of foreground apps not being impacted.

Battery life is certainly an area which has plagued the industry over the last few years, though the problem is only going to get worse considering the increasing intensity of data on each app, as well as the trend of digitally native consumers refusing to simply concentrate on one thing at a time. It’s a simple but very effective update from the team.

Only one question remains, what are they going to call it?

Note: Ontbijtkoek is a Dutch spiced cake, often spiced with cloves, cinnamon, ginger, succade and nutmeg. Orange curd looks minging, but there aren’t many sweets beginning with an O.

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