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article imageAndroid O is almost ready for you to start using

By James Walker     Jul 25, 2017 in Technology
The release of the next version of Android is now close to being launched as Google has launched the final developer preview of Android O. This means the operating system is now near-final and almost ready for consumer use.
Google unveiled Android O back in March. This year's Android version was launched in developer preview form earlier than usual as Google has extended the public development phase so it can collect more feedback. The sweet-themed name of the release is currently unknown.
Google this week launched the fourth and final Developer Preview build of the operating system. It brings another set of bug fixes, performance improvements and feature optimisations before the update rolls out publicly during the summer. Google will then follow-up on the release with a series of cumulative updates, as it has done in past years.
Notification channels in Android O
Notification channels in Android O
If you want to try out Android 8.0 today, this developer preview offers a stable way of doing so. Since the build is at release candidate status, there shouldn't be any major bugs or stability problems. All the new features should be working correctly, including the new power and performance tweaks that can extend your device's battery life.
Android O comes with several major changes that alter the functionality of your phone. Google has changed notifications again so apps can now publish alerts into "channels." These are like categories that you can turn on and off individually. Android's also getting support for picture-in-picture mode, letting you keep watching a video while in another app, and new APIs that let apps autofill information to each other, support adaptive icons and use new hardware features.
Adaptive icons in Android O
Adaptive icons in Android O
In its announcement post, Google encouraged developers to add support for these capabilities to their apps. The company noted that users with the latest version of Android tend to be the most active app consumers overall. Therefore, adding support for notification channels and picture-in-picture mode could help developers tap into a highly vocal group of users.
"Users running the latest versions of Android are typically among the most active in terms of downloading apps, consuming content and making purchases," said Google. "They're also more vocal about support for the latest Android features in their favorite apps. With Android O, users are anticipating features like notification channels and dots, shortcut pinning, picture-in-picture, autofill and others."
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As with previous Android releases in recent years, O's adoption is likely to be sluggish at best though. The long-running fragmentation issues in the Android ecosystem are still a major hindrance at each new release, something Apple routinely takes aim at during its own iOS launches.
According to the latest figures, 2016's Android 7.0 Nougat has made it to just 9.5 percent of all active Android phones almost a year after launch. Unless your device has already got Nougat, don't hold your breath for O for too long.
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