Having already released the first official version of Android 8.0 Oreo, Google has just announced that a public beta of the first "dot" update is on its way. Android 8.1's first developer preview and beta is here.  

There are two different routes you can take if you want it: the traditional developer route, or the super-friendly Android Beta Program route. Read on to find out more.

Android 8.1: What is a public beta?

A public beta is a "work in progress" build that is released prior to a consumer rollout of the final software. Google offers the beta to collect and incorporate user feedback.

The aim is really to tease out problems with specific devices and allow developers to update apps to support Android 8.1's new features or changes, if there are any.

Android 8.1: Public beta supported devices

In the initial phases Google is offering Android 8.1 for:

So far there's no mention of any other handsets. Unlike last year, Google hasn't included any non-Nexus/Pixel phones. Saying that, we wouldn't rule out seeing another phone or two being included, particularly on the budget end of the scale, to test Android Go, the company's version of O designed for less powerful, affordable phones. 

Android 8.1: How can I get the public beta?

Android Beta Program

Google wants to make it as easy as possible for you to try Android 8.1 on a device, so it's offering the Android Beta Program again this year. It allows anyone enrolled to update their Android devices to the preview and receive over-the-air updates. It's very much like Microsoft's Windows Insider programme.

The same beta program was used for Android Nougat and is very simple, meaning you don't have to get involved in flashing updates or anything complicated.

Here's how to get started:

  1. Visit android.com/beta to sign-up to the Android Beta Program.
  2. Sign into your Google account when prompted.
  3. Your eligible devices will be listed on the next page, click to enrol in the Beta Program.
  4. Updates will arrive over the air direct to your device.

That's it, it's so simple. So far, the update hasn't arrived yet on our team Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL, but sometimes these updates take a day or so to show up naturally over-the-air. 

Once you're enrolled, you'll continue to be updated to every new version of the Android 8 Oreo beta automatically, over-the-air. 

If you don't want those updates, or if you decide you no longer want the beta software, you can follow the steps above, but then click to "unenroll device".

It's important to note that if you've used the Android Beta Program before and enrolled your device for the Android Nougat program, you will need to re-enroll your phone. You won't automatically get upgraded to Android O. Follow the steps above to make sure you keep getting beta software. 

Traditional system image

The more traditional way to get the Android 8.1 developer preview is to go the system image/manual flashing route. You can download images from Google and then flash them onto your device, but it will be a fresh install, with everything erased. Here's the site where you can download them.

  • Pixel 2
  • Pixel 2 XL
  • Pixel
  • Pixel XL
  • Nexus 5X
  • Pixel C

This page details how to flash while also providing step-by-step instructions that'll get you going.

Keep in mind flashing a system image will wipe all the information off your device, so ensure you back up important data beforehand. Also, flashing additional Android O preview images will cause more data wipes, and if go this route, you will not get automatic OTA updates like you do with the Android Beta Program (as above).