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(Pocket-lint) - Google's Android Oreo operating system has been a faithful servant, but now Android 9 Pie is here.

That's right. Pie is the official name for Android P. The company first detailed Android P and its headlining features - such as a "Digital Wellbeing” dashboard and a new gesture-based navigation system - at Google I/O in May 2018. But in August 2018, it confirmed the name is Android 9 Pie. Google also announced the consumer-ready version of the software is available for Pixel and Essential phones.

Read on for more details about what's inside Android 9 Pie.

Android 9 Pie release date

  • Android 9 Pie is now available

Android 9 Pie is automatically releasing now for Pixel and Essential phones as an over-the-air-update. OnePlus 6 owners will start to see the update arriving from 10 October 2018, while the Xperia XZ3 is launching with the software on it right out of the box. 

As for when all other handsets will get the official Android 9 Pie release, Google said it'll come to devices that participated in Google's beta program sometime this autumn. Those include Android One, Sony Mobile, Xiaomi, HMD, Oppo and Vivo phones.

Android 9 Pie name

  • Again dessert-based
  • Called Android Pie

Google has given previous versions of Android names after dessert and a couple of them have been through commercial tie-ups including the previous version, Oreo. Older Android version names (versions 1.0 and 1.1 didn’t have release codenames) include:

  • Android 1.5 Cupcake
  • Android 1.6 Donut
  • Android 2.2 Eclair
  • Android 2.2 Froyo
  • Android 2.3 Gingerbread
  • Android 3.0 Honeycomb
  • Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • Android 8.0 Oreo

What do you think of the name Android Pie?

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Android 9 Pie features

  • Redesigned home launcher, notifications and settings
  • Better multiple camera support
  • Support for 'notch' devices

New Android navigation

The most immediately noticeable changes in the software are visible right from the home screen. Dragging down from the top of the screen reveals redesigned notifications cards, as well as a refreshed look for the quick settings tiles.

There's also a new system navigation with a single home button on the screen - it's very much like the iPhone X.

All apps and overview are combined into one - you can quickly get back to these screens.

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There are predicted apps at the bottom of the screen, plus, you can also scroll left and right on the home key so that you can switch between apps.

The Notification cards have rounded corners, and separated by subtle lines. Similarly, the toggles in quick settings make it clearer when functions are switched on, and give simple status clues. For instance, connected to Bluetooth headphones, the Bluetooth tile will show the battery level as well as the name of that connected device.

Better battery life

Battery life is also set to be a key focus of the upcoming Android 9 Pie operating system, with Adaptive Battery one of several new AI-enhanced features - designed to give "a more consistent battery experience".

These are similar to the efforts of many phone manufacturers to bring AI-enhanced technologies to the new phones of today.

"Adaptive battery uses on-device machine learning to learn which apps you'll use in the next few hours and which you'll, use [later]" said Google's Dave Burke, head of engineering for Android. "The results are really promising.

Burke says the engineering team has seen a 30 percent reduction in apps waking up the CPU thanks to the technology.

Adaptive Brightness also learns your own preferences and environment so you shouldn't need to adjust the brightness manually anywhere near as much.

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Predicting actions

Last year Android Oreo introduced a feature to predict which apps you want to use next, and now this is called App Actions - predicting what you actually might want to do next such as starting a workout or calling your Mum. You might also get a link to buy cinema tickets when you search for a movie.

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You can also see actions when you search for an app - like the price of a cab home when you search for your taxi app. This uses a developer feature called Slices.

Google says that last year's feature was able to correctly predict apps 60 percent of the time.

Google Lens on board

Google Lens is also now integrated into the camera app on all Android 9 Piehones so you can have explanations for everything you're looking at and it will recognise words and buildings. Screenshots are also being improved.

There's also new Multi-Camera API for devices with dual rear- or front-facing cameras. This should open up new capabilities for apps, so that they can access streams simultaneously from two or more cameras.

It can even enable a "fused camera stream" that auto-switches between two or more cameras. Developers should be able to create innovative features that are not possible with just a single camera.

Rotation and volume control

A new rotation button appears on the status bar so you can always get full control over your phone rotation even if you've locked the rotation previously.

Google says it has also worked on the volume controls in Android 9 Pie so there's less risk of you reducing your system volume when you just wanted to turn down a video.

When you press the volume button, this card pops in from the side of the display, with the option to switch audio outputs. It's pretty nifty, as is the new, more colourful and minimalist main Settings menu.

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Android 9 Pie Digital Wellbeing

A new Dashboard enables you to see how much time you've spent in apps as well as what you've been doing in each app.

You're also now able to set yourself time limits for time use. Do Not Disturb can now minimise the visual impact of notifications and sounds. By turning over your phone, Do Not Disturb will now automatically turn on. Of course, you can always get calls from key contacts.

There's also a new wind down mode to encourage you to switch off at night that fades the screen to grey and turns on Do Not Disturb. Google says Digital Wellbeing is a "long term theme for us".

Support for notches in Android 9 Pie

Google has added "display cutout" support in Android 9 Pie - an acceptance that iPhone X-like notches aren't just a flash in the pan.

Android P cutout support (Google/Pocket-lint)Android P Is Official Google Reveals Features Launches Dev Preview image 3

Using Android 9 Pie's new tools, developers can build their apps and experiences so that they respond well to these cutouts and not have to fret about design or information being hidden behind them.

Other Android 9 Pie features

Other notable Android 9 Pie features/tools include: rich messaging notifications that highlight who is messaging, shows full conversations, and allows attachments of photos and stickers and even suggested smart replies; and the ability for developers to take advantage of indoor positioning in their apps so that they can track users indoors - with permissions - using a technology called Wi-Fi Round-Trip Time (RTT).

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  • What is Google Assistant, how does it work, and which devices offer it?

Also, it seems that With Android 9 Pie, developers will be given the opportunity to use Google Assistant voice commands inside their third-party Android applications. This is a bit of a no brainer in our book. Google will surely want to make Assistant as open and flexible as possible.

Google has also added upgrades to video playback and image compression in Android 9 Pie, including support for HDR VP9 Profile 2 and HEIF.

Finally, Google has implemented various updates to autofill, the Neural Networks API, and power efficiency.

Writing by Dan Grabham and Maggie Tillman. Originally published on 12 February 2018.