Android 8 Oreo: 8 best features

We've explored the latest version of Google's operating system and found some exciting new things.

android o splash screen
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A sneak peek at Android O

Android Oreo has arrived, and while it likely hasn't landed on your phone yet, there are lots of reasons to get excited about its arrival. Android 8 might not be as jam-packed ras some previous Android releases, but there are some cool new features and tools that will make your apps even better.

Developers have been playing around with Oreo since May, so by the time it's ready for your phone, there should be tons of apps able to take advantage of all the new stuff.  So whether you're got a Pixel or are playing the waiting game, here are our 8 favorites features in Android Oreo:

android o settings
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Superior Settings

The most obvious front-facing change in Android Oreo is the Settings app. Not only does it have a new icon, it’s been revamped from the ground up, with a new look and smarter organization. And we’re hoping Google extends it to the rest of its apps, because it's vastly superior.

For one, the slide-out menu is gone, so all return navigation is done via the back button. It also steals a bit from its partners with a suggestions tab at the top, and the organization is more more condensed and logical (for example, data usage and Wi-Fi are bundled into Network & Internet). It makes navigating the app much more pleasant and should cut down on the number of times you need to search for something you can't find.

android o notification shade
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Cooler notification shade

We’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the notification shade. But thankfully Google understands that there’s room for improvement, and in Android Oreo it’s made another round of useful changes.

When you pull down, you’ll see more icons in the status bar, including battery and percentage, Wi-Fi and SD card status. It’s a subtle change, but a good one. Also Google has added more functionality to notifications. Long-press on one and you’ll get an option to disable notifications for that app rather than just silencing them. And when you swipe right you'll also see a new clock icon that lets you snooze it for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour. Again, this is a subtle change, but it’ll go a long way toward helping us keep the shade clutter-free.

android o notification categories
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Notification channels

Speaking of notifications, Google has revamped more than just the shade. In Android 8, notifications won't just be an all-or-nothing affair. You'll have more control over what you see and what apps can send you thanks to a new feature called notification channels.

Just like you can choose which ESPN channel you want to watch on your TV, notifications channels let you select which type of alerts you want to get from each app. For example, message apps could only send you notifications for messages from people in your contacts lists, or you could opt to only get audible alerts for certain system processes. It has the potential to make notifications way more manageable on Android Oreo.

android o external apps
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Better security

Whether it’s a Google beta or the newest version of WhatsApp, a lot of us side-load apps onto our phones. Over the past few versions of Android, Google has taken steps to help ensure that malicious apps can’t make their way onto your phone, and in Android Oreo, Google has made it even more secure.

Now, when you try to load an official APK or an app from an unknown source for the first time you’ll have to give explicit permission from the app itself, not just for the file. That means an app won’t be able to install anything without your permission and the chances of one of them surreptitiously installing a piece of malware on your phone is significantly lessened.

android oreo pip

Picture in Picture

Android TV users have enjoyed picture in picture since Nougat landed last year, but in Android Oreo, Google is bringing the feature to phones and tablets, too.

Primarily for video playback, the feature puts a tiny floating window on your screen that will continue to show what you were watching while you work in other apps. It’ll stay on top of whatever you’re doing until you either maximize it or close it. It currently only works with a few Google apps at the moment, but it’s surprisingly watchable, even on a phone. And it's not limited to videos. Google is testing PIP for directions in Maps, and we can't wait to see what developers have in store for the feature.

android o dots

Badges, baby!

If there’s one feature we’ve wanted from iOS for years, it’s icon badges. A few launchers and some manufacturers have already seen the light, but Google has been resistant to adding them to Android proper, until now.

Over in the notification settings there’s a new “Allow notification dot” toggle for each app that lets you choose whether to show an unread icon on the accompanying home screen app. Tap it and you can see what awaiting alerts you have and clear them right on the spot. It won't tell you how many unread norifications there are, but hey, we’ll take what we can get.

android o battery
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Battery benefits

If there’s one feature we’ve wanted from iOS for years, it’s icon badges. A few launchers and some manufacturers have already seen the light, but Google has been resistant to adding them to Android proper, until now.

Over in the notification settings there’s a new “Show badge” toggle for each app that lets you choose whether to show an unread icon on the accompanying home screen app. Tap it and you can see what awaiting alerts you have and clear them right on the spot. It won't tell you how many unread norifications there are, but hey, we’ll take what we can get.

android o autofill

Awesome autofill

We're long used to autofill for simplifying web forms that repeatedly ask us for our address and phone number. But if we’re not using Chrome, the system isn’t quite seamless, requiring jumps between password managers or switching to special keyboards that integrate with our stored data.

Google is making it easier in Android Oreo by opening up an autofill API. So, if you use a password manager, it'll be able to integrate a secure autofill method right into the password field, letting you quickly log in to whatever app you're using. While it's not live yet, both 1Password and LastPass have already demonstrated how it will work within their apps, and it looks incredibly fast and effortless. As AgileBits describes it, "Like all great technology, it feels like magic."