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In August this year, Google began rolling out the latest tweak to its Android operating system in the form of Android 9 Pie.
The upgrade marked the 16th revision of Android OS with new and improved features like better battery management, and gesture control, and already it’s been labelled as the “the most complete, comprehensive and consistent version of Android yet”.
So, let’s investigate the latest incarnation of the Android software and the features it provides.
Originally entitled Android P, Google’s latest software focuses on three main areas: intelligence, adaptability and digital wellbeing for an experience that is “tailored to you”.
The operating system offers users the ability to alter the look and functions to their liking, while harnessing artificial intelligence to predict requirements and offer an insight into how the mobile device is used.
This intuitive focus has seen Android Authority describe Android 9 Pie as: “the proof in the proverbial pudding that Android as an operating system has hit its stride”.
“It delivers on many of the promises of Android versions past, bringing us a new navigation system and app overview, better notification handling and resource management, and more embedded AI than you can poke a stick at,” they reflect.
Google promises Android 9 Pie is “smarter, faster and adapts as you use it”, and to achieve this it harnesses a wealth of artificial intelligence.
The system learns from preferences that users select, adapting to how it’s used to improve the experience over time.
This AI sees the most frequently used apps readily available in the Overview screen, while the system also takes the user’s next move into account. So, if a user connects their headphones, the playlist they were most recently listening to pops up.
AI is also harnessed using a feature called Slices. This sees “relevant parts of your favorite apps” brought to the surface when something is Googled. Or as Google notes as an example: “Next time you search for Lyft, you can see prices and driver ETAs right within your results”.
A suite of new measures to better handle battery consumption have been introduced in this update.
The Adaptive Battery feature uses machine learning to predict which apps will be used in the next few hours and which probably won’t be, so the phone “only spends battery power on the apps you care about”.
The Battery Saver function keeps charge going longer by turning off features like the Always-On display, and background restrictions sees users offered recommendations to restrict apps drawing too much power.
Meanwhile, with Adaptive Brightness, the system learns how users set their screen’s brightness in different lighting environments and automatically caters to this over time.
Like Apple iOS, Google is making a concerted push towards gesture control in this incarnation of their software.
They have shifted away from the Home, Back and multitasking buttons to a singular home button and the use of swiping, along with buttons that appear as the system predicts they are needed.
As The Verge explains, users now: “swipe up once to get to an overview pane. The Overview pane (aka your recently used apps) lets you swipe between apps or enable split screen with a hidden menu on the app’s icon.
“On Pixel phones, you’ll also get an AI-driven list of suggested apps and a search bar. Swipe up again, and you’ll get to the app drawer with icons for all of your apps. You tap the home button to go home, or you can drag the home button to the right to quickly switch between apps in a screen that’s similar, but not identical, to the Overview screen.
“Along with all of this, the traditional Android back button will still show up from time to time next to the home button because Google hasn’t yet developed a gesture for ‘back’.”
Android 9 Pie features further tools that allow users to understand exactly how and when they use their device and then tailor it to their lifestyle.
Known as “Digital Wellbeing”, it incorporates tools like a dashboard that lets users to see how many notifications they get, how often they check their phone and the time spent on specific apps.
They can then establish app timers to better manage digital consumption. Effectively, that means you can set a goal to limit your time on social media such as Facebook. The app timer will tell you when you’re getting close to your limit and when you reach that limit, will pause Facebook for the day.
Digital wellbeing can also be used as part of a daily routine. For example, a phone can get itself ready for bedtime by switching to grayscale and entering do not disturb mode according to a set daily schedule.