Google's Android 8.0 Oreo has been served

The Chocolate Factory's mobile operating system comes with saccharine emoji filling

Android 8 Oreo emoji
Emojis in Android 8.0

Google on Monday released Android 8.0 Oreo, the latest update to the world's most widely used operating system, as measured by internet usage.

First released as a developer preview in March, when the code was designated by the letter "O" instead of a trademarked confection, Google's mobile operating system hasn't piggybacked on the popularity of branded sweets since 2013's Android 4.4 KitKat.

KitKat incidentally is still widely used, accounting for about 16 per cent of active Android installations. A major part of Oreo's mission is to hasten operating system upgrades.

In recent years, Apple CEO Tim Cook has mocked Google's inability to drive Android updates by noting that iOS developers can take advantage of recent iOS innovations almost as soon as Apple issues new code. At Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in June, he observed that 86 per cent of iOS users had upgraded to iOS 10, while only 7 per cent of Android users had access to Android 7.0 Nougat.

Oreo addresses that issue directly with Project Treble, which separates vendor-specific software from the Android OS Framework to allow carriers to deliver updates without getting driver updates from chip makers. Whether mobile carriers will take advantage of this change to provide more timely updates has yet to be established.

Power management and privacy should improve with Oreo, which includes limits on background resource usage and on background location and Wi-Fi scans. There are speed improvements too: optimizations like concurrent-compaction garbage collection and better memory efficiency should translate to faster boot times.

Google's cookie-themed code also includes a picture-in-picture (PIP) mode – just the thing to cover advertisements – and a redesigned notifications system that puts app notifications on separate channels, along with a variety of other useful APIs.

And let's not forget a set of more than 60 redesigned emojis, because some people care about that sort of thing.

There are of course assorted security enhancements. These include running an app's WebView objects in multiprocess mode, which segregates the web content process from the application's process, and better control over how apps from unknown sources can be handled, to name a few.

Then there are APIs that just beg to be abused. With the ANSWER_PHONE_CALLS permission, apps can now answer incoming phone calls programmatically. And the READ_PHONE_NUMBERS permission gives apps read access to the phone numbers stored on a device.

The Autofill Framework aims to make it easier to complete login details and forms. And there's support for Wi-Fi Aware, a way to allow apps and devices to discover each other when nearby, without an internet access point.

Sameer Samat, VP of product management, in a blog post said Oreo has been pushed to the Android Open Source Project and should arrive as over-the-air updates for Pixel phones and Nexus 5X/6P phones, along with Pixel C tablets and Nexus Player set-top boxes, once carrier testing is complete.

By the end of the year, Samat said, Android hardware makers Essential, General Mobile, HMD Global Home of Nokia Phones, Huawei, HTC, Kyocera, LG, Motorola, Samsung, Sharp and Sony are all scheduled to launch or upgrade devices with Android 8.0 Oreo.

Devices participating in the Android Beta Program should also receive this update. ®

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