If you buy a mid-range or a flagship phone now, it will probably ship with Android Oreo. And last year’s flagships are starting to receive the Android Oreo (8.x) update. Thus, this is the perfect time to learn about the new features and capabilities of Android Oreo.
In fact, since there’s so little aesthetic change in Oreo and because every manufacturer puts on their own skin over stock Android anyway, you might be running Android Oreo without knowing!
Nougat brought us native split-screen apps. With Oreo, we get a native picture-in-picture feature. When you’re watching a video in an app like Netflix or VLC, just hit the Home button and the video will shrink to a little floating window. You can then open any other app—catch up on email or even play games while watching the video. Tap on the floating window to get control options. Hit the X button to remove the floating window.
Picture-in-picture also works with Google Maps, Google Play Movies, Facebook, Telegram, Duo, Pocket Casts and more. Chrome will put any full-screen video into picture-in-picture mode as soon as you hit that Home button (except, of course, a YouTube video).
To see a list of all installed apps that support picture-in-picture (and to turn the feature off), search for Picture-in-Picture in the Settings app.
2. Password Autofill
If you’ve used Chrome’s autofill feature, you know that Google has an entire framework dedicated to saving login details for websites you visit. Android Oreo brings this feature to your smartphones and adds support for apps.
Now, if you choose to, you can let Google automatically fill in login details for apps you’re using. In fact, as this is a framework, you aren’t limited to Google’s Autofill feature. You can use something like 1Password, LastPass or Dashlane (which are way more secure).
Next time you try to log in with a supported app, Google’s Autofill feature will ask if you want to automatically fill in from one of the available usernames and passwords.
3. Notification Channels
Notifications are one of the strongest features in Android. But as Android has grown, apps have started to abuse the access that notifications have to your direct attention. Android Oreo brings a new feature called notification channels which is meant for both developers and users.
Notification channels helps you sort notifications based on importance. Multiple notifications for the same app can appear at different places in the notification drawer based on the notification’s importance. And while the system for accessing this feature is a bit convoluted, you get complete control over what kinds of notification can get your attention instantly (or not at all).
From Settings, select an app from the App Info screen and go to the Notifications section. If the app supports Notification Channels, you’ll find a Categories section.
Tap on a category and then select Importance. Here, you can switch the importance to Low, Medium, High or Urgent. As the titles suggest, an Urgent notification will make a sound and pop up on the screen. On the other end, a Low notification won’t appear in the notification bar at all.
4. Snooze Notifications
Swipe horizontally (just a bit) on a notification and next to the gear icon, you’ll find a new clock icon. Tap on it and you’ll get an option to snooze the notification for an hour (you can pick a different time span from the dropdown box if you want).
5. Notification Dots
This is Android’s take on iOS’s app badges, minus the stress. The notification dots feature will put a little dot in the bottom-right corner of the app when you have any unread notification.
You can tap and hold on the app icon to see a new popup, which will show all the notifications for the specific app. Unlike iOS, Android doesn’t show the number of the unread messages in the dot.
6. New Emoji Styling
Somehow, Android’s blob emojis turned into a controversial debate, where seemingly, both sides had a sound design opinion. I think they were hideous and lacked any kind of a coherent design language.
But I’m not a fan of the replacement either. Android Oreo’s emojis have the same round shape of Apple’s emojis but that’s where the comparison stops. Oreo’s emojis are unnecessarily detailed. For goodness sake, they have gradients!
I wish Apple would make its emojis open source so we could use them everywhere. But this is the world we live in now: one of emoji fragmentation.
7. Smart Text Selection
Selecting text on a touchscreen, especially on Android, is kind of a nightmare. You can never get it exactly right. Android Oreo tries to make this process slightly less tedious.
Now, when you’re selecting text, Android will try to help you automatically select an important element (like an address or a phone number) and then provide handy shortcuts in the popup menu itself. For instance, if you’ve selected some text that looks like an address, you’ll get a shortcut to directly open it in Google Maps.
8. Auto-Enable Wi-Fi
This nifty little feature will automatically enable Wi-Fi when you’re “near high-quality saved networks.” Basically, when you’re near your home or your office, Android will automatically enable Wi-Fi for you. This way, you won’t accidentally overspend your cellular data allowance.
Turn this feature on from Settings > Network & Internet > Wi-Fi > Wi-Fi Preferences.
There’s a Lot More in Android Oreo
Android Oreo is filled with small features and under-the-hood changes. For instance, some Android One devices now get an ambient mode, Google Assistant is twice as fast, and there’s support for adaptive icons. Quick Settings on stock Android now has the same grey background. The Settings app has been redesigned and simplified yet again.
Additionally, if you’re a fan of sideloading apps, you should know about a new change in Android Oreo where you need to approve app installation on a per-app basis. Previously, one toggle enabled you to sideload apps from anywhere.