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Android Pie gives Android gestures like the iPhone X — and it’s not bad

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Google sheds a little more light on Android P.


Google

The Android Pie era is upon us. In the months leading up to its official August release, Google showed off numerous versions of the OS’ beta software, known as “Android P,” with the first preview demoed in May at the Google I/O conference in Mountain View, California. Now, however, the final version is here, and if the previous Android 8.0 Oreo was the wallflower update that focused mostly on behind-the-scenes tweaks, then Android Pie is the brash party animal. And parts of it feel alarmingly like iOS 11 on the iPhone X.

For example, Android Pie supports a notch design as popularized by the iPhone X, and also a suite of navigational gestures that lightly anchor around a digital home button. During my time trying out the beta version of Android Pie at Google I/O, I noticed that the gesture controls weren’t as difficult to pick up as some might think (more below). Android Pie also adds larger images within notifications, lets you edit screenshots after you take them and uses AI to stretch out battery life.     

http://www.cnet.com/


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In fact, I like a lot of Google’s changes. Android Pie is much more ambitious and much more visually progressive than the Android OS versions of past years. For some of you, Android Pie’s new look and features will feel like a breath of fresh air. For others, it’ll be a less intuitive entry point that could make it harder to pick up and use an Android phone for the first time.

Android phones make up roughly 85 percent of the world’s phones, according to IDC, which means that Google’s changes to its operating system cue a shift in what we’ll see in smartphone software and design toward the end of 2018 and into 2019. But not every phone maker will implement every change, and some may add their own software touches to expand Android Pie’s offerings.

How to get Android Pie and P beta

Currently, Android Pie is available to download for Google-branded phones, which includes the Google Pixel ($319 at Amazon.com)Google Pixel XL ($390 at Amazon.com)Google Pixel 2 ($649 at Google Store), and Google Pixel 2 XL ($849 at Google Store). You can also expect it to roll out to other Android phones too by “the end of this fall” according to Google, and it’s already available for the Essential PH‑1

If you can’t wait, you can get a hold of the P beta version of the OS, which is also available for the OnePlus 6Sony Xperia XZ2 ($800 at Abt Electronics)Xiaomi Mi Mix 2SNokia 7 Plus, Oppo R15 Pro and Vivo X21. Go to google.com/android/beta to get started.

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Google Lens with Smart Select


Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Android Pie’s new iPhone-like gestures

It was only a matter of time before Android embraced gesture navigation, like on the iPhone X. 

Unlike iOS on the iPhone X, Android Pie keeps a digital button to act as your anchor, though it’s a narrow capsule, not a circle. Google thinks of this as simplifying the home screen, giving you just this one “clean” home button to press instead of a total of three for home, back and recent apps. 

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Like on the iPhone X, most navigation involves swiping gestures. You swipe up from the bottom to see a carousel of open apps, like an overview, and you scroll through these to open or reopen an app. You can also pull the new oblong home button to the right, which snaps open your previous app. Keep snapping the button to cycle through apps.

A full swipe up from the bottom (or another half-swipe) takes you directly to your app tray. The back button appears only when there’s a page to actually go back to (so, not on the home screen). You still long-press the home button to launch Google Assistant. And the Recents button? It’s gone, made obsolete because you can already see your open apps every time you swipe up.

I’ve used the iPhone X enough for swipe-up gestures to become ingrained in my muscle memory. It didn’t take long to figure out how to use Android Pie, and I expect that many future phones running on the OS will include a tutorial that shows you how to use the new gesture controls as you set up your phone.

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Android Pie is now available for some Android phones.


Jason Cipriani/CNET

Better notifications with Android Pie

Android Pie adds images to notifications, which you can see in alerts and from the notifications shade. Google’s OS recognizes the notifications you constantly ignore, and offer to disable them for you. 

You can long-press a notification to open settings and manage your options. In addition, a new “manage notifications” button at the bottom of the notifications tray lets you fine-tune your preferences.

http://www.cnet.com/


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More new tricks in Android Pie: Screenshots, volume, shortcuts

  • Edit and annotate images right after taking a screenshot (like in iOS).
  • Smart selection: When you highlight a restaurant name, Android Pie will offer you Yelp reviews, directions and the option to place a call. If you select article text, Google may offer to search, copy or translate it.
  • Shortcuts, called Actions internally, predict that you may want to call a friend or do any other specific action with an app — you’ll see suggestions waiting for you in Google Assistant, your home screen and the launcher. App makers have to set these up; it’s meant to predict your intention, based on past behavior.
  • Press the power button to surface a volume slider control and a quick-access button to toggle between audio modes.
  • Your work apps can live in a separate tab in your app drawer (if your phone has one).
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Jason Cipriani/CNET

Use apps without having to download them

Google is finally integrating an idea it briefed us on ahead of last year’s Google I/O that will let you see apps without actually making you download them. For example, if you’re making a reservation or flagging a Lyft, you can interact with just the right part of that app. 

This isn’t anything you can set up on your phone; you’ll just have to wait for developers to make it happen. Android Pie lays that base better than Android Oreo.

Android Pie’s dashboard proves you’re a smartphone addict

A new view shows you how much time you’re spending on your phone, and also what it is you’re looking at. If your engagement isn’t meaningful (like if you waste a lot of time watching infomercials), you might change your ways. Android Pie lets you set time limits on apps — say no more than an hour on Facebook or YouTube — and it grays out apps to remind you of your goal.

If you turn your phone over on the table, it automatically sets the Do Not Disturb mode, which keeps it quiet until you turn it over again. Of course, you can give some contacts the go-ahead no matter what.

Android Pie wants to help you get to sleep with Wind Down

Google IO 2018 Android Wind Down

James Martin/CNET

Wind-down mode will fade your phone to grayscale as you start getting sleepy. This won’t replace the blue light filter, but it will help you trick your brain into being less interested in the contents of your screen.

Editors’ note: This piece was originally published on May 5, 2018, and has been updated on August 7 with information about the finalized version of Android Pie.  

Android 9 Pie is available now on Google Pixel phones: The new software has features aimed at improving battery life and fighting tech addiction.

Google’s Duplex could make Assistant the most lifelike AI yet: Experimental technology called Duplex, rolling out soon in a limited release, makes you think you’re talking to a real person.


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