Android P: AI inside and simplification outside
The "P" also stands for paternalism, as Google tries to help users break their phone addictions.
Yesterday at Google I/O, the company previewed its next Android operating system: Android P. I haven’t downloaded and used it, but the new OS promises to be simpler for users and more sophisticated on the inside, with a healthy dose of AI, of course.
Beta access to P is available to owners Google’s Pixel phones, the Essential Phone, OnePlus 6, Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S and a few others. There are lots of new features; among them:
- Battery life and brightness are being optimized by AI and machine learning.
- Contextual and predictive suggestions will be presented to users (the example given is connecting headphones followed by a suggestion to resume a Spotify playlist).
- Actions and slices, appearing in search, the launcher, Assistant and elsewhere will surface deep links and app content. Actions allow users to accomplish a task within the Assistant or search results. Slices are deep links to app content. Actions and Slices are a new form of SEO as a practical matter (We’ll write separately about this).
- New APIs (ML Kit) will allow developers to integrate “text recognition, face detection, image labeling and more” into their apps with relative ease.
- New system navigation (between apps and web pages) and new home button functionality.
- Simplified screenshotting.
- Simplified volume controls and redesigned notifications.
One of the more interesting aspects of Android P — the “paternalistic” part, as I’ve called it — is that the system seeks to help you unplug or limit your screen time. Google discussed all this in the larger context of “digital wellbeing.”
Accordingly, Android P is introducing four new features: Dashboard, App Timer, Do Not Disturb (DND) and Wind Down.
Dashboard shows you how much and where you’re spending time in apps. App timer allows you to set limits for apps and will alert you when the time is approaching. DND is just as it sounds and can be invoked by simply setting your phone face down on a surface. Finally, Wind Down will try to ease you out your apps at bedtime (which you’ve set).
Stepping back, it’s clear that AI and the Assistant are now core to the Android experience and Google intends to press these to its full advantage in the effort to get more iPhone users to switch.