An upcoming version of Android looks ready to make workers more productive. Tentatively dubbed Android O – an official name hasn't yet been announced – the update promises longer battery life, improved messaging and timesaving gesture controls.
Here's a rundown of the features that business users can look forward to.
Longer battery life
Even the best business phone won't get you very far if it's always running out of juice. Android O is expected to help your smartphone run longer by setting strict limits on what applications can do while they're running in the background.
Specifically, the software update will cap the number of background services and location updates that can be performed at once, or in a specified period of time, which Google says will help stretch your phone's daily endurance.
Previously, muting alerts from an Android app was an all or nothing affair. With Android O, a feature called Notification Channels can break alerts down into categories so you can silence only the unnecessary alerts when you want to be free from distractions. For example, a chat app might separate individual conversations into channels, so you can choose which to get alerts from. That's pretty handy, since a buzzing, beeping smartphone can be a real distraction. It will be up to developers to determine how each individual app breaks content down into channels, though.
Filling out online forms can be a time-consuming drag, especially when you're typing on a touchscreen keyboard. Android O will save precious time by providing new tools to autofill common information, such as your name, address, company info, and even usernames and passwords.
Essentially, the platform will allow you to choose an autofill app as a system-wide provider of auto filing services. That means existing autofill apps will become more reliable and easier to use without the need to fuss with accessibility settings or permissions inside your Android phone's options.
With Android O, Google maps will communicate with other apps on your phone to help you get where you need to be. Say a client texts you the address of a restaurant where you plan to meet for lunch. Instead of copying and pasting that address into Google Maps, you'll simply tap the address to instantly open the maps app, complete with turn-by-turn directions.
Gesture controls could prove to be a small, timesaver in Android O. The feature will let users trigger actions in Android by drawing out shapes on screen with their finger. For example, drawing the letter C could launch your contacts app so you can make a quick phone call. That means you might spend less time swiping around your phone's interface and more time being productive.
How often have you been in a video chat on your phone only to realize you need to send a quick text or email? In Android O, that type of multitasking won't be a problem, thanks to Picture-in-Picture. This feature is exactly what it sounds like: It allows you to minimize one screen within another so you can still see the person you're talking to as you text, email or take notes.
Easier copy and pasting
Smart Text Selection is a new feature business owners are sure to love because it makes copying and pasting text a lot easier. In Android O, all you need to do is double-tap on part of an address, phone number or restaurant name and the Smart Text Selection tool will automatically highlight and copy the relevant information for you. This feature will also suggest second steps, so if you copy and paste an address, it might ask if you'd like to see directions to that address in Maps, which is a great time saver.
Android O has lots of security features that business owners will like, and Google Play Protect is one of them. Google Play Protect puts security in your hands for more control and peace of mind. When you access this security feature on a device running Android O, you can see exactly when the last security scan ran, as well as its results. You'll also get warnings if you accidentally try to download an app that doesn't look secure. Plus, the Find My Device feature (which is available on all Android devices now) makes it possible to remotely locate your phone, turn it off or on, or even erase all the data on it if it's lost for good.
At Google I/O 2017 (the Google developer's conference), the company announced that it's working on a new project called Android Go. Android Go is like a pared-down version of Android O, and while you probably won't be using it in your business, it could have a huge global impact.
The biggest difference between Android O and Android Go is that Android Go is built to run using very little storage space. In fact, it will only be put on phones that have 1GB of memory or less. Memory is one of the most expensive components in a smartphone, so by eliminating the need for lots of memory, Google will effectively create a cheaper smartphone that will run lite versions of different apps. Android Go phones could completely change the technological landscape of developing countries and rural areas. The low-cost phones are slated to start shipping in 2018.
Beta testing is now open
Android O is not released on all Android phones yet, but it is in the beta testing phase. It's not advisable for your whole team to become beta testers, as the process can have its ups and downs. The purpose of beta testing, after all, is to figure out the problems before something goes to market. However, if you have a dedicated IT technician or app developer, they may be interested in signing up as testers. If that's the case, your go-to techie can visit Android.com/beta and sign up today.
Additional reporting by Brett Nuckles.