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.
The major update to Google's mobile operating system is currently only available as a developer preview, which means that most workers won't be able to download it just yet. An official unveiling is expected to take place at the Google I/O conference on May 17, with the full version of Android O set to launch this fall.
In the meantime, 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.
It's technically possible to download and install Android O right now, since a developer's build of the platform has been released online. But we don't recommend that workers take the plunge. For starters, installing the update right now requires quite a bit of technical know-how up front. Plus, anyone running the platform can expect their phone to be buggy, since Android O is still early in its development. Instead, check back for more news on productivity-boosting feature in Android O as it breaks.