Finally, Google has released the Android 9 pie update for Pixel phones on August 6th, 2018, and the update will be coming to tens, if not hundreds, of phones in the future.
Back in March, Google released the first Android P developer preview and then in early May 2018, it followed up with the big Android P beta, a release that was definitely exciting. The final version that is now officially named Android 9 Pie includes many of the Android P enhancements that we saw in the beta Care to take a look? Then join us as we give you a full review of what the newest and most advanced version of Android brings to the table.
Keep in mind, though, that some of the features like the Dashboard listed below have only been announced, but are not yet available on actual software. Google will release those individual feature in the coming months.
And with that out of the way, let’s explore what Android 9 Pie has to offer.
Notifications, do not disturb me!
Let’s be honest, notifications can often become super-pesky and demand your precious time, which is another big hit on your digital wellbeing. With Shush, a new feature coming in Android 9 Pie, you will be able to promptly put your phone in “do not disturb” mode when you flip it.
Adaptive Battery & New Auto Brightness
Improves battery life and more precise brightness adjustments
Another super-promising feature of Android Pie is the new Adaptive Battery feature, which uses on-device machine learning to understand which apps you are likely to use in the next few hours and which apps you are not likely to use until later in the day or in the week. Using this information that remains completely private because it’s on-device machine learning, the Android system can adapt to your unique usage pattern and in practical tests at Google this resulted in a 30% reduction in CPU wake-ups, running more processes on the power efficient small CPU cores and overall big improvements in battery life.
A new gesture-based interface
Gestures are taking over
Over the years, Google has made a great number of changes to how Android navigation works, but few of them have been as radical as the new gesture-based interface in Android 9. The back button is still there and works as expected, but the home button is replaced with a Tic-Tac-shaped element, while the recent apps button is gone completely. Swiping up from the bottom of the screen displays your recent apps side by side, while icons for five apps deemed likely to be used next appear below. Swiping up a second time reveals the app drawer. While on the home screen, a quick slide-and-release gesture of the Tic-Tac switches instantly to the previously used app. Sliding and holding turns the Tic-Tac into a slider, allowing you to go quickly through more of your recent apps.
Most other core functionalities have been left unchanged. For example, you still access the Google Assistant by long-pressing your home button or the tic-tac pill if you’ve opted for the gesture-based interface. However, the latter gravely changes another core Android functionality: accessing the split-screen multitasking feature is a bit trickier than it used to be. Once you swipe up your home screen to access your recent apps, you have to tap the app’s icon on the top and select “Split screen” in the options overflow menu that pops up. In its current state, this feature feels a bit convoluted and not intuitive at all, but we have high hopes that future Android 9 Pie releases will iron things out.
Needless to say, these gestures take some getting used to. We were hoping that Google would improve them from the first betas, but it hasn’t changed them much and this new type of navigation definitely feels less intuitive than the gestures that we have seen implemented by other companies.
Status bar clock shenanigans
A more visible clock
Another minor but nonetheless-startling change is… the clock position in the status bar. For times immemorial, stock Android has had this essential element positioned in the top right corner of the screen, but Android Pie hints that this age is drawing to an end: the clock is now across the street and rests on the top left part of the screen. It really felt confusing the first few times, but in the end of the day, one should easily adapt to the change. It’s obvious Google did that for the sake of equilibrium between the two sides of the display when a display notch is present, as the left one would traditionally remain unpopulated once the user clears all pending notifications.
Granted, many aftermarket Android skins have traditionally had status bar clocks positioned to the left or even in the center, but it’s the first time stock Android scores such a change. Currently, there’s no toggle that allows you to choose whether your clock should be positioned, though it will be good if Google eventually allows users to choose where this one should be positioned and doesn’t force this change to just about anyone.
Quick Settings redesigned again
Material Design 2.0 is fun and quirky
It’s been a while since Google overhauled the Quick Settings tiles, but Android 9 Pie seems to be on track to introduce a rather major revamp to this essential interface component. The tiles now feature circular teal-colored settings icons. The pending notifications are also now separated from the quick settings by a gap that’s several pixels wide. We are still on the fence if we like it or not but we wouldn’t want to grow attached to it since it might go the way of the dodo pretty soon.
The main settings hub has also gone way more colorful than before, sporting vibrant icons instead of uniform monochrome ones. For one, it looks more playful than before but we feel many will miss the older iteration which was much more serious in its overall tone. You can’t stop progress though, implying that coloring a couple of icons can be considered as such.
The notch is now a feature
Like it or not…
As we previously suspected, Google will natively support devices with a display notch starting with Android 9 Pie. Much to the delight of developers, the first preview introduces s few notch overlays that showcase how the software will adapt around the notch. This option can be enabled from either the display submenu or the developer options (though it can only be disabled from the latter) and allows willing parties to employ an Essential Phone-like notch, a much wider iPhone X-like one, and finally, a middle-ground between the two.
Now, you might wonder how notification icons accommodate with the notch in the way. Simple, once you have more than three different notifications present, you will only see the icon of the latest one followed by dots representing all the other notifications that will show up once you expand the notifications bar.
New volume panels
It’s much easier to single-handedly switch to vibrate or silent modes
Android 9 Pie introduces a new side-positioned volume menu that looks sleek and modern, pretty similar to the power menu introduced alongside Oreo. It stands on the right side of your screen and consists of two separate elements: a volume slider one that also allows you to quickly mute all media sounds and also control the volume of any connected device or
, and a ring mode window that lets you mute or unmute ringing sounds. Long-press any of these and you will be taken straight to the sounds menu.
you’re wondering, yes, it also comes in black when you put on a dark wallpaper. Nifty!
Display rotation, reimagined
Simple idea brings big improvements
A new and wildly useful feature would be the new smart rotation mode. If you disable auto-rotation of the display from settings, everytime you physically turn your device to the side, a rotate icon will appear in your navigation bar. If you tap it, the screen will rotate. If not, it will disappear in a couple of seconds. This will come in mildly useful when you desire to lock your device in a certain orientation mode and is a great and actually useful addition to Android. However, if you enable auto-rotation, your device will act just like any other Android phone ever – turn it and it will promptly adapt to the change.
Enhanced screenshot controls
Finally, you can annotate your screenshots
To be fair, I personally recall that tons of custom Android ROMs have had a similar feature for 7 or 8 years, but it’s cool that Google is adopting useful features into stock Android. If you happen to dislike the hardware shortcut for screenshots, you can now simply hold up the power button until the power menu shows up and tap the screenshot button which will promptly snap whatever’s on your screen.
Message threads in notifications
Threads are a good thing
Messages will now show up as threads in your notifications. Generally, the last two messages of the thread will be simultaneously shown in the notification shade, enabling you to never leave your current screen and keep up-to-date with all that’s happening in the thread. What’s more, the second developer preview of Android 9 Pie allows users to reply to message notifications without having to dismiss them, which makes following multiple threads that much easier and more organized. A quality-of-life improvement that should work with most messaging apps.
Of course, Android 9 Pie comes with its own Easter egg, and this one is particularly psychedelic.
Every time you lock and unlock your device, a new color scheme will get applied to the easter egg, making up for a trippy feeling. We made a small GIF to illustrate almost all the color themes, check it out to the right!
While we don’t say it reminds us of colorful popsicles, we do admit it is the software embodiment of having an acid trip in a confectionery.