It’s been about two months since Google launched Android 8.0 Oreo, and while the vast majority of smartphones on the market are still running older versions of the operating system, Google is already getting ready to launch Android 8.1.
If you have a recent Pixel or Nexus device, you can give it a try now: a developer preview version of Android 8.1 is already available for download.
The preview is available for the Nexus 5X and 6P smartphones, the Pixel C tablet, and the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL phones.
There are currently a few ways ways to try the preview: you can join the Android Beta Program and wait for an over-the-air updated, or you can download and flash the image for your device… although that will wipe any data on your phone or tablet and you’ll have to continue flashing updates manually if you want to try future builds unless you join the beta program.
So yeah, the beta program is the way to go for most folks… although the manual method might be better for actual developers who don’t want to have to deal with unexpected changes on an unexpected schedule.
Keep in mind that this is pre-release software, so there may be bugs that wouldn’t be present in the final version of the operating system, which should launch in December, so proceed with caution.
What’s new in Android 8.1?
We already knew that Google would be rolling out an API for the Pixel Visual Core coprocessor in Google’s new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones, and it’s coming in Android 8.1… but you’ll have to wait for Developer Preview 2 to make use of it. The new feature will allow third-party apps to use the chip to quickly process HDR photos the same way Google’s stock Pixel camera app does… and possibly find new uses for the coprocessor.
But there are a number of other changes in Android 8.1. For example, some features that had previously only been available on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL now work on older devices, including:
- Battery levels for Bluetooth headphones and other gadgets are displayed on the phone
- The Pixel 2-style power menu is now available on older devices, putting the restart and power off icons closer to the edge of the screen.
Here are some other changes in Android 8.1:
- Optimizations for Android Go (for devices with less than 1GB of RAM)
- The neural networks API (NNAPI) brings hardware acceleration for on-device machine learning.
- Apps can only make a notification alert sound once per second.
- There’s a new wallpapers color API.
- Autofill framework updates
- The navigation bar changes colors in different situations.
via Android Police