Google’s Android O update is coming later this year, but you can sign up to join the public beta program today. Google already outlined some of the key new features earlier this year, but at the Google I/O developer conference the company is giving us a better look at some of the changes coming to Android O.

One unexpected surprise? Google says boot times will be twice as fast, on average. There’s also a new Google Play Project feature that scans for security issues with apps from the Play Store.

But one of the most useful new features? Better text selection. No really.


Here’s the thing: text selection on touchscreen devices can be tough, because it’s hard to accurately pick the beginning and end of the sentence, word, or phrase with your fingertip.

Some early Android devices had a solution: the Nexus One and a handful of other devices had a trackball that let you easily move an on-screen cursor.

I’m not aware of any current Android devices that have a trackball… but starting with Android O, that might not be much of a problem anymore, because Google has used machine learning to improve text selection and copy/paste features.

For example, when you tap on a part of a street address, Android O will recognize that you’re trying to select an address and highlight the whole thing. Then it will bring up a context menu that shows more than just the usual cut/copy/paste… it will also have a Maps button that allows you to look up that address.

Likewise, highlighting part of a phone number will automatically select the start and end of the number and bring up the option to call that number.

It’s one of those things about Android that has been moderately annoying for years. And while it may not be as flashy as the new picture-in-picture support, enhanced notification features, or other changes in Android O, it’s one that could make a common activity a lot simpler.

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