Android P: the top features you need to know

Google recently released the first Android P Developer Preview. While it’s an evolutionary step up from Android Oreo, there are a few features that make it stand out.

Editor’s Pick

Although only 1.1 percent of all Android devices are currently running on Oreo, it seems like Google is ready to shift its focus to the next iteration of the OS already: Android P. Google recently released the first developer preview, and whatever it ends up being called, Android P is likely to be released to the public this fall. From now until then, the search giant will undoubtedly bring new features and axe some, but here are some of the top features from the first developer preview:

The notch

Ah yes, the dreaded notch. The Essential Phone was one of the first sport “the notch,” and the iPhone X essentially made it into a design trend (for better or worse; I opine the latter). Following its launch, we’ve seen a flood of Android phones sporting this bizarre design, including the recently-announced ZenFone 5 and the rumored LG G7. Whether you like it or not, it seems like the notch is here to stay.

With Android P, Google is offering official support for camera and sensor cut-outs. From wide to narrow, from tall to short, Android P accommodates notches of all sizes.  The display cut-out APIs allow developers find out the location and shape of non-functional areas where content shouldn’t be displayed and design their apps accordingly. For those of you running the preview, go into Developer options, scroll down to Drawing, and select Simulate a display with a cutout to play with these options.

Subtle design differences

The overall look and feel of Android P so far seems very familiar, coming from Google Pixel’s Android Oreo interface. However, there are subtle refinements, especially in the notification shade and settings.

In the notification shade, you now have the toggles and the notification area separated. Each panel has four rounded corners, more in line with Google’s recent design changes. As you may have noticed, the toggles themselves look slightly different: they are now circular icons, shaded in when enabled.

These circular icons can also be found in the settings menu, except here, they’re nicely color-coded. Honestly, this design shift reminds me of what Samsung did with the Galaxy S5 a few years ago. Whether you liked Google’s understated, minimalist approach or you prefer this new Samsung-esque, cartoonish take, these aren’t a major aesthetic overhaul. You can learn more about the changes here.

Indoor navigation


This might be my favorite Android P feature so far. Google Maps is a life-saver — there is no doubt about that. That said, it can be frustrating to rely on Google Maps when you’re inside (a mall, an office building, or even an indoor skywalk system). Android P adds native support for the IEEE 802.11mc Wi-Fi protocol also known as Wi-Fi RTT (Round Trip Time).

As long your device has the hardware support, apps can take advantage of Android P’s new RTT APIs to estimate the device’s indoor position, usually accurate within one to two meters. As Google points out, “with this accuracy, you can build new experiences like in-building navigation” and “fine- grained location-based services such as disambiguated voice control” especially when using smart home devices.

Native support for HDR and HEIF

HDR and HEIF: two major buzzwords in the tech industry right now. Android P brings native support for both. The upcoming OS will have native support for HDR VP9 Profile, meaning that developers will easily be able to deliver HDR-enabled videos to end-users through various apps. As Android OEMs continue to push HDR-compatible devices, Google is hoping that Android P’s native support for HDR VP9 Profile will encourage developers to follow that trend on the software side of things.

Though Apple’s recent announcement sparked interest in HEIF, it’s still relatively new in the world of Android. Android P adds support for HEIF images encoding, and this is good news because HEIF compression technology allows you to save high quality photos without taking up too much storage. Compared to JPEG, which has long been the faithful standard of online images, the new HEIF format can cut the file size by half without compromising its quality.

Security, revamped

Security improvements are a given with each Android update these days, and Android P is no exception. With the latest OS, Google goes beyond simply addressing bugs and closing loopholes: Android P now blocks apps from recording you secretly and offers more encryption for backups.

As Gary explains in this in-depth post on Android P’s security enhancements, Android P limits an app’s access to the mic, camera, and sensors when an app goes idle. In effect, this prohibits malicious apps from recording you through various sensors and mics without permission. Another change in Android P is that now backups are encrypted with a client-side secret, meaning your PIN, pattern, or password is used to encrypt your data before it leaves your device.

Other Android P features include native dual-camera support, a new volume slider, and an auto-rotate button in the navigation bar. We’ll cover these in detail in our upcoming review of the first Android P Developer Preview, so stay tuned!

What are your favorite Android P features?

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