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This is how Android Oreo is going to be more user-friendly

I confess: I've only been living with Android Oreo for a couple of days. I know that plenty of Pixel and Nexus users have already had the opportunity to roll with the new notification dots and bright white notification shade for a while now. They've also had time to get used to Android O's new, horrifically expressive emoji. I'm barely through the first cycle of recovery myself, but am using them despite my apparent state of denial.

Sorry — we're not here to talk about the emoji (I've already talked about that). We're here to speak of the Android Oreo Developer Preview, which recently hit its fourth and penultimate beta stage. I finally downloaded it in an attempt to prepare myself for Android Oreo's imminent arrival, despite its knock on my Pixel XL's battery life. Soon, we'll finally learn what dessert it's named after, and those who upgrade to it will have the pick of a few more user-friendly features compared to its predecessor. Here's a look at some of the new and improved interface elements to look forward to in Android Oreo.

Big and little notifications

I still don't know how to feel about the dynamic notification panel for Spotify. Apparently, this is something that we'll see more of as support sprouts up in the Play Store. The gradients are gentle, and I appreciate the larger playback controls, but sometimes the algorithm that determines the color scheme is completely off.

Android Oreo's notification shade is more dynamic with better music controls and smaller notifications for the minor things.

Android Oreo's notification shade is more dynamic with better music controls and smaller notifications for the minor things.

I like the smaller, subdued notification panels, however, particularly for things like traffic reports and minor updates. I don't have as much of an inclination to immediately swipe them out of the way, even when the data becomes outdated. They also look nicer paired with the giant music controls.

Type in your wake-up time

Frankly, I hated the dial method of setting the alarm in the default Android clock app. If I'm tired — or perhaps still a bit full from dinner — the last thing I want to do is attempt to set the alarm at a precise time by dragging my finger across the screen. The old method of setting up an alarm resulted in my waking up at the oddest times — 6:57, 7:14, and 8:23, to recall a few.

Forget the dial — Android Oreo lets you set the alarm by typing it in.

Forget the dial — Android Oreo lets you set the alarm by typing it in.

In Android Oreo, there's a little keyboard icon that pops up when you're setting your alarm so that you can be accurate with your time without a finicky dial to set it up. All you have to do is type in the time and select whether it's for AM or PM.

There's also a new alarm indicator in the notifications panel, which you'll see after you swipe down twice. You can tap it to immediately jump to the alarm section of the clock app.

Know your volume

I'm so sorry for all the times I brought my smartphone into the yoga studio, and my ringer was still on. Even with Nougat's robust notifications letting me know whether my ringer would go off, I'd often forget to check the nuance of the sound profile.

This is just a very obvious reminder — you won't be able to hear your phone!

This is just a very obvious reminder — you won't be able to hear your phone!

In Android Oreo, when you hit the volume button all the way down, you'll see a bright blue notification alert that notifies you of your volume profile. It's much more apparent than the way Nougat does it!

It's easier to see in the sun

While storming through San Francisco's uncharacteristically sunny streets, I noticed Android Oreo's lighter notification background is easier to see in direct sunlight. The background is a mix of stark white and soft gray with black on top, so there's contrast working in your favor even when there's daylight glare working against you.

The settings panel is easily accessibility from the notifications shade in Android Oreo.

The settings panel is easily accessibility from the notifications shade in Android Oreo.

I also appreciate the attention to detail in the notification shade, at least concerning how the buttons have been laid out. The settings button isn't as big as it used to be, but it's right there in the first swipe down, as opposed to the two swipes it took in Nougat. Another swipe down lets you edit your Quick Settings and offers immediate access to switch between your account and the guest profile so that you can hand your phone off to your little tyke to use it for playing games and nothing else.

Quietly more informative

My favorite part of Android Oreo is the fact that there are little indicators laid throughout the interface to let you know how things are doing in the background. I mentioned my battery life isn't doing so well — I'm not sure what's causing that the time of writing this, but at least I can see the battery percentage drop in real time in the status bar.

Need to know how you're doing on battery life? You can have it permanently displayed in the status bar.

Need to know how you're doing on battery life? You can have it permanently displayed in the status bar.

If you swipe or tap into the Settings panel, you'll see other helpful indicators listed throughout, like which settings exist within certain categories, and how much storage and battery life you have left for the day. There's a new Connected devices category, too, which displays what's casting on your network and offers quick access to things like Android Beam and Printing options.

What's your favorite part of Android Oreo?

How's the latest developer preview treating you? Do you have favorite parts of Android O that you're enjoying? Or is there anything from past versions of Android that you miss? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

Florence Ion was formerly an editor and columnist at Android Central. She writes about Android-powered devices of all types and explores their usefulness in her everyday life. You can follow her on Twitter or watch her Tuesday nights on All About Android.

70 Comments
  • "Brighter colors and simplified iconography help make Android O one of the more appealing versions of the mobile operating system yet." Speak for yourself.
    White backgrounds and brighter colours to many of us make it the exact opposite.
  • I just don't understand why they can't make this an option. It's the one thing that W10 Mobile actually has over Android, lol. Soooo much easier on the eyes. At least give the option! There's a reason that AutoCAD gives you a black background with white lines by default, it's much easier on the eyes. The blue light filter helps a lot, I actually leave it on all the time. But it's not a dark theme, and I just don't get why they don't offer it. I'm not a programmer, but if MS can do it, it should be easy for Google to throw in there, right??
  • There was an article on here as to why. I believe the response was along the lines "it's not as easy as you think" (doesn't explain much I know, but...
  • It's all a Google super secret evil plot to ruin our eyesight and force "Google Glasses" on everyone, so they can see everything all the time. If your phone's in your pocket, they can't see everything around you. They need to get on your head, instead of just in it!
  • hmmm, downrated... Somebody doesn't get sarcasm... Or it just wasn't as funny as it was in my head...
  • Just wasn't funny...
  • lol, thank you for your honesty. They can't all be zingers.... I'll try harder next time,
  • Never mind mate, I liked it. Probably not far from the truth in any case.. 😄
  • It was something to do with difficulties maintaining consistency with a dark theme across different apps as I recall.
  • That was it-
    I don't really buy it, but it MUST be true, as I can't think of some deep conspiracy theory to suggest otherwise.
  • looks pretty easy for OP5 users :)
  • The worst of all is that they HAVE a theme engine built into AOSP. Sony's theme engine was donated to AOSP and it's part of Android's base code. It's what Samsung and LG use to create their "theme stores" (and make money that Google could be making on the PlayStore).
    Which is why if you root a stock Android device (an Nexus, an iPixel or any stock Android phone), you can have access to that theme engine and theme the OS with apps like Substratum. So Google is ACTIVELY denying users the ability to customise their phones and shoving their terrible design choices down everyone's throats. They could simply create a theme portal in the OS and allow users to use themes from the PlayStore and be done with it. They'd solve a severe issue in freedom to customise your phone AND make money out of it. But you know...at Google the priority is to persecute people with different opinions, not make money or provide good consumers solutions it seems.
  • I agree. I don't like being blinded when I jump to another app or settings with a white background in the dark.
  • Agreed
  • The settings icon is only one swipe down on Nougat, not two. Looking forward to design tweaks in Android O. I personally like the brighter colours and whites ("Ahh! Witchcraft! Heresy! Burn him at the stake!" *Yawn*).
  • I agree with you on the colors, I feel it's a cleaner look. I do hope they manage a dark theme for Android P though, it'd be useful for nighttime use.
  • Didn't Google add a warmer color panel view in the settings in this version that reduces blue light?
  • Yes, but a blue light filter doesn't help as much as it could if you have a phone with a display that doesn't get sufficiently dark at 0 brightness. Having darker colors in the UI helps with that. There are third party apps for reducing brightness further but those overlays can sometimes be more trouble than they're worth.
  • Fair point. I use Twilight because the Nexus 6 suffers from a lack of true darkness at 0 brightness. It's a little clunky but gets the job done.
  • Give me black themes, including the notification bar, and customizable nav buttons (ala OnePlus) and I'm a pixel user for life!! C'mon googs!
  • +346364748
  • Get a S8 it already has these features...
  • This ^ Plus, with substratum working on the s8/+ without root being required, you can have pitch black across the board... the way things should be...
  • I'm looking forward to what's under the hood of the next version of Android but I def don't want the brighter color scheme
  • From what I've seen of that monstrosity, my favorite thing about O so far is that it is not yet released. Seriously, Google, would it kill you to allow a choice of a dark material theme?
  • They should go with dark themes!
  • Agree. And save some battery life along the way!
  • I would love to try it but Android auto will not work with the preview
  • I'm always amused that Google keep pushing for lighter colour schemes while specifying AMOLED displays for their devices, which use more power when displaying such material.
  • Yeah.
    If they were Apple, one could understand it...because Apple would (and probably will) certainly create special "power covers" etc to help you get more battery during the day ...and charge you 100€ for the privilege. But Google apparently isn't even that smart lol
  • I'm actually a little annoyed with how much information is shown in the notification shade. It's fine when I'm feeling a little geeky and want to know all the details of what's running in the background but it's overwhelming for the average user. Do we really need to see a separate line for each app that is using an overlay, a line for how many apps are running in the background, a line telling me which USB profile is currently in use, a line for each helper app and somewhere, buried in the middle of all that is a line for traffic reports from Google Maps. Like I said, this is fine when I'm geeking out and want to know everything so I can diagnose a problem or just be informed but let me be able to turn that off (and have it turned off by default). For most users, this is clutter. Google should know better by now.
  • I believe you can now turn off notifications for apps using overlay in the settings, and they thankfully removed the background notification for things like music players.
  • I agree. I do not ever want a permanent notification about apps running in the background. Absolutely give me a regular, dismissible notification when a service STARTS running in the background so I can know if something wonky is happening, but inspecting the apps running in the background is something I do so infrequently that I wouldn't mind if it were buried behind a few clicks in the menu.
  • I've often wondered why they removed vibrate only as a sound profile option without having to click volume down all the way to vibrate them click volume up all the way to full sound. Why no quick toggle out of the box? Downloaded 1 from play store though. But wish it didn't toggle through priority, I just personally need ringer on or vibrate only.
  • There is a quick toggle. Press your volume button once then tap the bell.
  • Well well well. Look a there. That's not intuitive at all, is it? Thanks for teaching.
  • This is what i hate about material design. I never see what is ab button and whats not. So much better on ModernUI.
  • If you click a volume button to bring up the slider, tapping the bell turns it to vibrate, and tapping the vibrating phone turns it back to your previous notification sound level. The same applies for adjusting media volume: tap the note to mute, tap the crossed out note to unmute
  • It's 2017 and it's still a joke. I don't even have the latest version of N yet and there's O already. Google should hold manufactures accountable.
  • How exactly do you propose they hold manufacturers accountable?
  • Whippings and soft torture. Don't you watch Game of Thrones?
  • Google's intent with showing background processes is good but they execution has sucked since Marshmallow. It just goes to show how clueless these guys are in some areas.
  • > but at least I can see the battery percentage drop in real time in the status bar
    What do you mean by that? Seeing the battery percentage in the notification bar? That has existed since Marshmallow - 2 years now and 3 if you count the ADB command to enable it in Lolliflop.
  • I think he meant that something is messing with the battery, and it's draining fast on his phone - thus watching it drain in real time
  • Whatever his meant to say it needs to be clear because that feature is 2-3 years old.
  • I think they mean it's displayed larger/clearer in O. I know it has been in there, but it's currently displayed within the battery icon which at least for me is difficult to see...
  • Not as excited for O as I was for Nougat, no significant features like multi window seem to be added. And that white background notification shade is LG UI levels of ugly.
  • I'll tell ya what: for all the complaining about dark vs. lite themes, I'm sitting here thinking to myself "Eh, one more tick in favor of NOT using stock and sticking with Samsung - I can throw a theme at the problem and be good to go no matter what my preference".
  • Can you get dark notification shade in a theme? If so, please tell me what one you use, I would love that. Went from using a Lumia 950 with dark profile, so this bright white on my S7E is killing me, and the blue light filter only goes so far.
  • Absolutely! Go to "themes" - > click "themes" (because the app will open in wallpapers) -> then click the 3 dots on the top right corner and select search -> search for "[Minu] Black Edition" Or search for "black" and you'll get a TON of Black bases themes (some pure black and white like the one I told you, others black and blue, black and green etc).
  • Yes, that works great, thank you! Installed and looking way better!
  • And you probably already know this, but Firefox browser for Android allows extensions. I installed uBlock Origin and "Dark Background & Light Text" extensions. Fast, AND easy on the eyes!
  • I can think of nothing worse. The first thing I do on my phones is go about theming the phone so everything is black with white text. It's so much easier on the eyes
  • Bit of a Google fan,have Google home,Nexus 6, waiting on my pixel 2 XL,ex electronics engineer
  • I'll add to the pile of folks befuddled by the lack of a dark background for everything choice.
    When lollipop came out, with all of the white backgrounds, white notification and status bar icons and cartoon colors, it made me want to puke and led me to learn how to root.
  • aaaah, with Clock today, you can type the time.... just click once (or long click) on the time.
  • Dark theme, dark theme, dark theme ! Would've been better if we didn't have to wait for next 9 version. Another user of dark theme on w10 mobile.
  • more user friendly to the 37 phones that get the update. should be at 1% user base by 2019.
  • Dark theme pls. My Lumia 950 has a proper dark theme.
  • Disable Bluetooth and the battery life works great. It's been a bug on my pixel since beta 3.
  • My ZTE Blade X Max got from Cricket Wireless out of box 7.1.1 Nougat I'm curious as to if my phone will be capable running Android O 8.0
  • Why can't we have softer colors? Not a fan of bright garish in your face themes that remind me of a kindergarten play toy. Soft dignified colors with subtle hue changes please.
  • I vote for a dark theme option. Would like to be stock Android but the Stark whites force me over to a 3rd party launcher. Geez, I mean a Stark white app drawer background lights up a dark room. :P
  • Thank you Florence. This is the type of article that gives me hope that android central is more than just a click bait ad infested website. Even though I may not agree with what you say as far as how you feel about the changes, you described O in a way that actually painted a picture to someone who has not used it. That was actually helpful.
  • They should bring a dark theme and the ability to install apps to SD Card natively. Devices with large built-in memory are expensive and it's just a waste of space not to utilize the room on SD Card. I mean, SD Cards are a cheaper solution for storage as extra memory on device is charged a premium.
  • I agree...just purchased 128GB SD card thinking I would be able to save some apps..no go! I can't afford the larger capacity tablets. I don't understand...great selling feature I would think. Maybe the next version of Android will allow it.
  • That's it?!?!
  • SO basically its adopting some features from Samsung into the stock software....
  • You type your alarm time? You have a Pixel XL. You have heard of 'Ok Google' right?
  • I used to use that to set my alarms, but it would just add an alarm instead of setting/changing an existing one. I just wish that I could "set my morning alarm for 6 AM" and have it modify the similarly-named alarm instead of making a new one...