Following months of beta releases, Android 9 is being officially released to the public today. And its name is Pie. As is usually the case, this release of Android 9 Pie comes about two months before the expected launch of the Pixel 3 line of phones — meaning current Pixel owners get the latest and greatest software exclusively for a while. But given the history of Google's releases, that doesn't rule out a release of 9.1, or at least 9.0.1, coinciding with the upcoming Pixel 3 launch to include new yet-to-be-seen features designed to highlight the new devices.
This is a more ambitious version release than you'd think at first.
In the tradition of Android versions being named sequentially following the alphabet, while sticking to a theme of tasty treats, Pie feels like a solid choice from what was a pretty stout field of options. "Popsicle" would've been interesting, but for whatever reason Google chose not to go with another brand name tie-in like KitKat and Oreo. Pie is also an interesting nod to the Android super-fans that were aware of the rumored "key lime pie" code name for Android 4.4 before it became KitKat. We had speculated that Google could go all in on pie with "Pecan Pie" or "Pumpkin Pie" — but we didn't expect the generic version of the name.
If you've been following the Android 9 Beta builds the pst two months, you'll have a handle on everything we're seeing in the final production release. The last beta build was released less than two weeks before the stable build, so it's understandable that not much has changed. As a quick refresher, Android Pie includes a new gesture navigation system, app actions and shortcuts in the launcher, new battery life-saving tweaks and many user-focused tweaks to simplify the software experience overall.
And just a note on those gestures: they aren't enabled by default on Android Pie when the device is being updated from Oreo — you'll have to enable the gesture navigation manually to give it a try. Future Pixels will have the gestures as their only navigation system, and third-party phone makers will reserve the choice of which to use.
Pixel users get it first, but many other people can get in on the fun too.
Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL owners will start to receive the Pie update starting today, including anyone who's currently on the Android Beta Program — so don't unenroll from the program. The Beta Program will come to an end with the stable release, so you'll be back on the regular track with everyone else. For those who are extremely impatient, Google is also posting factory images and OTA files to flash to your Pixel manually. We have a handy guide showing you how to get it done, too.
One of Google's biggest user-facing changes, the "digital wellbeing" suite of features, isn't quite ready to go with this first public release of Android 9. If you want to get an early look at an unfinished version of the features that track and limit the time you spend on your phone and in specific apps, Google is opening up digital wellbeing through a Google Play Store beta program. Just visit Google's beta link and enter your email address, so long as you have a Pixel that's been updated to Pie.
Google is also committing to continued work with its partners that provided beta releases to their phones alongside the Pixels. The phones that received beta builds of Android P over the past few months, such as the OnePlus 6 and Nokia 7 Plus, are slated to also receive Android 9 Pie in short order behind Pixel phones — which is of course precisely what we wanted to see from the use of Project Treble and the beta program. It's neat to see early builds on your phone, but the real reason for the expanded beta program was to give companies early access to the software so they can get official stable builds out the door sooner than ever before.
One shining star from the extended beta program? Essential, which is already pushing out a stable version of Android Pie to the Essential Phone.
We're going to keep bringing you the best coverage of Android 9 Pie as it starts to hit devices. In the meantime, let us know what your thoughts are on the new release!
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