Over in the Android Dev subreddit earlier today, Google’s Android O engineering team took some time to answer everyone’s questions in the form of a Reddit AMA. The thread topped out at about 500 comments, and though much of it is tailored toward developers in particular, there’s some stuff that’ll appeal to all Android fans. If you don’t have time to read through the thread yourself, don’t worry: we’ve picked out the best tidbits and compiled them into this handy TL;DR.
Perhaps the biggest question everyone has is What’s its name going to be?, but we’re sorry to say that they still don’t have one picked out. Fortunately we’ll find out what the branding is by the end of this summer, so hang tight and cross your fingers for Oreo.
The blobmoji — that is, Google’s gumdrop-shaped emoji — is meeting a shift death and not everyone is happy about it. It’s no surprise someone asked about the emoji, but the Android team explained that it was time for it to be replaced. “The current design system did not lend itself well to supporting the expanding emoji set and these new use cases [big emoji stickers, for example], so we needed a significant visual refresh.”
When asked about giving users the ability to theme, Android engineer Alan Viverette said, “Theming is not hard. Reliable and consistent theming is hard.” Though the technical aspect of theming is said to be ‘largely solved in [Android] O,’ he explains that “we still don’t have stable APIs for describing what can be themed or adequate ways to verify that existing applications properly support theming.”
One user asked the team what the biggest Android O challenge was, and Android engineer Stephanie Cuthbertson said it was ‘Project Treble,’ the means by which Google wants to make Android updates faster than ever. The project required ‘very deep surgery on Android,’ she explained, saying: ‘Invasive, complex engineering that took an enormous amount of effort to get right – media, graphics, location, so much.’
When asked how the engineering team manages to keep improving Android’s handling of battery life, Cuthbertson said it is the result of ‘Play Console Dashboards for Android Vitals, background execution limits, background location limits, Android Studio performance profilers for CPU, memory and network, and more. We still feel like the battery life can get better so we’ll keep working on it.’
The answer given to the above question by engineer Hoi Lam is, “Android O will mostly be a technical upgrade for Android Wear.” How so? Android O will bring better battery life preservation via background limits, better control over notifications, and devs will get some new tools.
Team member Mike Cleron had a big response to a question about the tablet UI, saying in part that he doesn’t “think tablets is a space where we can meaningfully talk about “completion.” It’s more about figuring out what the next driver of innovation will be for this form factor. We are continuing to invest in productivity use cases (keyboard-driven UI, multiwindow, etc) but also — along with lots of other folks in the industry — working on what the next evolution of tablets should be.”