Android “P” is for Pie

Google has announced that the final, shipping version of the newest Android update is available for all Pixel phones today. And, as usual, it has announced a name to go along with the over-the-air update: “Android 9 Pie.” Google typically names its new flavors of Android alphabetically and after something sugary. For example, the previous Android version was called Oreo. Before that was Nougat, preceded by Marshmallow and Lollipop. Officially, Google is calling it Android 9 Pie, or just Android 9.

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People who signed up for the Android Beta program, which lets you try out pre-released versions of the software, will receive the update by the “end of this fall,” if they have devices from Sony Mobile, Xiaomi, HMD Global, Oppo, Vivo, OnePlus and Essential. Google said it’s also working with other partners to launch or upgrade devices with Android Pie “this year,” though the company didn’t provide additional detail on exactly when those updates would come.  Though the update now is official the features announced by Google at Google I/O won’t be included in this update.

The key features missing include, Digital Wellbeing features, including the usage dashboard, app times, and a “wind down” setting for when you go to bed. Instead, those features will be offered as a beta for Pixel users right away. The actual release will come in the fall; Google says “Android One and other devices coming later this year.” One can assume that among the “other devices” will be the new Pixel 3 phones.

Most of the features in Android 9 Pie have been well-received in the beta. The system has a more advanced battery management system, which Google says is powered by AI. App actions surface common app actions as buttons in the main Android launcher. Text selection has significantly improved with a magnifier and smart text selection. But the new gestural navigation system has been more polarizing.


But while Google is gathering all these new features into the sphere of Android Pie, it has one major challenge: Making sure people actually get to use Pie’s new tools. That’s because of Android’s numerous hardware and carrier partners that like to add their own flourishes to the software; getting them all to update to the current version is a constant headache for Google. It’s a problem the industry calls “fragmentation.”

As of last month, just 12.1 percent of Android users are on the latest version of the software, Oreo. The vast majority of them, almost 75 percent, are on three previous versions: Nougat, Marshmallow and Lollipop. The oldest of those, Lollipop, was first released in 2014. By comparison, Apple’s got 81 percent of users on iOS 11, the most current version of its software for iPhones and iPads.



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