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feature spotlight

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Android 8.1 feature spotlight: Android will highlight battery draining apps and what they're doing

Battery life is always the weak link in our smartphone-centric world, and you often find yourself baffled by the reasons why your battery drains way too fast one day and then seems to last forever the second day. Android has been trying to remedy that for many and many versions, and the latest Android 8.1 Developer Preview adds one more weapon to your arsenal in the fight against battery drainage. It won't help you win the war, but it will more easily answer the question of which app has been misbehaving and how.

On Android 8.1, if you check the Battery settings, you may see one app highlighted at the top with a red warning battery icon.

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Android 8.1 feature spotlight: Recent apps now show in 'Apps & notifications' settings menu

So far, the changes we've uncovered in the Android Oreo 8.1 developer preview have mostly been superficial and/or relatively minor. This one's no different, even if it is rather useful. The 'Apps & notifications' section in settings is the place to get app info, choose which apps show notifications, or change permissions and defaults, among other similar functions. In the 8.1 dev preview, this menu has been updated to include recent apps.

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Android 8.1 feature spotlight: Wallpaper-based themes include tinted notification and power menu shadows, just like the Pixel 2 [Update: Lock screen, too]

The Pixel 2 and 2 XL include a number of small tweaks that other 8.0 devices, even the OG Pixels, don't have. For example, the home screen's theme changes based on your wallpaper. We already knew that was coming to more phones in 8.1, and there's another theme feature from the Pixel 2 that's in 8.1 as well. Accent colors are pulled from your wallpaper for the notification and power menu shadows.

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Android Oreo feature spotlight: Disabling Developer Options completely removes the menu from Settings

Developer Options is one of the two hidden settings menus in Android (beside System UI Tuner) and it gets enabled by tapping the Build Number in the About Phone section repeatedly. In previous versions of Android, Developer Options had one toggle up top that let you disable it and thus return all values to their default, but in Oreo, disabling the toggle also removes the menu entirely.

Up until Android 7.1.2, if you turn off the toggle at the top of Developer Options, all the different settings are restored, but if you back out, you'll still see the Developer Options menu item in your Settings, and you can still go in and enable it again.

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Android O feature spotlight: Enabling developer options requires your device's passcode

Turning on the developer options menu has been the same for who knows how long. You always open settings, go to 'About phone,' and tap on the build number for a certain number of times (though most of us simply tap on it furiously). However, the second Android O developer preview has added another step: entering your device's PIN, password, or pattern.

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Android O feature spotlight: The proximity sensor can turn off ambient display

Ambient display on the Android O developer preview is doing some odd things right now. It's showing a minimal and less useful UI for some people, while others see something more akin to the old version. Whatever is going on there, we do know of one small (but useful) change to ambient display in O—covering the proximity sensor now puts the phone back to sleep.

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Android O feature spotlight: Google explains the new actionable battery menu

Google is focusing on battery life in Android O by clamping down on what apps can do in the background. At the same time, Android O includes a new battery settings menu that attempts to present your usage in a more understandable way. Instead of simply showing how much juice an app used, it puts battery use in the context of how you use the phone.

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Android O feature spotlight: More natural movement with physics-based animations

Animations in apps can often be jerky or unrealistic, but in Android O Google plans to give developers tools to make animations buttery smooth and natural with the power of physics. It should also be much simpler to make animations with this system.

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Android O feature spotlight: Pixel Launcher lets you select icon shapes [Update]

We've all gotten used to the consistent round icons on the Pixel Launcher, and a surprising number of developers have even gotten on board with round icons. Android O brings more choice to the icons, but keeps the consistency. There's a new icon shape selection in the launcher settings as of the second O developer preview.

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Android O feature spotlight: Developers can specify timeouts for notifications

Some notifications are plain annoying. Fitbit keeps bugging me with how many steps I have to walk to overcome someone in a Workweek Hustle or who has just surpassed me in a Daily Showdown. Ebay wants to tell me that a watchlist item is nearing its end date. And the order of pharmacists in Lebanon app sends dozens of repetitive notifications to remind me of a certain conference happening on the night.

Some notifications are important to read regardless of how late you are to spot them, others like the ones I mentioned above are pointless after a certain time. For those notifications - and the developers who are kind and empathic enough to care about their users - Android O has one awesome feature: timeout.

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