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feature spotlights


Android O feature spotlight: You can automatically enable WiFi near trusted networks, and it now works in DP2

The Android beta program gives us a chance to see the latest features of Android, some of which don't actually work yet. That was the case when the first developer preview came out with an option to automatically switch WiFi on when you get near a trusted network. The toggle was non-functional in the first dev preview, but it works in DP2.

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Android O feature spotlight: Get quick access to an app's widgets by long-pressing the icon

Google began introducing long-press actions for icons in Android 7.1—currently, a long-press in Pixel Launcher can display app shortcuts (previously known as launcher shortcuts). You get more in Android O DP2. We already knew about the previously reported notification dots, but there are also widget links.

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Android O feature spotlight: Apps can no longer draw on top of system UI

Android has long allowed developers to draw on top of other apps and the system UI. This is how Twilight adjusts the color of the display, and there are other apps that overlay things on your status bar. A change to the way Android O handles overlays could break features of these apps, rendering some of them essentially useless.

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Android O feature spotlight: Android System is already using notification channels

There are some cool things you can play around with in the Android O preview, but some of the most useful features won't be available until developers start implementing them. For instance, the new notification channel feature. As it turns out, Google has already implemented notification channels in the Android System. That means you can get a feel for how it'll work.

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Android O feature spotlight: The time picker now has a manual text entry mode

One small change you will notice in Android O is the ability to manually type the date and time when selecting a time. When, several versions of Android ago, Google changed the date and time picker from text-based to a monthly calendar and rolling clock, things did indeed look better and more interactive. However, that made precise minute selection more tedious and annoyed people who prefer text entry to fancy graphics and animations.

In Android O, the time picker (in Calendar, Clock, etc) gets one small added icon at the bottom left: a keyboard. Tapping it switches to text-based entry where you can manually type in the exact time.

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Android O feature spotlight: Expandable quick settings only work when tapping the text, not the icon

In Android 7.0, there are a number of expandable quick settings for things like WiFi and Bluetooth. Those toggles still exist in Android O, but the way you interact with them is quite different. Expanding requires you to tap the text instead of the icon.

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Android 7.1 feature spotlight: The new system update check denies you cathartic button mashing

We've all done it—a big OTA is rolling out and you want it right this minute. So, you open the OTA update checker in settings and mash the button a few times in an effort to will the update into existence on your phone. It never works, and as of Android 7.1, you can't even go through this pointless ritual anymore. There's a timeout between checks and no button.

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Android 7.1 feature spotlight: App shortcuts are supported in the Google Now Launcher

There were some interesting features announced as part of the launch of Google's Pixel phones. While some are exclusives to the new handsets, others are a part of the new Android 7.1 Nougat. One of the headlining features for the new OS version is the App Shortcuts API, a way for apps to offer fast access to select screens and functions. If you've been looking forward to trying it out, the Google Now Launcher in combination with today's developer preview fully supports app shortcuts and there's already plenty of examples to try out.

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Android 7.1 feature spotlight: Nexus devices and Pixel C get a restart option in the power menu

People have been asking Google for years to put a restart button into the power menu of Nexus devices. It's a feature most OEMs have been putting on their phones and tablets since the beginning. After first getting a good hint the restart option would appear on the Pixel phones, and actually seeing it appear in a shipping version, many people were left wondering if it would make the transition to older Nexus devices (at least those receiving Android 7.1). The answer appears to be an emphatic yes.

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Android N gets support for custom mouse pointers via new API

Android is mainly a touch environment, but it has had rudimentary support for mice and keyboards for years. Mice will be getting more useful in Android N with the addition of a new mouse cursor API, which is available in its final form as of dev preview 4. The cursor can actually change to indicate actions just like on a desktop OS.

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