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How About an Oreo?

October 2017

By Tom Stibolt, MD, Mobile Musings Column Editor

Google uses dessert nicknames for the various versions of the Android’s operating system. This starts with Cupcake for version 1.5 of the Android OS. Most current Android phones are running version 7.0 called Nougat. Google has released information about Android OS version 8.0 which was released Aug. 21. It is nicknamed Oreo.

This OS version represents the largest change in the Android OS to date. One of the most important changes is the additions of four key security features for the core of the OS which were ported from stable Linux implementations. These will greatly reduce vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers.

Oreo also removes “Allow unknown sources” installs and instead introduces per-app permissions. This now makes app installs from unknown sources a lot safer.

Previously, users could install apps from places other than Google’s Play Store by enabling “Install from unknown sources” in Android Settings. Although convenient, this feature can lead to malicious apps being downloaded to the phone. It also exposed users to the risk of a benign app offering a bogus security update that in fact installs a malicious app. Now users will need to grant permission on an app-by-app basis, allowing them to safely download apps from untrusted sources. For instance, a user could enable Drive and a third-party store app to download apps outside the Play Store, but block Chrome and Gmail from downloading unknown apps.

The new OS will be two times faster when powering up. It also helps minimize background activity in the apps you use least, also speeding up response times. With user permission, Autofill remembers logins to get users into their favorite apps much faster.

Oreo adds picture-in-picture allowing users to see two apps at once. It also implements notification dots, and when pressed, they allow users to quickly see what’s new and easily clear them by swiping away. Another new feature is Android Instant Apps which allows users to go directly into new apps right from their browser, no installation needed. The new OS also improves battery life.

Other features include background execution limits which control how apps run in the background for better overall system performance. Background location limits, which are limits on the frequency of location, updates in the background for better overall system health. There is also deep color which enables applications to render richer visual content with more vibrant colors and subtler gradients. This supports full color management and allows applications to render images in the format and quality they were intended. An improvement to WiFi, for users who turn the feature off when away from home, allows a device to automatically turn Wi-Fi back on when it detects that a user is home. It even reconnects to the home network to save on mobile data.

There are many more new features. Android OS version 8.0 is already being rolled out to supported Pixel and Nexus devices. It will take anywhere from a couple of months to more than half a year to appear on phones by the likes of HTC, Samsung, LG, Sony, and Motorola.


Editor’s note: The ATS does not endorse any of the programs or products mentioned in this column.

Last Reviewed: October 2017