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The 5 Android Oreo features you’ll actually want to use

Goodbye Nougat, hello Oreo. Here's how your life will get better once your Android gets the update.

Lexy Savvides/CNET

Android Oreo is finally here to sweeten up your phone. The mobile software update brings a number of under-the-hood changes, which promise to improve battery life and performance. But there are a few other cosmetic and usability features as well, and you'll certainly notice them first.

Unfortunately, Oreo is only rolling out to Google Pixels or Nexus phones for now. But don't worry, according to Google, many other Android devices will get the update before the end of 2017.

If you already received the update, let us know what you think. If not, read on to learn more about the major differences with this new update.

These are just our first impressions of Oreo -- stay tuned for our definitive analysis in the next few weeks.

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First up, does it feel faster?

When I ran two Pixel phones side-by-side, one with Oreo (8.0.0) and the other with Nougat (7.1.2), the Oreo phone boots up a good 13 seconds faster.

Apart from the boot though, Oreo doesn't seem noticeably faster.  Animations such as swiping down to reveal the notification shade appear to have been tightened up, which gives the impression of speed, but overall I didn't notice much of a difference when switching between applications or launching apps.

Speaking of the notifications shade, I hope you like white. Oreo's facelift includes tweaking the background of the notifications shade. It's now white, compared to Nougat's muted gray. It may not be a huge difference, but it's going to be really noticeable when you're checking your phone at night or in a dimly lit room.

Oreo on the left, Nougat on the right.

Lexy Savvides/CNET

The Settings menu has also been cleaned up a bit, grouping together items such as Apps & Notifications instead of keeping them in separate categories. Overall though, there's no huge differences in interface design from Nougat.

android-picture-in-picture

Watch a video while you find the best place to have dinner.

Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

Picture-in-picture

Oreo's picture-in-picture mode lets you shrink a video into a small, resizable box that you can keep on top of other windows (because we all love to be distracted). To get it to shrink to picture-in-picture mode, the video has to be playing in fullscreen. Then tap the home button. Resize the box by tapping once, or move it around the screen. You can also resume playback from the notifications shade.

Picture-in-picture is only available in a few apps including Chrome and YouTube Red. If this feature gets annoying, you can turn it off from the settings menu. Go to Settings > Apps and Notifications > Advanced > Special app access > Picture-in-picture and toggle off for each app. 

Camera tweaks

The camera app hasn't changed much cosmetically apart from a video button that switches between camera and video modes. 

What is new and incredibly useful is the quick zoom feature. Just double-tap on the screen to zoom in, perfect for one-handed snaps.

HDR processing is ever so slightly faster on Oreo compared to Nougat, but not enough to make a considerable difference.

New emoji

The Android blob-style emoji earned a soft spot in my heart over the years. Unfortunately for me, they've gone to the retirement village to make way for more youthful, rounded smiley faces. Boooo.

But on the bright side, you'll notice the addition of 70 new emojis including T-Rex, Dracula and my personal favorite, the vomit face. I guess I forgive you, Android.

Customize your notifications

Notification dots are a subtle addition to Oreo. A dot will appear over an app icon when there's a new notification or something that needs your attention. Either open the app or long press to get a quick peek at what's happening.

If you prefer a clean look -- and I definitely feel the need to be tidier here -- you can switch off notification dots.

You also have more specific control over notifications using channels. Take YouTube as an example. There are two channels: download notifications and general notifications. For each channel, you can choose how Android should display notices. You can put it on the lock screen, blink the light, show a dot or do all three.

It's useful, but it takes work to tweak exactly as you like.

Autofill is a life-changer -- seriously

My favorite Oreo feature by far. If you use a password manager with Autofill support (and you should) such as LastPass, 1Password or Dashlane, Oreo will automatically enter your credentials when you log into apps. 

Autofill does default to Google Smart Lock first. The idea is if you're logged into Chrome on a desktop browser then switch to your phone, all your login and autofill details carry over. Change it to another service by going to Settings > Languages and Input > Autofill service.

Then, when you open an app that requires a login like Facebook or Twitter, tap the login button and an autofill button will pop up to magically enter all your details.

There are many more Oreo features like improved Bluetooth audio and Wi-Fi Aware support that I haven't tried yet, nor have I done a battery test to compare Oreo to Nougat, but will update later down the track. Stay tuned and for more on OS, read CNET's Android Nougat review here.