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Android Oreo wants to make your phone twice as fast

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3-fast

Android Oreo is rolling out soon.

Google

The latest chapter of the mobile war is in full swing. In conjunction with Monday's 2017 solar eclipse, Google revealed the official name of its latest mobile OS as Android Oreo. The update is undergoing carrier testing for Pixel phones and the Nexus 5X and 6P, and should roll out "soon," according to Google. The Pixel C and Nexus Player will also be compatible with the update. Select phones from Samsung, LG, Motorola, Essential, HTC, Huawei, Sony, Nokia, Kyocera and Sharp will either launch with or update to Oreo through the end of 2017.

The OS was first announced in May as Android O, during Google's annual I/O 2017 developer conference. It was there that the company gave a first taste of its forthcoming software for phones, tablets and Android TV.

Afterward, Apple responded with iOS 11, its next-gen platform for iPhones and iPads. Which one's winning so far? We won't really know until we get iOS 11 and Android Oreo on phones side by side, but on the whole, Android Oreo is coming out ahead.

So let's take a look at Oreo and everything it has to offer.

If you're hoping for a ton of crazy features that make the OS look and feel completely different, it's time to temper your expectations. Like Android 7.0 Nougat, Android 8.0 Oreo focuses mostly on the nuts and bolts of making the software work better and faster and save battery.

This is all good, though. It means your battery should last longer and your device should speed up everything from navigating around to processing really complex photo tasks.

But don't worry, there are still some decadent goodies in here, like a cool picture-in-picture feature that makes multitasking more convenient; a much easier copy/paste that seems way cooler than it has any right to be; and password autofill in Chrome for Android that's going to save you time and typing.

If you want to see it for yourself, but don't have the update just yet, you can check out the latest iteration of Google's Android Oreo public beta.

Here we go, starting with the flashiest stuff first.

Picture-in-picture

Watch a video while writing a list? Yes!

James Martin/CNET

Let's say you're watching a YouTube video and suddenly remember something you need to do. Normally, you'd have to exit out of the video and open Google Keep or your notes app to jot the reminder.

In Android Oreo, you'll just press the home button and the video shrinks into a movable window. The clip keeps playing while you open up Keep to write your note, or do anything else on the phone. You can reopen the YouTube video, or swipe the thumbnail away when you're done.

It's called picture-in-picture (PIP), and if you've ever used a recent Samsung Galaxy phone, you may already know about the feature.

You'll be able to play around with the PIP a little, like adjusting the size, or park it on the side of the screen to get it out of the way. You'll also be able to opt out if you don't like it. One PIP will work at a time. If you have a PIP window already running and press Home again, you won't get a second PIP window, you'll go to the Home screen.

Picture-in-picture will work with the likes of Google's Duo calling app and Netflix at first; support for Maps will come later. I'm really excited about a Maps PIP because it means you can navigate in a tiny thumbnail while you do other things, like check your email, browse Facebook or send text messages.

New app notifications

Press and hold an app alert to take a peek inside.

James Martin/CNET

You already get alerts in the pull-down notifications shade at the top of the screen, but with Android Oreo, you'll see a dot appear next to an app icon that tells you you have an unread item.

Here's the best part. You can press and hold the app icon to expand the message and take a peek at the alert content inside.

Sound familiar? Both the notification badges and peeking take a page from Apple iOS on the iPhone and iPad; specifically, they've both had badges for years. Nevertheless, these are two features I welcome on Android.

Notifications are synced between the dot and the notifications shade, so tapping one will clear the other. Eagle-eyed users may notice that the color of the dot matches the app icon.

Auto-fill (like on Chrome)

Typing your name and password over and over again into the same device is annoying. So Google is carrying over autofill from Chrome on the desktop to Chrome on mobile. Yesss!

You'll see a prompt to add fill fields like your username, password, address, credit card number -- you get it. Simply click to fill. Two clicks and you're in.

Android Oreo's autofill feature will support third-party providers, too. So if you launch Twitter, O will suggest your username and password. The grand hope is that autofill will take the pain out of moving between devices.

Better copy and paste

If you're like me, you quietly put up with copy and paste on mobile because there's no other choice. Selecting a phone number, email address or phrase doesn't always work perfectly, and you spend time fidgeting with the selection bars in the right place.

With Android Oreo, you just long press or double-tap anywhere on the phrase to select a phone number, address, business, name or place. It all links into Google's database and your contact list.

In addition to asking if you want to copy the selection, the system will suggest opening the dialer if you tap a number, Gmail if you tap an email handle and Maps if you select a street address.

Faster Android behind the scenes

Google wants to make Android faster. In fact, the company says that Android Oreo is more than twice as fast as Android Nougat. That includes boot times (those apparently dropped from 35 to 13 seconds on the Pixel) and apps like Google Sheets running a hell of a lot faster.

So it's created a way to process complex tasks -- like the camera recognizing an object, or interacting with Google Assistant -- on the device instead of in the cloud.

duopip500px.gif

Another look at Android O's picture-in-picture mode.

Google

(The technical name for this is TensorFlow Lite, which puts machine learning tasks on the phone, so the device can instantly take care of the job in real time, rather than ping the cloud and wait for a response.)

Big ole battery boost

There's already Doze, which saves battery by silencing background activity while you're idle. This is different. Android Oreo introduces restrictions on background apps. It won't stop syncing your mail, but it will keep certain apps from running down your battery and hogging all your memory. The system will also flash a badge that lets you know something's running in the background, like a tracker.

Keep tabs on app security in Google Play store

Android already scans every app you install on your phone and wipes out the bad ones. That's built in to the Google Play store. Android Oreo makes it more obvious, giving you a heads-up that scans are happening and that your apps are safe.

Called Google Play Protect, it's meant to give you extra peace of mind that your apps aren't compromised.

Editors' note, Aug. 21, 2017: This article was updated with the official Oreo name and info about phones it'll roll out with.

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