The 5 most exciting features coming to Android in 2017

And YOU can try them in the public beta. Find out how here...

Google I/O 2017 is happening this week, the annual developer conference where Google spills the beans on what's coming down the line with its software and hardware. It's aimed at coders and manufacturers, but there's usually plenty to interest the rest of us too.

This year has been no different, and alongside improvements to Google Home and innovations in VR, Google execs revealed more about Android O, which is coming "later this summer". If you want to test these features now, you can already sign up for the beta.

1. Better app security

The next version of Android is going to come with a new feature built into the Play Store app, called Google Play Protect. It's essentially an antivirus and antimalware scanner for your phone (or tablet), making sure that nothing nasty is getting installed. Android already does this to an extent, but with Android O it's going to be a more visible part of the OS.

According to Google, the company's algorithms already scan some 50 billion apps every day, looking for suspicious behaviour, and rather than all that work getting hidden away in the background, it's going to be shown in the Play Store - a new notification appears on screen telling you when your apps were last scanned and giving your phone the all clear.

2. Notification dots and previews

It's perhaps not the most revolutionary idea in the world - and it's something iOS has always had - but in Android O, apps will be able to display notification alerts as little dots (or badges) above the app icons themselves. Unlike iOS, they won't show the number of alerts you've missed, but they give you a quick overview of which apps need attention.

Notifications indicated by dots can be viewed by pulling down the notification bar from the top, or by long-pressing the app icon (3D Touch, anyone?) - users get a preview of the notification (like an email or photo comment) without having to open up the app itself... and who has the time to go to the effort of actually opening up apps these days?

3. Faster boot up times

Google says it wants to invest in the "vitals" of its mobile operating system with Android O, and that includes the basics like battery life, security and boot up times: those boot up times are going to be around twice as fast for the Google Pixel, for instance, all thanks to some clever tweaking Google's engineers have done behind the scenes in Android O.

The same clever tweaks are going to speed up your apps and overall performance too, and the best part is that the apps themselves don't need to update or be optimised to get the speed boost. According to a stat quoted on stage during the I/O keynote, Google Sheets (to take one example) is twice as fast on Android O as it is on its predecessor Android Nougat.

4. Smarter copy and paste

Copying and pasting text on a phone is a messy business at the best of times, but Android O should make the whole experience a little more user-friendly, with a feature that's officially called Smart Text Selection. The idea is if you double-tap on the screen, Android O knows what you want to select - whether it be a phone number, a name, or an address.

In other words, no more fiddling about to get the text selection just right before you copy it, run a search from it, or anything else. On top of that, if Android O recognises that you've highlighted something like a street address, the OS recognises it and displays a quick shortcut to Google Maps alongside the usual options to copy, format, paste, and so on.

5. A new look for Android TV

The big screen version of Android wasn't left out, and Google announced that a revamped, cleaner-looking launcher interface would be rolling out to Android TV this year. While we only got glimpses of what the launcher looked like during the I/O keynote, it looks like a fluid and intuitive experience, with even easier access to your favourite apps and content.

Android TV is also getting Google Assistant at some unspecified point during 2017, Google said, which means you'll be able to ask your television important questions about what the weather's going to do and which restaurants nearby do a good curry. On top of that, 360-degree videos are coming to the big screen soon as well, courtesy of YouTube TV.