Android 9 Pie: everything you need to know about Google's new mobile OS

All the new features and when you can get it

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We get treated to a brand new dessert-flavoured version of Android every year, and in 2018 that upgrade is called Android 9 Pie – though it might not have reached your phone yet. Here's everything you need to know about the OS, including all the new features, and when your phone can expect to get it.

After months of beta testing, the software rolled out to Google's Pixel phones on 6 August 2018, and has appeared on multiple handsets since. Whether you have Android 9 Pie installed already or you're still waiting, get up to speed with the ins and outs of the new mobile OS.

Android 9 Pie: release date and availability

Android 9 Pie

Android 9 Pie

As we've said, the finished version of Android 9 Pie has already arrived for the Google Pixel phones. It comes pre-installed on the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL handsets Google launched near the end of 2018.

When you can expect to see Android 9 Pie arrive on your own handset depends on how old it is and which manufacturer made it. Google has been working hard to get Android updates out more quickly, but there still tends to be quite a delay on certain handsets.

We know that the newly unveiled OnePlus 6T comes with Android 9 Pie on board, and it should appear on a lot of new handsets going forward. As for flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S9, we're still waiting.

Android 9 Pie: all the new features so far

Android 9 Pie

Android 9 Pie messaging

Once Android 9 Pie does make it to your handset of choice, you're going to find plenty of new features to explore.

For a start the OS relies much more on gestures, in the style of a certain flagship phone from Apple. The Home button is replaced by a tiny bar, which you can swipe up to get to your previous apps or the full app list. Swiping left jumps to the most recently used app and the Overview button (the square) has been ditched.

Google is introducing something called App Actions, which are basically shortcuts into specific parts of an app. So you can jump straight into sending someone a message, for example, or taking a photo in a social media app.

Text selection has been improved too – more important than you might think – as you can see in the screen grab below.

Android 9 Pie

Android 9 Pie

The interface has been given a few more tweaks here and there too: icons on the pull-down quick settings menu that are clearer, for example. Sliders to adjust the volume also get a redesign in a more compact box up at the side of the screen.

Notifications get improvements in Android 9 Pie too, with smart replies and in-line picture previews for messages, so you can see more and do more from the notification panel. Plus, if you hide a lot of notifications from one particular app, Android 9 Pie will ask if you want to hide alerts from that app completely.

Do Not Disturb has been enhanced as well, to block visual notifications as well as audible alerts. On some phones, like the new Pixels, you can also opt to activate the mode by turning over your phone and placing it face down.

Android 9 Pie

Android 9 Pie

One of the major new features is called Digital Wellbeing. It gives you stats on the apps you're using most and how many times you're unlocking your phone – the idea is that you get encouraged to use it less, and apps such as YouTube will even give you a gentle nudge when it might be time to take a break.

Along the same theme is another new Android 9 Pie feature called Wind Down. You tell it when you want to go to bed, and at the right time the screen and apps turn grey, encouraging you to put the phone away and head to bed.

Elsewhere Google says your Android phone is going to get smarter under the hood. Two features called Adaptive Battery and Adaptive Brightness will learn from your habits to optimise both the battery usage and the brightness of your display, so your handset should last longer between charges.

Android 9 Pie

Android 9 Pie

On the security side of Android P, you can put your phone into a special "lockdown" mode where you can't unlock your phone using anything but your PIN. Also, apps face tighter restrictions about using the microphone and camera, which should mean no chance of anyone being able to spy on you.

Internal navigation is improved with tech known as W-Fi RTT (that's Round-Trip-Time) – it basically lets you find your position in indoor shopping centres, airports and other places based on the location of nearby Wi-Fi networks.

There are a ton of other very minor changes, but finally for now, Android 9 Pie brings support for displays with notches (that is Android phones that want to follow the lead of the latest iPhones). Apps will be able to adapt to shift their layout for notches of different sizes, and for phones that have no notch at all. The time has now been shifted to the left-hand side of the status bar, for example.

One of the other smaller improvements we like is an 'instant rotate' button that appears at the bottom to quickly shift between landscape and portrait modes, even if orientation lock is on.

Android 9 Pie: future improvements

Google I/O 2018

Google I/O 2018

Bearing in mind that Google's key apps, from Google Assistant to Chrome to Gmail, all get updated outside of Android, you can still look forward to more updates once Android 9 Pie has landed on your phone.

You can look forward to continuing upgrades for Google Assistant, especially – like the upcoming feature where it can keep up a conversation with a real human being.

App and phone security updates can appear through the Play Store app rather than having to wait for whatever new Android version Google rolls out in 2019. Similarly, the Camera app could get new augmented reality features independently, if Google has something new it wants to show off.

Now that all the excitement has died down over the Android 9 Pie upgrade, we can turn our attention to whatever Google has planned for 2019. Is it going to be able to find a dessert beginning with Q?