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

Release dates, beta versions, and all the new features

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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 P – though we're still waiting for the full title. Here's everything you need to know about the OS, including all the new features, and when your phone can expect to get it.

We don't have an exact release date for the software yet, but we know it's going to roll out sometime over summer or just afterwards. If you have the right kind of phone, you can already install the Android P beta and play around with some of the new features.

Android P: release date and availability

Google I/O 2018

Google I/O 2018

As you might have noticed, the public beta of Android P is already here: if you don't mind putting up with a few bugs and a few apps that don't work properly, you can get a taste of what's to come from Google's next OS.

Bear in mind that during the beta stage features will get added and dropped as Google refines the software. Eventually, we'll get a full and finished version of Android 9.0 that gets pushed out to everyone.

As for when the finished version of Android P will appear, we're not exactly sure – but again we can get some clues from last year. Oreo was released to the public in August 2017, and we think Google will probably follow the same schedule this time around.

As usual, Google's phones get first dibs on the new software, and this year the older Nexus phones are getting cut out of the loop. However, the beta has been extended to phones from Essential, OnePlus, Nokia and Sony, so we're hopeful that the annual Android roll out will be a little quicker this year.

We have already heard that the Samsung Galaxy S9 phones should be some of the first to get Android P. That's thanks to an initiative from Google called Project Treble, which makes it easier for other manufacturers to update their software.

Android P: all the new features so far

Android P

Android P messaging

We're only at the beta stage, which means not all the new features coming to Android P will be included in the code yet, but there's already plenty 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.

Android P

Android P

The interface has been given a few more tweaks here and there, tweaks which may or may not make it into the final version of Android P: the icons on the pull-down quick settings menu 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 are getting improvements too, with smart replies and in-line picture previews coming to 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 P will ask if you want to hide alerts from that app completely.

Do Not Disturb has been enhanced a well, to block visual notifications as well as audible alerts. You can also opt to activate the mode by turning over your phone and placing it face down.

Android P

Android P

We've also seen Google demo an interesting new feature called Dashboard, though it hasn't made it into the beta as yet. This 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.

Another feature Google says it is adding to Android P soon is a Wind Down mode. 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 P

Volume controls

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 P brings support for displays with notches (that is Android phones that want to follow the lead of the iPhone X). 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.

Android P: what else we're expecting

Google I/O 2018

Google I/O 2018

As we've said, Google is likely to roll out plenty more features for Android P over the coming months. We did get some fun stuff demoed at the Google I/O 2018 developer event, including a few Android P tidbits and a new Google Assistant phone call that can keep up a conversation with a real human being.

Bearing in mind that Google's key apps, from Google Assistant to Chrome to Gmail, all get updated outside of Android, the Android P improvements will be small and incremental tweaks rather than massive new features.

We're also expecting more features that build on the big two themes of the last year in mobile: artificial intelligence and augmented reality. Android P is likely to be smarter than any Android before it, and they'll be more going on in terms of AR experiences through the phone camera as well.

During the preview and beta phases, Google often pulls features out of Android as well as adding them in, so try not to get too excited about anything you see until the code is finalised or Google confirms something is staying.

App and phone security should get a boost too, as Google tries to fight malware and dodgy apps on the platform, and stay tuned for some Google Assistant upgrades as well – though these can also happen outside of the main Android updates.

Last but not least, we're also expecting Google to settle on a full and final name for Android P – what's your guess for this year's dessert?