Android O has been in the wild in beta form for some time now, available to developers and brave souls who like to check out new software as soon as it's available. But now, Android 8.0 has an official name and a timeframe for public release.
Each Android version gets a confection-related name in alphabetical order. The last few have been KitKat, Lollipop, Marshmallow, and Nougat. Android 8.0, known as Android O up to this point, will be called Oreo. Android's director of product management Sagar Kamdar said that Oreo will start rolling out by the end of the year.
The new version of Android boasts a pretty impressive list of features, both above and under the hood. Google promises that Android will be twice as fast to boot up (according to time measured on the Google Pixel). Background app activity will be limited to keep apps from using too much data, chewing through processor cycles, or pinging GPS towers too often—all activites that can guzzle down battery before you can even make it to lunch.
On the interface side of things, the new Notification Dots are overlaid on top of app icons and make it easier to see what apps have pending notifications, and offer an easier way to access them. Instant Apps lets developers modularize apps so that they launch immediately from a webpage and can be used right away. These apps are split into modules which are loaded on-demand. There are a handful of accessibility improvements, like using the volume keys as accessibility shortcuts, being able to use the fingerprint reader as a input device, and the presence of a separate volume control for the the accessibility service.
Google's Pixel, Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X phones will get the update first. Samsung will reportedly offer Oreo for Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S8 handsets, along with the upcoming Note 8. Mobile-focused sites like Android Central are keeping sharp tabs on which phones will get the update, so be sure to check periodically.
Whether your particular phone will get Oreo is a tough question. Android's fragmentation doesn't look like it'll be fixed anytime soon, and there are millions of devices running versions years out of date. Most manufacturers support phones for a couple years before considering them too old to keep up-to-date. My Samsung Galaxy S6 is running Nougat, for example, but won't be getting Oreo. While it's nice to see Google itself moving ahead with Android, it's a shame that the rest of the phone world doesn't tend to follow.