Around this time last year, Android’s engineering team hosted an ‘Ask Me Anything’ session on Reddit, to discuss the Android O release. The team announced that it would be returning for what is now practically a tradition, with this AMA for questions about Android P.
Popular topics that were put to the team included plans for Android tablets, system-wide dark mode (as always), and the disappointing new gesture navigation. Not all questions were answered, understandably, but here’s what Google’s devs did have to say in their responses.
It’s one feature request that just won’t go away, despite Google previously saying how hard theming is to do well. Sadly, there was only confirmation that they “don’t have anything to announce about a unified dark mode.” This is disappointing, but not unexpected, and while I wouldn’t rule it out at some point in the future, it’s almost certainly not coming with Android P.
Announced at Google I/O, Adaptive Battery is a new feature that will use AI to learn your habits and restrict apps from running intensive processes when you don’t need them. One Redditor asked if there was a way to have it forget what it’s learned, other than doing a factory reset, and the answer was no. It will apparently be a fast learner, however, negating the need to reset it in the first place.
Quick Settings Tiles
In Oreo, some quick settings tiles were expandable while some were not. As of the Android P dev previews, they no longer work the same way, and none of them are expandable any longer. Some users aren’t happy about this, but Megan Potoski explained the change by saying they wanted the behavior to be more consistent. That’s how they ended up with one tap toggling the setting on or off and a long press taking you to the settings page. If you ask me, it’s probably better this way.
The current android sharing menu is slow and terrible, something I think we can all agree on. According to the poster of a question about it, “Rita El Khoury had a wonderful article at Android Police highlighting other issues with the Share UI” — gee, thanks. Google’s Adam Powell took the blame for this, explaining that his implementation relies too heavily on how fast third-party apps are to start and return direct share targets. Because it was already so slow to animate, they disabled tapping on something before the menu finishes loading to avoid errors, and this made the whole thing even worse.
Luckily, this is something they’re looking at improving, by changing how the API works and having links from third-party apps loaded in advance. Hopefully, this will be ready in time for the final Android P release, although there was no confirmation from Google about this.
This feature has been heralded as the answer to Android’s fragmentation problem by modularizing the OS and making it easier for OEMs to release updates in a timely fashion. When asked if it was making the Android team’s job easier, the answer was surprising. Apparently, it’s actually harder to maintain HAL interfaces that are now essentially frozen. Even so: “All this pain is worth it, though.”
Many commentators, myself and David included, see Android P’s new gesture navigation as a half-baked attempt to mimic something that the iPhone X actually does very well. This inevitably came up in the AMA, and Google has this to say:
Thanks for the question! We evaluated many, (MANY!) options for navigation as part of this overall change to the system spaces (worth noting that our main impetus was about making All Apps/Overview more accessible from wherever you are in the system, similar to the notification shade). HOME and BACK are so central to Android navigation (both the system and the apps) – that ensuring the dependability of them via buttons with enough space led us to the current design. All that said – we really value both the aesthetic and functional appeal of a smaller nav bar / more gross-gesture navigation and are continuing to explore opportunities to bring that in.
Making Overview more like the notification shade makes sense, but it still seems like they ran out of time when it came to getting this ready for Android P; they probably should have just waited until Android Q so they could get it right, but we’re stuck with it now. At least there’s an admission (of sorts) that it could be improved and an indication that they are “continuing to explore” a better implementation.
That merely scratches the surface of everything the Android engineering team had to say, so check out the source links below to read more of their answers and see what they refused to comment on. Maybe some of the things you’ve been wondering about were covered too.
Image: Chet Haase on Twitter