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Sur-Pies! Google shocks world with sudden Android 9 Pixel push

One critical question remains: Who ate all the Pies?

Google today somewhat unexpectedly started rolling out to the masses its latest version of Android – dubbed Android 9 Pie.

This major build of the mobile operating system is right now being released to Pixel devices as well as the Essential Phone. Google says other Android devices will get the update over the course of this year.

Devices that were enrolled in the Android Beta program will also be getting the Pie update "by the end of this fall."

We've previously covered version 9's features, here, and here, after playing around with developer builds of Android P – its in-development codename.

Not all of the advertised features in Pie are going live with this release, though. Google said the "Digital Wellbeing" features, which help users manage their smartphone addictions by monitoring how much time they spend in apps, will not be released to general availability until later this year. Folks who subscribe to beta releases with Pixel devices can try out the features now, however.

Also, Slices – see below – will be missing at first.

Google touts Android 9's use of machine-learning-based components, which are supposed to make smartphones and tablets better able to adjust things like screen brightness and battery usage around what the ad giant hopes is the personal preference of users.

"We’ve built Android 9 to learn from you—and work better for you—the more you use it," gushed Sameer Samat, Google VP of product management for Android and Google Play, earlier today.

"From predicting your next task so you can jump right into the action you want to take, to prioritizing battery power for the apps you use most, to helping you disconnect from your phone at the end of the day, Android 9 adapts to your life and the ways you like to use your phone."

Here's a list of things Pie is supposed to be able to get right:

  • Prioritize battery power for your most-used apps.
  • Set the brightness to how you like it, depending on your setting.
  • Offer actions in apps based on your previous activities – for example, suggest a route to work during your morning commute.
  • Later this year show "Slices" of apps in other apps – for example, searching for Lyft in Google Search displays a small section from the Lyft application with ride prices, and so on.
  • The system navigation bar has a single home button, and the ability to swipe up to see an overview of the device.
  • Options displayed for selected text depend on the context and meaning of the words – for example, if you highlight the name of a restaurant, you'll be offered to search for Yelp reviews of the place.
  • And other stuff, detailed here.

Google has also deployed Control Flow Integrity protections and other security mechanisms to help thwart the exploitation of use-after-free() and buffer overflow bugs by miscreants to install malware on gadgets.

The new Android will also allow developers to access APIs that manage secure NFC payments, and will sport a new ART runtime that will look to reduce an app's memory footprint and speed up performance.

An early Reg review of Android 9 found the OS to indeed be faster and more stable than its predecessors, though the new user interface does taking some getting used to. ®

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