Microsoft Previews New Privacy Options in Response to Critics

Google Releases First Developer Preview of Android P

Developers can now take a preview version of Google’s Android P mobile operating system for a test drive, but only if they have official Android Emulators or Pixel devices. However, unlike past Android previews for developers, this one will not be supported on Nexus devices.

Released yesterday, the first developer preview of Android P (pictured above) promises a wide assortment of new features: indoor positioning and navigation support via Wi-Fi RTT (round-trip time), support for full-screen content and imaging that works with notched displays, expanded messaging notifications, multi-camera support, and new options for app security.

Expect more details and a beta version of Android P that’s available to a wider swath of the public to arrive in May, around the time of the Google I/O developer conference. The general consumer release for Android P — full name yet to be determined — is set for the third quarter of this year. The current version of Android, Android Oreo, was released in August.

Support for In-Building Navigation

As an early, developer-only release, the Android P preview is an early baseline build that’s likely to be buggy and unfit for daily use. For that reason, Google is making it available to developers via manual download and flash only, rather than by an automated, over-the-air update, vice president of engineering Dave Burke said in a blog post.

“Early feedback from our developer community is crucial in helping us evolve the platform to meet your needs,” Burke wrote. “As we get closer to a final product, we’ll be inviting consumers to try it out as well, and we’ll open up enrollments through Android Beta at that time.”

The new Wi-Fi RTT is aimed at eventually enabling users to map and navigate indoor spaces similar to how GPS allows outdoor navigation. Indoor positioning, which can measure distances to multiple indoor Wi-Fi access points (APs), opens new opportunities for location-based services, Burke said.

“Knowing the distance to 3 or more APs, you can calculate the device position with an accuracy of 1 to 2 meters,” he said. “With this accuracy, you can build new experiences like in-building navigation; fine-grained location-based services such as disambiguated voice control (e.g., ‘Turn on this light’); and location-based information (e.g., ‘Are there special offers for this product?’).”

Security Updates for Fingerprint ID, Encryption

Android P will also bring several new security enhancements for users. An improved user interface for biometric security, for instance, will allow apps to trigger dialog prompts when actions require fingerprint authentication. The new OS will also change network security configuration defaults to block unencrypted (cleartext) traffic unless a user specifically chooses to opt in to such data.

Another security update will restrict an app’s access to sensor data when that app’s user ID is idle. “While your app’s UID is idle, the mic reports empty audio and sensors stop reporting events,” Burke noted. “Cameras used by your app are disconnected and will generate an error if the app tries to use them.”

Google will use feedback from developers to continue fine-tuning Android P ahead of a public beta release, according to Burke. The company will have a lot more to share about the new operating system at the I/O developer conference, set for May 8-10 at Google’s Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, Calif., he added.