With the Android P Developer Preview now available, we have a much better idea about what to expect. We explain when and what we expect to see from Android 9.0, which may or may not be called Android Popsicle.

How to get the Android P Developer Preview

Released in early March, the Android P Developer Preview is available only to the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. You can download the Android P system image and flash it to your device, or run Android P in an emulator.

If you do decide to flash the Developer Preview, to revert to your current OS you'll need to flash a factory image.

We aren't providing step-by-step instructions because the Developer Preview is not intended for normal users. A consumer preview will be available soon, likely at Google I/O in May. We'd strongly recommend waiting until then to try the latest features.

What will Android 9.0 be called?

Since the early days of Android updates have been named after sweet treats and in alphabetical order. So far we've seen:

  • Android Donut (v1.6)
  • Android Eclair (v2.0)
  • Android Froyo (v2.2)
  • Android Gingerbread (v2.3)
  • Android Honeycomb (v3.0)
  • Android Ice Cream Sandwich (v4.0)
  • Android Jelly Bean (v4.1)
  • Android KitKat (v4.4)
  • Android Lollipop (v5.0)
  • Android Marshmallow (v6.0)
  • Android Nougat (v7.0)
  • Android Oreo (v8.0)

In 2018 we should see Android 'P' launch as Android 9.0. The name won't be announced until the summer, but that doesn't stop us having a guess as to what it could be.

There are already rumours the name could be Android Pie, Android Pecan Pie or Android Pumpkin Pie, thanks to a reference to Android Pi within the Android Open Source Project. But that doesn't sound very Google.

The company has also been sharing some images of popsicles on Instagram. Popsicle is a trademarked name, but that doesn't mean Google won't go there.

Google Developers have been dropping hints on Twitter, too, and the binary code pictured takes you to the google.com/io website where you'll be able to use Street View to explore the reception area of a Google Developer's building. There are various puzzles to solve, and locked away in a second room you'll find a Pineapple Cake. Could we be looking at Android Pineapple?

Other sources are pointing to Android Pistachio Ice Cream, which is apparently what Google is calling the upcoming OS internally. It fits the usual sweet-treat requirement, and from previous OS names we know Google likes ice cream. But pistachio? What about all the nut-allergy sufferers?

Our favourite is Android Popsicle, but vote in our poll below and add any other ideas to the comments at the bottom of this page.

When is Android 9.0 coming out?

A consumer preview of Android 9.0 will most likely be announced during Google I/O 2018, which we expect to take place in mid-May, potentially 16-18 May 2018. As before with Oreo the developer preview was announced earlier in March.

A few public betas will follow, and we expect to see the final consumer release in August 2018.

When will my phone get Android 9.0?

Although Android 9.0 will be released in August 2018, it won't be immediately available to all Android devices. The update will first be available to Google Pixel devices, and then we'll start to see new phones arriving with Android P out of the box at September's IFA 2018 show.

Android updates are rolled out by phone manufacturers and network operators rather than Google itself, because any Android updates must first be tweaked to work with any customisations they have made. 

Those with vanilla interfaces - such as Nokia, which has already confirmed Android P updates for all 2017 phones - will be among the first to roll out the update, then the likes of Samsung, LG, Sony and HTC will begin rolling out Android 9.0 in late 2018/early 2019.

OTA updates, when they do arrive, are expected to download and install faster and use less data thanks to Google's Brotli compression algorithm.

There's also no guarantee that your device will be updated to Android 9.0 (see how to update Android). Device fragmentation is still a problem for the OS, and at the last count (by Android Developers) on 5 February there were still devices running version 2.3.3 Gingerbread.

Version Codename Distribution
2.3.3-2.3.7 Gingerbread 0.3%
4.0.3-4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich 0.4%
4.1.x Jelly Bean 1.7%
4.2.x Jelly Bean 2.6%
4.3 Jelly Bean 0.7%
4.4 KitKat 12.0%
5.0 Lollipop 5.4%
5.1 Lollipop 19.2%
6.0 Marshmallow 28.1%
7.0 Nougat 22.3%
7.1 Nougat 6.2%
8.0 Oreo 0.8%
8.1 Oreo 0.3%

What new features to expect in Android 9.0

According to Android Developers, key new features in Android P include:

  • Simplicity, speed, and many new ways to extend your apps

  • MessagingStyle and other notification updates

  • ImageDecoder for bitmaps and drawables

  • Data cost sensitivity in JobScheduler

  • Display cutout APIs

  • Multi-camera APIs

(For full details see the video at the top of this page.)

Ars Technica has published a screenshot it found on the Android Developers blog that suggests Google is redesigning the notification bar. Gone is the multitasking button, leaving merely back and a longer home button - the latter closer in design to that of the iPhone X.

Android P navigation

Another interface change is coming to the apps tray, which will now scroll horizontally rather than vertically.

Previously XDA Developers has also suggested that Google will remove access to unofficial APIs (those not part of the official SDK) - news that will upset some developers.

Other changes we can expect to see in the upcoming update, according to the enthusiast site, include support for Wi-Fi Direct Printing support and Bluetooth hearing aids, and better integration for Android Things.

The new OS will also prevent malicious apps running in the background from accessing your camera and mic in order to spy on you, according to AOSP. We'll have to wait and see how this affects anti-theft apps, a consideration pointed out by Slashgear.

One potential new feature is to do with smaller image file sizes. In iOS 11 Apple introduced HEIC files, which are also known as HEIF or High Efficiency Image Format. It’s the still image version of HEVC, which is the latest video codec. It makes for Jpeg images just 50 percent of their previous size, can store image edits and multiple photos in one file (think Live Photo and burst mode), and it supports transparency and 16-bit colour.

HEIC is not a proprietary image format developed by Apple itself, so there's every possibility Google could opt for the same format. However, Google is also working with the Alliance for Open Media on its own version that is currently able to create images 15 percent smaller than HEIC. It would make sense to use the better version, of course, but for now the project is very much in its infancy. Whether it will be ready for Android 9.0 we simply don't know.

There is some suggestion that a phone will need a reasonably powerful processor to take advantage of HEIC, however, which means budget phones may not get the change.

According to Bloomberg, Android is also set to be adapted to support phones with a 'notch' design, as introduced by the iPhone X. The upcoming OS will also support foldable displays, such as that of the Galaxy X, and devices with multiple displays.

Increased call blocking is another possibility, according to XDA, where users will even be able to block private numbers, pay phones and numbers that either have no ID or aren't in your contacts list.

Another interesting rumour from XDA is that Android P will allow you to use your phone as a Bluetooth keyboard or mouse. It will work in a similar way to the new Samsung DeX dock for the Galaxy S9.

Things we would like to see in the new OS include a faster rollout and less defragmentation among devices, improved Picture-in-Picture app support, and further enhancements on battery life and performance.

Google is also working on another operating system called Fuchsia, which some are saying could replace Android in the longer term.

What would you like to see in Android P? Let us know in the comments.

Read next: Best Android phones available right now

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