How stable is the third Android O developer preview?



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    Google released the third Android O developer preview about three weeks ago, less than a month after the second preview rolled out to Nexus and Pixel devices.

    While a new version of Android is always exciting, it’s important to remember that this is a non-final build and you may run the risk of running into app crashes, poor battery life, and other little inconsistencies throughout the operating system.

    Android O Developer Preview 2 was pretty stable for me, so I had no qualms with loading up this new version on my Nexus 6P. But should you install it on your device?

    Android O Developer Preview 3 stability and battery life

    I’ve been running the third Android O developer preview on my Nexus 6P for the past three weeks or so. As I’ve mentioned in the past, my Nexus 6P has been experiencing battery life issues for months, long before the first O preview was released. I’m pretty sure it has to with a failing battery rather than poor software optimization, so be sure to keep that in mind before taking my word on battery stability.

    Overall, I’ve been very happy with Android O’s stability so far. I’m able to multitask with ease, swipe through Instagram and Twitter without many stutters at all, and even play graphic-intensive games. I haven’t experienced any applications force closing on me, and this time around, I even trusted it to navigate somewhere with Google Maps. No issues at all! Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity have also been awesome for me.

    Battery life isn’t bad for a developer preview, but it could be better. I’m still getting about three hours of screen-on time, which is what I was getting with the stable build of 7.1.1 Nougat prior to this. I’m hoping Google’s new background limits in apps will help with battery life in later builds though.

    Perhaps the only issue I’ve come across, aside from poor battery life, is that every once in awhile, double-tapping the power button to launch the camera will cause the phone to freeze. This isn’t a huge issue for me, though it is still worth noting. My colleague David Imel, who’s been using Android O DP3 on his Pixel XL, has experienced a few other issues. Every time he gets a notification from Slack, his phone rings and vibrates two times for each notification he receives.

    There is one other thing I should bring up here. New to the Pixel Launcher in Android O is the ability to choose different icon shapes. The Google Now Launcher, which I have installed, doesn’t support that feature, though it seems like all of my icons are stuck in “square icon” mode. Weird.

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    In my experience, Android O Developer Preview 3 is daily driver material, though your mileage will definitely vary. I’m not recommending you go out and install this build on your only smartphone, but I don’t think you’re going to hate it. Of course, I also have multiple other Android phones to choose from on my desk, so the decision is a little easier for me.

    Other known issues

    But those aren’t the only issues associated with the third preview. In Google’s release notes, the company says you might experience problems with:

    • Slow/janky system and app performance
    • Occasional audio stuttering
    • Wi-Fi driver issues that prevent finding available Wi-Fi networks
    • Music audio routing to device speakers instead of USB headset
    • Call audio routing to earpiece instead of Bluetooth when a user connects/disconnects a wired headset during a call
    • “No backups found” message when a new account is created through cloud restore flow
    • Docked apps may become invisible in landscape mode when a device is unlocked
    • PIP window goes to fullscreen mode while launching system settings
    • On Pixel Launcher, some home screen UI elements are rendered offscreen while in very short screen configurations
    • Devices may not respond to input on paired Bluetooth keyboards
    • Dialer app may crash when ending emergency calls made from lock screen/when phone permission is revoked
    • Messages app may crash when sending MMS after permissions are revoked and re-granted
    • Gmail app may crash when running low on storage space

    There are quite a few other known issues in this release, and you can find them all right here.

    New features I like

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    Alright, let’s stop being so negative. There are a lot of new things I like about Android O so far… my favorite of which being bundled notifications and the revitalized quick settings menu. These aren’t DP3 specific, but I still can’t get enough of them.

    Speaking of notifications, I’m also really fond of Android O’s new adaptive media control notifications (pictured above). Now in Android O, the media controls that appear in your notification shade and on your lock screen will adapt to the color of the album artwork for the music or podcast you’re currently listening to. I’ve seen some pretty beautiful color schemes so far, though others can be a little tacky — especially when you have two or three notifications going at one time.

    I’ve also found Google Chrome’s PiP mode support quite handy over the past few weeks, and I can’t wait for other apps to adopt this functionality as well.

    Stuff I haven’t tested yet

    As mentioned, I’ve been using the Google Now Launcher on my Nexus 6P to test out Android O. Since there’s still some fragmentation between the Android experience found on Nexus and Pixel phones, unfortunately I haven’t been able to try out some of Android O’s new features. Some of the things I couldn’t test were improvements to the Pixel’s Night Light feature, long-pressing on icons to pull up widgets, and notification dots.

    If you want to learn more about all these non-Nexus improvements in Android O, check out our Diving into Android O series for all the details. Also, be sure to check out our Android O Developer Preview 2 walkthrough below to see some of these changes in action:

    Watch VIDEO

    Now I want to hear from you! Have you used the third developer preview yet? If so, how has your experience been so far? Sound off in the comments below.

    Written by Jimmy Westenberg
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