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Android O: Best Business Features

Android O: Best Business Features
By , Brett Nuckles

The newest version of Android is packed with work-friendly features that IT professionals who deal with mobile deployments need to know.

The newest version of Android is packed with work-friendly features, including options that will make your business more secure. Tentatively named Android O — a final name hasn't yet been announced — the update includes better messaging, longer battery life and the ability to ward off ransomware that could compromise your company's data.

Currently, Android O is only available in beta, but lots of features were announced at Google I/O on May 17 and the final release is slated for the fall.

MORE: Best Android Apps for IT Professionals

Here's a rundown of the features that IT professionals and decision makers should look forward to.

Ransomware resistance

Older Android iterations are susceptible to attacks by ransomware, a special type of malware that locks your phone until you agree to pay a fee or enter personal information. It works because attackers can take advantage of a loophole in the way that Android handles system-level windows, allowing attackers to overlay an alert that can't be dismissed until you input personal information like your credit card number. Now Google has revisited how system windows are handled in Android O, which will prevent attackers from abusing the loophole — and in turn help keep company and employee data secure.

Integrated auto-fill

The other way that Android O will make company phones more secure is with improved auto-fill functionality. Android O smartphones will include new system-wide tools to autofill common information like your name, address, company info, and more critically, usernames and passwords. That means passwords no longer have to be memorized, which will encourage workers to use more secure passwords for company accounts. But this will make it even more important that employees use biometrics to lock the device when not in use, so that data isn't easily unlocked by nefarious actors.

Longer battery life

New features won't you get very far, though, if your company smartphones are always running out of juice. Android O is rumored to let your smartphone run much longer by setting limits on what apps can do while running in the background. More specifically, the number of background services and location updates that can be performed at the same time — or in a specified time period — will be capped. That, in turn, will stretch your phone's endurance so it can last through the end of the workday and beyond.

Improved alerts

Silencing an app in current versions of Android is all or nothing, but a new Android O feature called Notification Channels will let you choose exactly which notifications you want to mute. The feature breaks alerts into categories, letting you silence bothersome beeps and buzzes when you want to be free from distraction, while still letting important alerts get through. That's a big plus for workers, since a noisy smartphone can be pretty distracting in the workplace. Each app will handle Notification Channels a little differently, since it's up to individual developers to decide how an app classifies alerts.

Smarter maps

Android O will help you get where you need to go by helping Google Maps talk with other apps. For example, if a client texts you the location of a restaurant where they want to meet for lunch, you can just tap the address to fetch turn-by-turn directions in Google Maps — no copying and pasting necessary.

Gesture controls

Customizable gesture controls are another feature that could save workers a bit of time in Android O. Essentially, you'll get the ability to trigger actions by drawing out shapes on your phone's screen with your finger. That means you could quickly launch your contacts app by drawing the letter C, for example. It's a small addition, but it could still help you spend less time swiping around your phone's interface and more time being productive.

Picture-in-Picture

It’s possible to minimize one window within another window, similar to the features on Windows and iOS. This feature will be helpful if you want to video chat while taking notes or reference a page while looking through your emails.

Smart Text Selection

Copying and pasting can be unwieldly on a smartphone, but Android O has a solution for that problem. The Smart Text Selection feature can recognize the type of text you’re copying and help you grab all the pertinent information. Google researched the most copy and pasted items and found that addresses, phone number, and proper nouns were high on the list. They used that information to inform Smart Text Selection, so now if you double tap on any part of an address the entire address will be instantly copied, ditto for names of restaurants and phone numbers. It will then offer up a single tap option to act on that information. For instance, it will suggest you may want to make a call if you’ve just copied a phone number.

Google Play Protect

Google Play apps have always gone through a security check, but Google Play Protect will make security more hands on. By accessing Google Play Protect Android O users will be able to see the results of their security scans, get warnings about apps that look hazardous and access Find My Device, which will allow users to remotely find their devices, lock them and even wipe them. Find My Device is available on all Android products now, but the complete Google Play Protect package has not been released yet.

Google Play Console

Features have been added to the Google Play Console to make it easier for developers to improve app performance and manage growth. The dashboard will include an updated Statistics page to make it easier to access business data and compare metrics by date or time ranges (down to the hour). There will also be a Financial Reports section to help you monitor subscriptions, a User Acquisition tool to give insight into where your visitors are coming from and what your sell-through rate is and a Pre-Launch Report that shows the results of alpha or beta apps on lab devices so you can identify problems and fix them before launching. The console will also include robust tools for tracking releases through the Release Dashboard, an area just for Android vitals, the ability to publish apps with Android Instant Apps and a new device catalog. 

Android Go

Google announced their latest Android OS project at Google I/O called Android Go. Android Go is a new configuration of Android that’s intended to use less storage space and run on phones that have 1GB (or less) of memory. Android Go configured phones will focus on affordability and feature apps that are specifically configured to conserve data. These phones will also include data management in the settings to allow users to monitor usage. The goal of Android Go is to decrease the price of smartphones (by eliminating as much storage as possible) so people in developing areas of the world will be able to afford and use them, even if they don’t have constant access to a Wi-Fi network. Android Go devices will start shipping sometime in 2018.

Beta Testing is Now Open

At Google I/O 2017 the company announced that Android O beta is officially accepting applicants. If you’re interested in testing the new OS you can sign up now by going to android.com/beta. However, note that it’s likely to have errors and ticks, so we wouldn’t recommend you roll it out to any company devices just yet.