Android 9 Pie is finally official and its dessert name is Pie. Only a few phones have the update so far which include the Pixel and Pixel XL (both first- and second-generation) and the Essential Phone PH-1. Having Android 9 Pie is quite special at the moment.
What’s new in Android 9 Pie? Here are ten of the new features we’re already enjoying on our own Pixel and Essential phones.
This is one of the major changes in Pie. Since the release of the iPhone X, we’ve seen more phones attempting to implement with gestures and this is Android’s native way.
In Android 9 Pie, you can let go of the traditional navigational buttons and opt for a little pill-shaped nub at the bottom of the screen. You tap it to go Home from anywhere, hold down for the Google Assistant, and swipe up or right for the new Recent Apps screen.
Revamped recent apps screen
Another major UI change is found in the Recent Apps screen which is now called Overview. From a vertical stack of cards, Android Pie now shows your recent apps horizontally.
If you have the new gestures enabled, you can simply swipe up from the navigation bar to see this. You can also swipe the navigation bar to the far right to scroll through your most recent apps.
Redesigned quick settings
The redesigned Quick Settings Panel is another notable UI change. It’s now minimal and has rounded icons. It’s also more spacious and easier on the eyes. You can still customize it and scroll through more shortcuts on the next page.
Depending on your wallpaper (Pie adapts automatically, but you can choose manually in the Settings), you’ll either get a white or dark panel with blue circles to show active toggles and grayed-out ones for those that are off.
Android 9 Pie App actions
Thanks to better AI implementation, Android Pie can now pre-empt what it thinks you’re likely to do in an app. It knows when to suggest things depending on your location and what you’re currently doing.
It’s pretty cool and creepy at the same time. For example, based on your usage, it’ll suggest to message someone specifically first thing in the morning and check on certain activities in productivity apps.
Tech companies are making a big deal about managing screen time. As much as apps and devices are designed to keep us glued to the screen, there are also concerns about our “Digital Wellbeing.” As the name implies, it helps you manage your phone usage.
It’s still in beta but when you get to join the program, it’ll be integrated to your phone. It has a Dashboard which gives you an overview of your device usage. It also has an App Timer to let you set time limits for addictive apps (*ahem* Facebook) and such. There’s also Wind Down to cut down your device’s activity as you get to bed.
Smarter battery use
Another AI-enabled feature is “Adaptive Battery” which lets you have longer battery life. It limits the battery consumption of apps that are not so important based on your usage. It’s basically a new battery saver mode but it only targets specific apps.
Like other battery-saving options, there’s a catch to this like delayed notifications. Of course, you can always turn it off when it’s hampering the functionality of your phone.
Better volume controls
Oreo already has some improved volume controls, but Pie makes it better. By default, the volume buttons now adjust media volume rather than ringer volume. Also, the volume menu has been moved closer to the physical volume buttons, plus it has an instant toggle for mute and vibrate-only.
Hitting the Sound Settings menu will bring you to more volume controls. The menu includes adjustments for media, ring, and alarm volume. There are also advanced settings for dial pad tones, screen locking sound, and touch vibration available in the menu.
New Do Not Disturb mode
Do Not Disturb mode has been modified in Android Pie. You can now select what you want to see when this is turned on. You can add exceptions, adjust notification handling, remove visual disturbances when the screen is off, and so on.
Gone are the priority mode and alarms only, so if you’ve learned to love those two, you might have a hard time adjusting to the new simplified yet customizable DND mode.
Here’s a simple change that’ll make a big impact. You can now edit a screenshot via the notification shade. If you’ve been using pure Android phones, this is heaven-sent.
The controls are still pretty limited compared to skinned-Android like EMUI, MIUI, and Samsung Experience, but if you want to crop, circle something, or highlight a section, this will do for now. Hopefully, we’ll have scrolling screenshots soon.
Instant rotation control
Lastly, Android 9 Pie feature Instant Rotation Control. The new smart rotation button will appear in the navigation bar when the phone knows that you might want to rotate the screen’s orientation even if you have auto-rotation disabled.
The feature works great in the gallery app when viewing photos. It’ll save a trip to the Quick Settings when you want to watch a video or view a photo in full screen.
These are just some of the new features available in Android Pie. There are more to be discovered and tested. There are also under-the-hood improvements that only time will tell if they’re worth the update.
Android 9 Pie might get additional features on the upcoming Google Pixel 3 phones which are arriving — based on inside info — in early October.