We recently reported that Google was planning on rolling out the developer preview of Android 8.1 "over the coming weeks", bringing with it enabling of the Pixel Visual Core, Google's in-house image processing SoC on the new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. Now, after what has been a rather tumultuous and turbulent weeb for the Pixels (the Pixel 2 XL in particular), Google is rolling out the first developer preview for Android 8.1, both in the form of an Android Beta OTA update for the supported phones and as flashable system images.
As usual, Google has planned for 2 Developer Preview releases – 1 with the finalized APIs in beta form but still requires additional refinement (which is this build), and a near-finalized, polished developer build which we can expect at some point in November, before the rollout to OEMs and AOSP in December. The majority of Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL users, as well as Nexus users, can expect the update as an early Christmas present from Google; while users of other devices are still waiting for Android 8.0 Oreo to rear its head.
As usual, the incremental "x.1" annual Android update contains some additional functionality. For instance, Google introduced App Shortcuts, support for circular icons, image keyboard support (like GIFs and stickers in Gboard), and other minor changes in Android Nougat 7.1. And today, we find out that Google has jam-packed this update with a slew of interesting features and functionality that we have been speculating about since August when Oreo was initially released.
Some of the changes in this update include larger modifications such as the WallpaperColors API, which allows apps to manage wallpaper colors, the inclusion of the Pixel-2 style Settings search bar on all Android 8.1 devices, the addition of the Pixel-2 style power menu on all devices, the inclusion of Bluetooth battery monitoring and even minor changes like the removal of the sRGB color gamut in developer options. A series of new APIs such as a new Shared memory API for low RAM devices and an ambient low power mode for Android Wear have been included, as well as minute changes like new error codes for fingerprint scanners and a new video thumbnail extractor.
We're surprised that Google managed to iron out such a large update – an uncharacteristically large update for an "x.1" iterative update – in such a short period of time since the announcement of the update in the first place; and given that one of the update's crown features was the enabling of the Pixel Visual Core SoC on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, one cannot help but to question and consider whether this was merely a reactionary gesture to all the backlash over the Pixel 2 XL and its display that has surfaced over the course of the past week. Whether or not this is a sufficient redemptionary gesture is something only time and testing of the Visual Core will tell, but for now, we're happy with the slew of Pixel exclusive design elements and features that are now becoming available to all Android Oreo devices.
The update is available for the Nexus 5X, the Nexus 6P, the Pixel C, the Pixel, the Pixel XL, the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL. Do note that a number of users are having issues flashing the images to the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, so you might want to wait a few hours for Google to iron out the kinks before taking the plunge. You can get the images here.
What do you guys think? Will you give this update a shot? Do you think this makes up for Google's Pixel sins? Let us know in the comments, or post over in the forums with your thoughts.