(Source: arstechnica.com)

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.—We’re live at Google I/O, where Android O’s second developer preview arrived with almost no new announced features. This was mostly an under-the-hood update for the developer preview, and it’s apparently stable enough to be declared a “beta” now. In terms of user-facing features, though, there’s not a lot to talk about.

One big surprise was the total overhaul of Android’s emoji. Nearly every emoji has been redrawn in a new style, and all of the yellow “blob” face designs are gone. The new emoji all get better 3D shading and generally end up with a design a lot closer to what you’d get on iOS. We have dutifully chronicled every new emoji in the gallery above.

Google has also made life a little easier when it comes to updating with new emoji. Previously, emoji were built into the OS, so any changes required a full OS update. With Android O, the company announced a new “EmojiCompat” support library for apps. App developers that use the library can display the latest emoji in their app, regardless of what version of Android the app has as the host OS—at least, as long as that OS is Android 4.4 or newer.

The EmojiCompat library runs on the new font extensibility system introduced in O and backported to older versions of Android via the support library (another update patching library developers can include in their apps). The documentation doesn’t clarify if users will be able to type the new emoji—it mostly talks about displaying them—but it seems like a keyboard could be updated with the library, too. With the extensible font system, there now seems to be an obvious path to out-of-cycle emoji updates.

One or two user-facing elements seem to have changed in O preview 2. The notification panel has gone from being a dark color to a light one, and it has finally gotten the layout (which was a mess in the first preview) under control.

The new white color is pretty ugly, but like the new, all-white settings design, it looks like Google is moving AOSP to a more “generic” unthemed design. The white is there as a “blank slate” for OEMs, Google included, to customize. I really doubt a color scheme like this would ship to Pixel when O is final. Pixel phones on Android O even have a new “theme” option, which seems to be building toward a themeable Android.

You can also long-press on an app in the Pixel Launcher to access that app’s widgets.

Other than that, there’s not a lot here. Android O is just the AOSP parts of Android, and unless Google has some big surprises in store for us, it looks like it has the basics of O more or less nailed down. We’re still due for a ton of Google-specific changes, but those will have to wait until launch.

Listing image by Aurich Lawson

More Info: arstechnica.com

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