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Google launches Android O beta with Play Protect, faster boot times, and smoother apps

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Google today launched the first Android O beta (think of it as the second release of the Android O developer preview). You can start testing your apps against this release by downloading the new preview from developer.android.com/preview. The preview includes an updated SDK with system images for the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel C, and the official Android Emulator, and there’s even an emulator for testing Android Wear 2.0 on Android O.

Dave Burke, vice president of engineering for Android, made the announcement at Google’s I/O 2017 developer conference today. He highlighted two themes: Fluid Experiences (picture-in-picture, notification dots, autofill, and smart text selection) and Vitals (security enhancements, OS optimizations, and developer tools). The first one we’ve seen before, but the second was largely new.

For security enhancements, Android O is getting Google Play Protect, a new service that scans your apps for malicious activity. For OS optimizations, Google is promising faster boot times (the Pixel boots up twice as fast with O, Google claims) thanks to big Android runtime changes. Apps will also run faster and smoother, though Google didn’t give any hard numbers for that. In terms of developer tools, Play Console Dashboards is a new service that shows developers the top bugs and issues that users have with their apps.

Google launched the first Android O developer preview in March but waited until May for the second one to unveil it at its I/O 2017 developer conference. The first preview wasn’t made available via the Android Beta Program, which lets you get early Android builds via over-their-air updates, so as to emphasize it is for developers only and not intended for daily or consumer use. The beta, however, can be obtained at android.com/beta.

Google is planning to release two more previews: the third one in June and the fourth in July. The final version is slated for release in the third quarter of 2017.

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