Top-tier Android OEMs, in a race to make their top-tier phones top-tier, often tend to overlook battery life. But, can you really blame them? A shortage of full-proof technology — and an abundance of peer pressure — has forced them to look for alternate ways, namely fast charging and wireless charging, to fill the void. That’s all but an Ostrich approach to problem solving. Which is where Google wants to step in and do the math, for Google loves math. And AI.
Google’s way more serious about your Android phone’s battery life than you would have imagined. It is serious about the other things too but, come to think of it, none of the other things would matter if your phone’s battery life is abysmal. Which admittingly it is. Current-generation hardware isn’t helping its case either. Perhaps software — Android — could help. Android powers 2 billion devices around the world, according to Google, and inside it, could be the formula to make them run longer.
At its annual I/O developers keynote in California, Google did not have much to say about Android O because apparently one keynote wouldn’t be enough. But the things that it did say about its new OS, well let’s just say, there’s a lot to look forward to in the days to come. Android O is clearly shaping to be a bigger deal than last year’s Android N which was simply an incremental upgrade to 2015’s Android M. Ever since M, Google has been slowly and steadily, upping the ante against battery draining apps. With version O, it seems, Google is looking to hit an all-time crescendo.
Current-generation hardware isn’t helping its case either. Perhaps software — Android — could help. Android powers 2 billion devices around the world, according to Google, and inside it, could be the formula to make them run longer
The most salient feature of Android O is said to be ‘Background Execution Limits’ or ‘Wise Limits.’ “Whenever an app runs in the background, it consumes some of the device’s limited resources, like RAM. This can result in an impaired user experience, especially if the user is using a resource-intensive app, such as playing a game or watching video,” Google says. “To improve the user experience, Android O imposes limitations on what apps can do while running in the background,” it adds.
It’s an extension of Doze (introduced in M), only a lot more forthright (and imposing) in approach. Just like Doze, you wouldn’t know that it is silently working in the background though.
“If additional apps or services are running in the background, this places additional loads on the system, which could result in a poor user experience; for example, the music app might be suddenly shut down,” Google says. Not to mention, simultaneously draining battery life as well. Android O’s ‘Wise Limits’ feature will place restrictions on background apps to an extent that background apps that haven’t been used for a long time will go in idle state “while users aren’t directly interacting with them.” And it will apparently be smart enough to recognize which apps deserve such a treatment. Since location services drain the most battery, chances are apps that have permission to use GPS will most frequently be put on idle when not in use. That’s just one instance.
“Building on the work we began in Nougat, Android O puts a big priority on improving a user’s battery life and the device’s interactive performance. To make this possible, we’ve put additional automatic limits on what apps can do in the background, in three main areas: implicit broadcasts, background services, and location updates. These changes will make it easier to create apps that have minimal impact on a user’s device and battery,” Google had said while announcing the first Developer Preview of O in March earlier this year.
Apps will be restricted in two ways, according to Google:
Background Service Limitations: While an app is idle, there are limits to its use of background services. Location services for instance.
Broadcast Limitations: With limited exceptions, apps cannot use their manifest to register for implicit broadcasts. Which means they wouldn’t be able to send signals out for other apps or activities to act upon.
If that wasn’t enough, Android O will introduce solid colours as wallpapers and users will have the option to put up an all-black wallpaper from the default set available out-of-the-box. An all-black wallpaper helps save battery life especially in case of OLED display toting smartphones. While in the case of traditional LCDs, well, it doesn’t really matter at all. Since most top-tier phones from top-tier OEMs come with an OLED display (LG still doesn’t do that but the V30 and the G7 are expected to do that) solid colour wallpapers (in tandem with power-saving modes) should give battery life a big boost. The current-generation Pixel phones already ship with an OLED screen and there’s a high probability that the next-generation Pixel phones would ship with OLED too.
Google announced the second Developer Preview of O — at I/O — and with it, it opened the Beta channel for all users with a geeky state of mind to try it out. It is now available for the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Pixel, Pixel XL and Pixel C devices. Google will continue to out more Previews in the months to come, and an official roll-out of Android O (stable) is expected sometime in August-September.