Android 8.1 Oreo, while technically being a minor maintenance release, does come with a lot of new features and improvements to make it feel like an upgrade. As of now, Android 8.1 Oreo is rolling out to the Pixel 2 and 2 XL, the Pixel 1 and 1 XL, the Pixel C tablet, and the Nexus 6P and 5X.
The update puts a focus on Google expanding its efforts into both AR (Augmented Reality) and AI (Artificial Intelligence) as well as a comical internet debate.
The most notable feature in this update is the new Neural Networks API (NNAPI) which according to Google means it is “designed for running computationally intensive operations for machine learning on mobile devices.” The good news is this feature is backward compatible meaning so long as you are able to run the latest OS you should be able to benefit from this feature.
In addition to those who are running on the Pixel 2 device you now have a neat little feature dubbed the Pixel Visual Core. Now when Google built the Pixel 2 it came with the usual latest Snapdragon processor that existed when it was being developed as does every major flagship device running on Android. However, the company also packed in a custom built 8 core co-processor dubbed Pixel Visual Core.
Until recently the Pixel Visual Core essentially did nothing, however, after much testing both with developers and internally within Google they found that running this in-house HDR_ image processing technology that the Visual Core was built for managed to run 5x faster, and use 1/10th the energy. Now to give this a try follow the below instructions to enable it on your Pixel 2 device.
Go into Settings > System > About phone > Build number
Tap 7 times (5 times if you’re on beta) to enable Developer options
Go to Developer options > Debugging > Camera HAL HDR+
In addition to those features, the update includes generalized expanded AR support, and below are some other notable tweaks and modifications.
Android 8.1 Oreo adds a battery readout — indicating the battery percentage of your connected device — to the Bluetooth Quick Settings and the Bluetooth regular settings.
The bottom seated always-on navigation bar turns to an inverted black-on-white color scheme in Android 8.1 Oreo in some apps like the system settings to reduce screen burn-in. The navigation buttons also dim after a second or two of idleness.
Android 8.1 Oreo adds transparency to the pull-down settings/notification menu.
Android 8.1 Oreo adds new reboot animations, as also a new power off/restart menu that now pulls out from the right corner of the screen.
Apps and notifications menu in settings in Android 8.1 Oreo now displays recently opened apps for a quick referral.
The Netflix app now supports picture-in-picture mode.
On a lighter note, Google has finally learned the proper way to make a cheeseburger in Android 8.1 Oreo. You get a new hamburger, beer, and cheese emojis with the update. Also, Android 8.1 brings a new Oreo Easter egg if you’re into that sort of thing.