While Apple’s iOS mobile operating system has always followed a clear chronological timeline, the evolution of Google Android has been rather more convoluted.
Fifteen different codenames have been presented to the public thus far, with only the unnamed original version of Android not receiving a confectionery-related moniker.
Yet although Android Pie is the sixteenth iteration of Android, it’s really only version 9.0.
That’s because some previous releases were revisions, rather than entirely new platforms. Ice Cream Sandwich was version 4.0, Jelly Bean was 4.1 to 4.3 and KitKat was 4.4 to 4.4.4.
If that’s not confusing enough, release dates have also varied widely.
Four new variants were released in 2009 alone, including Donut in September and Éclair in October.
In recent times, a new version has debuted each year – Nougat in 2016 and Oreo in 2017.
Released six months ago, Android Pie is the latest version of Android, yet most consumers haven’t had a chance to experience it yet.
Initially released exclusively on the latest Pixel phones from Android’s parent company Google, Pie is slowly being rolled out to the wider public.
Some companies (Alcatel, BlackBerry, LG) don’t currently offer it on any of their phones, while others (Sony, ASUS, Samsung) are now pre-installing it on selected models.
It may even be possible to install it as an upgrade, though the number of Pie-compatible phones remains frustratingly small.
But is it worth upgrading your Android phone’s operating system? And if you can’t, do Pie’s benefits mean you should look for a new model which provides it as standard?
New or improved features in Android Pie
- App timer. It’s now possible to set time limits for certain apps, whose icons are greyed out once this threshold is reached to discourage excessive use.
- Usage statistics. The app timer is augmented by a detailed dashboard, recording data about daily screen time and how often the phone is unlocked in each 24-hour period.
- Shush mode. Another nod to mental health issues, Shush silences notifications when the phone is placed face down. Do Not Disturb prevents visual notifications and pop-ups.
- Gesture navigation. In an attempt to engineer out the Back and Home buttons, a bar now supports swipes for actions like opening the app drawer or launching Google Assistant
- Geolocation. The IEEE 802.11mc WiFi protocol gave Pie far more accurate geolocation abilities. The result is highly precise turn-by-turn GPS mapping, even indoors.
- App Actions. Specific functions can happen when an app icon gets a long press, or as peripherals are attached (e.g. opening a music playlist as headphones are plugged in).
- Adaptive battery. Keeping popular apps in memory but closing unimportant programs, the Adaptive Battery feature reduces data transfer and CPU use to bolster battery life.
- Stronger security. Idle apps can’t use a phone’s camera or microphone anymore. There’s improved security when connecting to WiFi networks with MAC address randomisation.