Android 9 Pie

8 easily overlooked Android P additions that'll make your life easier

These Android P features aren't likely to get much attention, but they'll almost certainly have a positive impact on your day-to-day life.

Android P Elements

Android 9 Pie

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By now, you've heard all about Android P's new gesture navigation system and the software's most prominent productivity-boosting features. Whether you've been using P yourself in its pre-release beta form or just reading about it, though, there are bound to be parts of Google's latest mobile effort that haven't yet caught your eye.

Like most Android releases, Android P has more than a few easily overlooked touches — little additions that won't get much attention or dramatically change anything but will make your life easier in some meaningful ways.

These sorts of little touches are often my favorite part of a software update. So with the final Android P preview officially out in the wild and the full release likely just around the corner, I thought it'd be a fine time to explore some of P's more understated improvements.

Shall we?

1. Your fingerprint sensor will keep your phone awake

Don'tcha just hate it when you're looking at something on your screen — an especially engaging article, perhaps (hi!), or maybe a photo of some incredibly handsome internet writer — and then, whilst you're deep in thought, your screen time-out kicks in and your display goes dark? If you ask me, that's one of the most grievous minor inconveniences of modern mobile life.

Android P has a new tool to help: Just keep your finger on your phone's fingerprint sensor — or touch it there for a second whenever you see the screen starting to dim — and bam: no more time-out. One tiny touch is all it takes to let your phone know you're still alive, looking, and interested in a fully illuminated display.

And hey, if you're one of the cool kids using your fingerprint sensor as a trackpad, too, it's a double win.

2. Your Bluetooth icon will show up only when it means something

A phone's notification panel should be an uncluttered space for glanceable, pertinent info — but as we all know, it's all too easy for that area to get larded up with distracting nonsense.

The pile-up of ordinary notifications is your problem, pal (seriously, start dismissing those things once in a while, wouldya?), but Android P can take away one superfluous bit of clutter: the always-present Bluetooth icon that's there, accomplishing absolutely nothing, on the right side of your screen.

It's pretty common to leave Bluetooth on eternally nowadays, given the breadth of wireless devices most of us connect to throughout the day — and traditionally, that means you're stuck with a permanent Bluetooth symbol taking up space in that corner. Android P, however, shows the icon only when a device is actively connected.

Sensible, no?

3. Your phone will prompt you to turn off annoying notifications

Android's been making it easier to avoid noisy notifications for a while now, but let's face it: Most normal people probably don't realize their phone even has a system for opting out of an individual app's alerts, let alone know anything about the more advanced notification channel feature introduced in Oreo. Heck, even if you do know about those things, putting them to use takes active effort and mental energy — two things that, if you're anything like me, are always in short supply.

Android P solves both parts of that problem by taking note when you frequently dismiss a specific type of notification without acting on it — and then pointing that pattern out to you and asking if you'd like to stop getting said notifications.

The answer will almost certainly be "no" at least some of the time — for instance, I get a lot of notifications from Nest that I don't necessarily act on but do appreciate seeing — but still, it's a nice little nudge and reminder that the option exists.

4. Your messaging notifications will no longer go away when you reply

When you get a new messaging notification, you're faced with two actions that often overlap but don't necessarily go hand in hand: replying and dismissing the notification.

You might want to answer a text message, for instance, to let the sender know you've seen it — but you might also want to leave that notification present on your device so you'll remember to think on it further later in the day. Right now, in Android, such an option doesn't exist: If you reply within a notification, the notification vanishes. Period.

Android P pulls apart the actions of replying and dismissing into two separate pieces: You can reply to a message in a notification, and then — you guessed it — it'll stick around and stay present in your phone's notification panel. If you want to dismiss it, well, you dismiss it.

The change definitely takes some getting used to at first, but the more you live with it, the more logical it seems.

5. Your Battery Saver mode will no longer blind you

Yes, that's right: no more bright red navigation bar and status bar whenever your battery level gets low and Android's Battery Saver mode kicks in. Instead, the battery icon itself just changes to let you know what's going on without making it look like all hell is breaking loose.

Android P Elements - Battery Saver JR

Ahh...much better.

6. Your volume-up and volume-down buttons will control media volume by default

Ever start trying to adjust your phone's volume while a video is loading, only to realize you've just cranked your ringer volume all the way up or down instead? Android P finally fixes this seemingly minor but actually impactful issue by making the volume-up and volume-down buttons control media volume — not ringer volume — by default.

If you want to get to your ringer level, it's just one more tap away. Oh, and psst: If you want to get a similar but more customizable setup that makes the ringer volume even easier to access — and that works with or without Android P in place — here's how.

7. Your calendar and weather info will show up on your lock screen

This one's likely to vary quite a bit with different device-makers, but on Google's version of Android P, at least, Android P gives you the current weather for your area and a heads-up of any upcoming calendar events right on your lock screen.

Android P Elements - Lock Screen JR

It's a simple thing, no doubt, but it ends up being a super-convenient way to get a glance at important info without having to venture far or do any digging.

8. Your Wi-Fi hotspots will turn themselves off

Gosh golly, Wi-Fi hotspots sure can be handy. They can also be massive battery-drainers, though — especially when you forget to turn 'em off after you finish using 'em.

With Android P, you don't have to worry about your power-zapping brain lapses: The software adds a new on-by-default option that turns a hotspot off automatically when no devices are connected.

Android P Elements - Wi-Fi Hotspot JR

Leave that checked, and let your phone handle the hard work of remembering to flip the toggle for you. It just makes sense. And that, my friends, is what progress is all about.

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[Android Intelligence videos at Computerworld]

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