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Android Pie: What you need to know

What to expect, how to install and when your Android device might see Android 9, now known as "Android Pie".

In August 2018 Google released Android 9, simultaneously revealing that the "P" in what was previously called "Android P" stands simply for "Pie". We were hanging out for Android Pavlova, which would have had a nice antipodean flavour to it, but simply Pie it is.

As with all new versions of the Android operating system, there are plenty of fresh features and services to get excited about, so let's start by breaking them down.


What's new in Android Pie?

Google has introduced a range of new features and optimisations in Android Pie, although not all of them will be available straight away.

One of the most hyped features is Google's "Digital Wellbeing" campaign, designed to let you more precisely manage your screen time between work and home, wind down and live a healthier life with your Android device. You can set time limits for apps, make the screen gradually fade colours as the day progresses to remind you to go to bed or set apps for specific "Work" or "Personal" subsections.

Digital Wellbeing is part of Android Pie, but it's still only in Beta. If you're keen, the public beta sign-up is here.

Like every other tech company right now, Google is heavily pushing the AI angle of its products, and Android Pie is no exception. App Actions will give you contextual choices based on the onscreen information of a particular app, while onscreen brightness will note your brightness choices over the course of a day and adjust accordingly.

Users of Android Pie phones should also see better overall battery life, with the new Adaptive Battery feature, which will learn your usage patterns and adjust app usage accordingly. It won't be an absolute saviour of all your battery woes but should stop rogue apps you're not using sucking up your precious battery capacity.

The feature of Android Pie you'll almost certainly notice first are the new gesture controls. These work in a similar (but not quite identical) way to the gestures used by Apple's iPhone X, in that a single pill-shaped icon at the base of the screen is used in place of the traditional back, home and multi-tasking buttons.

Swiping up brings up multi-tasking, to the side for app switching and tapping for home is surprisingly easy to learn, although Google was beaten to this feature by Huawei. It has used the fingerprint reader on many of its premium phones in this way for some time, albeit as an option you had to enable rather than a core feature.

Which phones can get Android Pie?

Right now, if you're the owner of a Google Pixel phone, such as the Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL, you can download Android Pie to your device. It's being delivered as an Over The Air (OTA) update, so it will eventually pester you to upgrade, but if you can't wait, Google has also made the factory images available for download for compatible devices here.

It's generally safer (and substantially easier) to opt for the OTA delivery than push it yourself as it ensures that the correct image will be applied to your device.

However, Pixel owners aren't the only ones able to get in on the Android Pie action. The following third-party handsets also support Android Pie via manufacturer update:

Samsung

Phones that already support Android Pie:
  • Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+
Phones confirmed to receive Android Pie in the future (as spotted by SamMobile):
  • Samsung Galaxy Note9 (expected January 2019)
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 8 (expected February 2019)
  • Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+ (expected March 2019)
  • Samsung Galaxy A6/A6+/A7/A8/A8+/A9 (expected April 2019)
  • Samsung Galaxy J2/J4/J6+ (expected April 2019)
  • Samsung Galaxy J4+/J6 (expected May 2019)
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (expected July 2019)

Motorola

Phones that already support Android Pie:
  • Motorola Moto G6 Plus
Phones confirmed to receive Android Pie in the future:
  • Motorola One/One Power
  • Motorola Moto Z3/Z3 Play
  • Motorola Moto Z2 Play/Z3 Force
  • Motorola Motoo X4
  • Motorola Moto G6/G6 Play

LG

Phones confirmed to receive Android Pie in the future (credit to The Verge):
  • LG G7 ThinQ (expected Q1 2019)

Huawei

Phones that already support Android Pie:
  • Huawei P20/P20 Pro
Phones confirmed to receive Android Pie in the future (as per Huawei's website):
  • Huawei Mate 10/Mate 10 Pro
  • Honor 10/Play/View 10

Sony

Phones that already support Android Pie:
  • Sony Xperia XZ3
  • Sony Xperia XZ2/XZ2 Premium/XZ2 Compact
  • Sony Xperia XZ Premium
Phones confirmed to receive Android Pie in the future (as per Sony's website):
  • Sony Xperia XZ1/XZ1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia XA2/XA2 Plus/XA2 Ultra

Nokia

Phones that already support Android Pie:
  • Nokia 5.1 Plus
  • Nokia 8
  • Nokia 6.1
  • Nokia 7 Plus
Phones confirmed to receive Android Pie in the future (as per the Nokia Twitter account):
  • Nokia 3/3.1
  • Nokia 5/5.1
  • Nokia 6

OnePlus

Phones that already support Android Pie:
  • OnePlus 6
  • OnePlus 5/5T
Phones confirmed to receive Android Pie in the future:
  • OnePlus 3/3T

HTC

Phones that already support Android Pie:
  • HTC U11 Life
Phones confirmed to receive Android Pie in the future (as per the HTC Twitter account):
  • HTC U12+
  • HTC U11/U11+

If you own one of the handful of Android One phones (mostly Nokia models in the Australian market), you should also see Android Pie pretty swiftly because the entire point of Android One is that the updates come from Google rather than manufacturers.

My phone isn't in that list! Can I get Android Pie?

The answer to that is a qualified "maybe".

It has long been an issue that many Android phones don't see full operating system updates, much more so than for Apple devices. Typically speaking, premium Android phones tend to adopt Android updates a little faster than their cheaper brethren. But that's made more complex by the levels of customisation that each Android manufacturer puts on top of the basic Android OS.

It's a more complex job for, say, Oppo and its ColorOS overlay than it would be for Motorola, where you get nearly-stock Android. Then again, Oppo's R15 Pro was an Android P beta phone. Essentially, it's hard to tell when you might see an update, although it's always worth checking manufacturer pages as they may have public announcements that clarify the position for specific handsets.

Any updates then have to be tested by carriers, so if you got your handset through Telstra, Optus or Vodafone there can be further delays in rolling it out to your device.

While that's frustrating, nobody's holding up your Android updates for the sake of it. The variety in the open Android ecosystem means that there's a lot more that can go wrong with the complex code. Nobody wants an update that bricks their phone.

It's reasonable to expect that most of the current crop of premium phones from Samsung, LG, Sony, HTC and Huawei should see updates at some point in 2019, but all you can really do is wait and see.

Looking to buy a new phone already equipped with Android Pie? Compare your options below:

Updated January 22nd, 2019
Name Product Processor type Display size Display resolution Internal storage More info
Snapdragon 845
6
2880 x 1440
64GB
Snapdragon 845
6.41
2280 x 1080
128GB
256GB
Snapdragon 845
5.5
2160 x 1080
64GB
128GB
Kirin 980
6.53
2244 x 1080
128GB
Kirin 980
6.39
3120 x 1440
128GB

Compare up to 4 providers


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Alex Kidman

Alex Kidman is a multi-award-winning consumer technology journalist and the Tech & Telco Editor at finder.com.au. He's been writing about consumer technology topics for more than two decades, and enjoys breaking down complex topics into their component parts. He has written for just about every major Australian technology publication, and is a former editor of Gizmodo Australia, PC Mag Australia, and CNET.com.au.

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