The Pixel 2 comes loaded with special features beyond what you get with stock Android and now Google is bringing some of those extras to older devices with Android 8.1. The latest update won’t officially release until December, but you can download the first preview now without too much effort.
The 2016 Google Pixel/Gizmodo
How to Download the Android 8.1 Preview
Installing the latest version of Android is easy, but first you’ll want to make sure you have a device that supports the update. For now, it’s limited to Google’s own gadgets. That includes the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, along with last year’s Pixel and Pixel XL phones. It also covers the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P and the Pixel C.
When you’re ready, head to the Android Beta Program website and you’ll be asked to log into your Google account. Once you do that, you should see a page explaining the preview system with a section titled, “Your eligible devices”. Click on the device you want to update and the Android 8.1 preview should start to download automatically over the air.
What’s New in Android 8.1 Oreo?
Google hasn’t officially revealed what’s included in Android 8.1, but Gadget Hacks already uncovered a handful of new features. Many of them come from the Pixel 2, while a couple are simple fixes for annoying things about Android 8.0.
The best new feature might be the dark theme, which Google introduced with the Pixel 2. To switch it on, just change your home screen wallpaper to a dark image and your menus and folders will change to match it automatically. That’s great if you don’t feel like looking at a white screen all day, and especially at night right before going to sleep.
Android 8.1 brings the semi-transparent notification shade from the Pixel 2 for a nice visual upgrade. You’ll also get the new power menu introduced with Google’s newest smartphone. It slides out from the side of the device where the physical power button is located and features a sleeker design than the old menu.
As for the fixes, the latest Android update takes care of a couple of annoying notifications that were impossible to dismiss on Android 8.0: “Apps running in the background” and “Apps drawing over other apps.” You still can’t just swipe them away, but Gadget Hacks has a separate guide for how to deal with these notifications in Android 8.1.
That’s everything you need to know for now, though it’s possible Google could have more features buried in this Android 8.1 preview — or more coming in the second beta next month.