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What to expect in Android 15 Beta 2, the first preview that matters

In this week's newsletter, I'll go over what I expect to see in Android 15 Beta 2 and why you should care about Google's Pixel 8a and Sony's Xperia phones.

7 min read
What to expect in Android 15 Beta 2, the first preview that matters

In other news: Why Sony Xperia and the Pixel 8a matter

Welcome to Android Decoded, a newsletter devoted to explaining the significance of each week’s news on the Android ecosystem. Android Decoded is written each week by Mishaal Rahman, a veteran tech reporter devoted to the Android beat.

If you’re reading this post, then that means you’re one of the earliest subscribers to my first ever newsletter, so thank you! While I’ve contributed columns to a couple of newsletters in the past, I’ve never fully curated and written my own before, so please bear with me as I figure out the formatting and content.

With that out of the way, here are the stories I’ll be analyzing in this edition:

Why you should care about the Pixel 8a

Image: Google.

You probably don’t need me to tell you about the Pixel 8a, Google’s latest mid-range phone in the Pixel A-series lineup. What I do need to tell you is how amazing this device is for Android, and why developers and tinkerers should look to pick one up.

First, the Pixel 8a will get 7 years of Android OS updates. Since the phone launches with Android 14 (QPR2), that means it’ll get updates all the way to Android 21 (QPR2). By that time, there won’t be any remaining letters for the Android team to use for their internal dessert names (which is a minor problem that’s already been sorted out, since they’ve circled back to starting build IDs with “A”). If you’re looking for a device to test your apps on or play around with AOSP on, the Pixel 8a is a great choice.

Second, the Pixel 8a will gain support for display output in an upcoming update. Although Google’s desktop mode seems far from ready, I reckon it’ll eventually be released given all the effort that Google’s put into the large screen experience recently. And when it is released, the Pixel 8a will be poised to utilize the feature, since it’ll support display output unlike past Pixels. (The pricier Pixel 8 and 8 Pro will also support display output, of course.) 

Third, the Pixel 8a will soon get support for Google’s on-device Gemini Nano model. The 1.8B parameter Gemini Nano model that’s currently available on the Pixel 8 Pro and Galaxy S24 series doesn’t do much, but it’s bound to receive more updates, optimizations, and interest from developers. The Google AI Edge SDK for Android, which lets apps use Gemini Nano, is still in its Early Access Preview phase and isn’t accepting any new applicants, but I’m hoping Google opens this SDK up soon as I’ve heard several developers say they want to use it. 

I can’t tell you if the $499 Pixel 8a will actually be a good daily driver phone since I haven’t used one yet, but I’m absolutely going to pick one up to add to my arsenal of Pixel test phones.

The refreshed Pixel Tablet is also worth considering

Image: Google.

Google also re-released last year’s Pixel Tablet, but this time, you can buy it without the dock for $399. I’m of the personal belief that Google rushed this out the door in an attempt to take some wind out of the new iPad launch (Google’s announcement came hours after Apple’s). While there obviously won’t be many iPad-to-Pixel Tablet converts, Google is offering some pretty great trade-in deals on older iPads.

What was disappointing about the re-release is that Google didn’t launch the keyboard and stylus accessories that they’ve been working on for quite a while now. Google’s been keeping quiet about or holding back some stylus and keyboard-related features since these accessories aren’t on the market yet. I’m excited for the release of these two accessories, as their development pushes Google to continue improving in areas where the large screen experience has been lacking. This is especially important as the company ramps up its work on Android’s desktop mode.

Nobody should want Sony to stop making phones

If you look at the price, variety, and availability of Sony Xperia phones, it wouldn’t shock you to learn they don’t sell in high quantities. You’d expect Sony to at least do well in its home market of Japan, right? Well, that’s not the case, according to a data analyst at IDC who spoke to Bloomberg. In fact, they said that Sony’s mobile sales in Japan declined 40% last year.

Putting aside whether Sony’s Xperia business makes sense, it’ll be a sad day if the company ever stops making smartphones. Sony has contributed a lot to Android over the years. They were the ones who developed and contributed the OverlayManagerService and Runtime Resource Overlay (RRO) code to AOSP. These features are widely used in Android builds today to toggle platform features on a per-build or per-device basis. RROs are also how the Android system stores the color values that the wallpaper-based dynamic color engine generates. 

Even today, Sony engineers still contribute code to AOSP to fix safety issues and introduce new features. The AOSP license doesn’t require them, or any one else forking the project, to push new features upstream, but Sony does so anyway. I hope they stick around!

Android 15 Beta 2 is dropping next week. Here’s what I’m expecting.

It’s fairly obvious that Google is going to drop the second beta of Android 15 during I/O next week. Don’t believe me? The description of this workshop basically confirms it. 

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