It seems like we’ve been talking about Google’s Android 8.0 Oreo release for an eternity already, but the truth is, hardly anyone actually has the software.
Google officially launched the new version of Android last Monday, following a months-long preview and beta testing process. But so far, few real rollouts have begun — even among Google’s own Pixel and Nexus devices.
Here’s a little secret, though: You can get a taste of Oreo-like features on practically any phone or tablet right now, even without Android 8.0 in place. All you need is the right set of apps to emulate some of the software’s sweetest additions.
Oreo feature #1: Notification snoozing
Oreo provides a native system for snoozing notifications and then making them reappear later. While you obviously can’t achieve that type of native feel or system-level integration without Android 8.0 on your device, you can set up a way to snooze notifications and enjoy the same basic functionality.
The answer resides in an app called Boomerang Notifications, which was developed as part of a research study at Cardiff University. All you’ve gotta do is install the app and follow its setup instructions, which’ll let you select what apps you want to be eligible for notification snoozing. (You might want snoozing to work only for email, messaging and social media, for instance.)
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Once that’s done, anytime you swipe away a relevant notification, look back immediately in your notification panel. You’ll see a prompt from Boomerang that’ll let you save the notification and set a reminder for later.
It’s admittedly a bit clunky and nowhere near as smooth of a user experience as what Oreo provides, but it gets the job done — and it’s the next best thing to the real deal.
Oreo feature #2: Picture-in-picture video
Android 8.0’s picture-in-picture feature is a useful and intuitive way to shrink things like videos down into a small floating window that then appears on top of other apps. And guess what? Even without Oreo, you can make that sort of magic happen on your Android device.
What you need is a clever little tool called Floating Apps. It’s available in both a free version and a $4 paid version. The free version has some annoying ads (not in the actual floating window but in the tool you use to create a new window), which aren’t present in the paid version. The paid version gives you a few extra floating window options, too — most notably for Maps and a document viewing utility. Both versions, however, support a fair amount of basics, including YouTube and a window-sized local image gallery.
Like with notification snoozing, the experience here is nowhere near as seamless as what you’ll get with Oreo — but it certainly is powerful. And it even has a few picture-in-picture capabilities not yet supported by any apps in Android 8.0, like a floating calculator, compass and stopwatch in addition to the aforementioned document viewer.
One tip: Head into the app’s settings and disable at least one or two of its launching mechanisms. By default, Floating Apps lets you initiate a new floating window by tapping a permanent icon in the upper-left corner of your screen, tapping a persistent notification in your notification panel orswiping inward from the leftmost side of your display. All combined, it’s a bit much — and a bit unnecessary. Pick one method you like and get the rest out of your hair.
Oreo feature #3: Smart Wi-Fi toggling
Oreo has an out-of-the-way feature for Pixel owners that allows the operating system to automatically activate Wi-Fi whenever you’re in range of a known network — any network to which you’ve previously connected. That way, you don’t have to leave your Wi-Fi on all the time for no reason or try to remember to manually toggle it on and off throughout the day.
You don’t need Oreo or a Pixel to enjoy this sort of intelligence, though. Nope — you just need an app called Smart WiFi Toggler, which is free with an optional $0.99 in-app purchase to disable ads.
There’s really nothing to it: Set it up, enable it and watch as your device’s Wi-Fi turns itself on and off at just the right times. Doesn’t get much easier than that.
Oreo features #4 and #5: Notification dots and an expanded home screen icon menu
With Android 8.0 and a launcher like Google’s Pixel-exclusive Pixel Launcher, you have the option to see dots on icons throughout your home screen so you can know at a glance which apps have notifications pending. And when you press and hold a home screen icon, you can see and interact with any associated notifications right then and there — and pull up any related widgets while you’re at it.
If you want those powers on any device, just install Action Launcher — which is free with an optional $4.99 in-app upgrade for unlocking advanced options. Action Launcher will give you all the Oreo/Pixel-Launcher-style stuff along with oodles of other features and opportunities for customization.
Got it? Good.
Oreo feature #6: Night Light mode
The native ability to have your device’s display adjust itself for optimal nighttime reading actually entered Android with last year’s Nougat release, but Oreo takes the feature up a notch with new controls for fine-tuning its intensity.
That exact implementation of Night Light, as the feature’s known, requires some hardware-level integration — which is why it isn’t available on all devices. But, oh yes, you can add a similar feature to any Android phone or tablet with the help of a free app called Twilight. Give it a whirl, and give your eyes a break.
And with that, my cookie-loving compadres, you officially have a taste of Oreo’s finest front-facing features — as best as you can without having the actual Android 8.0 software and any other required elements. If you ask me, that’s pretty decent snack to munch on while you wait for the upgrade to arrive.