Oreo is the newest version of Android, Google’s mobile operating system. The updated software, which has been available for the last few months in developer beta, will arrive on devices by the end of the year.
It’s been a long guessing game about what the “O” in Android O stands for. For the uninitiated, Google names each new version of Android alphabetically and after a candy or sweet. For example, the most recent version was dubbed Nougat. Before that was Marshmallow, and before that Lollipop. Oreo will be Android 8.0, following Nougat.
Theories making the rounds predicted either that “O” stood for Oreo or that Google was trolling everyone by timing the announcement during Monday’s solar eclipse. Google unveiled a statue of the newest dessert-themed update at 14th Street Park in Manhattan on Monday, just as the eclipse’s high point started trailing off.
The unveiling was across the street from the Chelsea Market, where the original Nabisco factory was located. That’s where the first Oreo was invented.
This is the first time that Google has revealed the next Android statue somewhere other than on its Mountain View, California, headquarters, where a giant lollipop, ice cream sandwich and jelly beans grace the grounds.
Google decided to name this update after the Oreo cookie after several late nights at its headquarters where engineers just kept grabbing the snacks, Sagar Kamdar, Android’s director of product management said.
“At our microkitchens at Google, we have Oreos all around. Our engineers just kept eating Oreos with their glasses of milk,” Kamdar said.
One of Android Oreo’s biggest focuses is better battery life for the hardware running it. For example, Google will limit what apps can do after they’re launched on your phone but not actively in use. For example, now apps won’t be able to do as much with location updates while they’re running in the background — which can normally be a big battery suck.
There are other noteworthy features, too, like a new copy-and-paste tool. When you highlight text in an article or text message, Android will automatically detect if it’s an address or a proper noun. If it’s an address, the software will highlight the entire address, so you don’t have to. And instead of merely suggesting actions such as “copy” or “select all,” it may suggest a map.
The continued success of Android is critical for Google. It’s the gateway drug for the search giant’s world of apps, including Gmail, YouTube and Google Maps. Android has become the most dominant mobile software on the planet, powering nearly nine out of every 10 smartphones globally.
But when it comes to world domination, Google is interested in more than just phones. Android now runs on everything from smartwatches to cars to TVs. In May, Google said the software is used by more than 2 billion devices.
Still, as Google promotes the new version of Android, it’s got a big challenge ahead: actually getting it onto people’s phones.
Android suffers from a problem the industry calls “fragmentation.” The operating system has a number of hardware and carrier partners that like to add their own flourishes to the software, so getting them all to update to the current version is a constant headache for Google.
If you have an Android phone, you’re probably using a much older version of the software. Only 13.5 percent of all Android users currently have Nougat installed on their devices. A whopping 77.5 percent of Android owners are on three older versions: Marshmallow, Lollipop and KitKat. The oldest of those, KitKat, was released in 2013. By comparison, Apple’s most recent version of its mobile software, iOS 10, has found its way onto 87 percent of all iPhones and iPads.
The update will be available by the end of the year on devices from handset makers including Samsung, Sharp, Sony, Essential, General Mobile, Huawei, HTC, Kyocera, LG, and Motorola. For Google devices like the Pixel phone, Nexus 5X and 6P, the update will start rolling out in phases “soon.”
Pixel and Nexus owners should be the first to expect Oreo to roll out on their devices, Kamdar said. He added that Android was working with major partners to have their devices launch with Oreo or be upgraded with it before the end of 2017.
CNET’s Richard Nieva contributed to this report.
First published Aug. 21 at 11:52 a.m. PT
Updated at 12:25 p.m. PT: To include details from Android’s product management director.
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