Tuesday, March 21, 2017

How to Install the Android O Beta Right Now

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This guide will explain how to easily install Google’s just announced update to Android O for Nexus and Pixel devices. While most are still waiting for Android Nougat or even Android 7.1.2 Google is already moving on. Here’s how to get the new Android O beta right now.

Just as expected Google debuted the next version of Android on March 21st. By releasing an early Android O Developer Preview ahead of the official release later this year in Q3.

Read: Android Nougat vs Android 6.0 Marshmallow: What’s New

Considering this is such an early version of Android O, it isn’t available per the usual beta program. Instead, developers will need to download the Android O Developer Preview factory image. Then flash it manually. It contains all the files needed to install the latest software on the Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 5x, Nexus 6P, Pixel C and Nexus Player. Those are the only supported devices. Lets get started.

First things first, Google is making it very clear that this is an extremely early version of Android O, and by no means stable or final. Meaning it has a slew of bugs, problems, and likely won’t be the best software for daily use. Instead, developers can try it early, test the new features, and help provide feedback in the coming months.

We’ve seen this before, but Google is making it extremely clear this time around. For one, my Pixel XL struggles with letting me get into the settings menu, and Google has an entire list of potential bugs. You’ve been warned, this isn’t stable enough for daily use.

Still, developers and early adopters are likely excited to try the newest thing. That of course is Android O, and here’s how to install it on select Nexus or Pixel devices.

What’s New in Android O

As you can understand, this is a very early version that’s no where near being ready for the public. It won’t be released until around August or September. As a result the new features and full change-log list isn’t very big yet. That said, here’s everything that’s new so far and all the details.

The most noteworthy changes so far are in regards to notifications, battery life, and picture-in-picture mode. Google added smarter bundled notifications, and may introduce cross-device sync so we don’t see the same notifications often. There’s a new background restriction mode that prevents apps not currently in use from using resources and battery life. Furthermore, app icons are now dynamic and can display info such as badges for unread counts, the time, date and other things. Like the calendar icon will always show the correct date, not just be a still image.

Apps support a wider color gamut, notifications can be snoozed, better audio, auto-fill is now system wide and in apps. There’s a lot to talk about, so check out link above. Now for the good stuff, lets install it.

How to Install ADB on Windows, Mac, Ubuntu & ChromeOS

Before you can install the Android O beta to the Nexus 5x, Pixel XL or others you will need to install ADB and Fastboot to your computer. This is a program that runs on your PC/Mac to connect to your Android device through a USB cable and flash Android software to a device.

Installing ADB and Fastboot is one of the most annoying parts of installing Android factory images, but several tools make it dead simple these days. Alternatively, Google has an entire guide on ADB and flashing the files.

How to Install ADB on Windows

Use this tool to install ADB and Fastboot on Windows in seconds.

Those running Windows can download a 15 second adb installer to simplify the process and get up and running in a few minutes.

Download the ADB installer for Windows. Find the file, right-click on it and choose Run as Administrator. When prompted you need to give the app access to run as an administrator. After the app launches type a Y and enter to select yes to Install ADB & Fastboot, to install ADB/Fastboot systemwide and to install Drivers. When a new window pops up follow the steps to install the drivers.

After this is installed you should be ready to flash Android O to any of the supported devices.

How to Install ADB on Mac, Linux & ChromeOS

This tool installs ADB on Mac, Linux and ChromeOS easily.Nexus Tools makes it easy to install ADB on a Mac, Linux or even ChromeOS. Simply open Terminal on the computer and past in the code from xda. Open terminal by going to search, and just type Terminal to open it. Then copy/paste that code to get started.

This will install ADB and Fastboot on Mac, Linux and Chrome OS without the need to do anything else. It’s extremely easy, and avoids all the ADB package mess that typically takes much much longer to complete.

After the script finishes type ADB or Fastboot to start running either process. This is how you start flashing files or system images provided by Google. Remember to head into settings > developer options and enable USB Debugging first. Not to mention newer devices need to enable “OEM Unlock” in developer options so you can unlock the bootloader and flash the latest software.

Install the Android O Preview Right Now

The first thing you need to do is download the Android O Beta System Image for your device. These aren’t in the typical location, because it’s an early developer preview. You’ll have to agree to the terms to proceed. Click the links below to download the files for each device. Take notice of the “caution” notes.

As usual, only select devices are able to participate in the beta. Those being the newest Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Pixel and Pixel XL, Nexus Player and the Pixel C Tablet. The older Nexus 5 and Nexus 6 are no longer supported. Click the links below to download the file you need.

Next you will need to unzip these files to a folder you can access. We unzipped it to our MAC desktop. After you have the Android O system image unzipped you need to find it. Then type cmd into the address bar on Windows, or open terminal and direct it to this new folder on Mac, Linux or Chrome OS. Reminder, if you’re on a MAC you need to make sure terminal is running inside the folder you just unzipped. Right click, open Terminal at Folder.

If your Nexus/Pixel is not bootloader unlocked you should do that first. We could not install the Android O beta if the device locked. This will wipe it out completely and erase all user data, settings, pictures, etc. Repeat, this will erase everything! If you don’t want to do this, wait and hopefully by the second Android O beta in May it will be added to the beta program with automatic over the air updates. Now, continue.

Open a Terminal in the adb folder and type the command below then hit enter.

adb reboot bootloader

In Fastboot type:

fastboot oem unlock

Then hit enter. Follow the on-screen instructions and choose to erase the device. Wait a minute or so for it to unlock. This removes everything on your device.

Nexus 6P or Pixel users will need to use “fastboot devices” and then “fastboot flashing unlock” to unlock the bootloader. Then proceed to reboot and follow our steps.

Flash the Image

Now open the folder containing the unzipped Android O System Image file you just downloaded from above. Type cmd in the address bar. Type the multiple commands posted below and hit enter. Or copy and paste to avoid mistakes. On a Mac you can open Terminal in the folder by enabling terminal shortcuts in settings. This is key for Mac users. Head to System Preferences and select Keyboard > Shortcuts > Services. Find “New Terminal at Folder” in the settings and click the box. Now when you’re in Finder, just right-click a folder and you’re shown the option to open Terminal. Or just do it from the desktop where you unzipped the Factory image as shown below.

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 11.19.03 AM

Once in terminal simply copy and paste the commands below to install Android O to your Nexus or Pixel phone. First is for Windows, then Mac.


This will flash all of the needed files. If you are on a Mac or other computer you will need to type;

sudo ./flash-all.sh

This will push all of the files and update your device to the just released Android O Developer Preview. Any guesses on the final name? We’re going with Android 7.2 Oreo. Or Android 8.0 Oreo. The files will start sending and installing and your device may reboot. The logo boot screen may stay for a long time. Do not unplug the device. This may last 10 minutes or longer the first time. When Android prompts you to complete setup you can unplug your Nexus or Pixel. It took less than two minutes for us.

It’s worth noting that some users may experience a “missing system.img” error and the installation will be aborted. This is because the way you’re trying to flash the update. Instructions on how to get around this can be found right here. Essentially users will need to unzip the update.zip folder and move all the images to the original folder we mentioned above, then manually flash them one by one, vs the flash-all command we’re using here. Only do this if you run into issues with missing images. It takes a few more steps, but works all the same. It flashed just fine on my Pixel XL using a Mac.

When the process finishes you can enter your information or Gmail account and start using Android O right now. With the bugs that are present. So far we’re noticing some changes to the settings menu, notifications are sweet and can be snoozed per notification, and the new wallpaper is pretty slick.

Android O Release Date

For right now the only way to get Android O is flashing the factory image to a supported device. At a later date it may be added to the Android Beta program and make things easier. For now that’s still on 7.1.2 Nougat.

So how will updates go for Android O? Google will release the second developer preview in May, likely around Google IO on the 17th. The third beta will be more stable and arrive in mid-June. Then a fourth and final preview will be released sometime in July or August.

This is when Android O will arrive

Then, just like last year with Android Nougat we can expect the official release of Android O to be around late August or September. Although Google only states sometime in Q3.

For now that’s all you need to know. Download the Android O beta right now if you dare, enjoy the changes and stay tuned for more details.

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