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Android Oreo is here


Google unveiled the name for Android O: Oreo.

Sarah Tew/CNET

It’s O-fficial.

Oreo is the newest version of Android, Google’s mobile operating system. The updated software, which was available only in developer beta for the last few months, Google said Monday.

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 New York City 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 giant lollipops, ice cream sandwiches and jelly beans grace the grounds.

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 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 the most recent version, called 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.

CNET’s Richard Nieva contributed to this report.

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