Android 8.1 Oreo will “downgrade” inactive apps to save space

Android 8.1 Oreo isn’t available in its final form yet, but it’s shaping up to be a smart update. We’ve already seen a feature that can highlight apps consuming excessive battery power and, most recently, a hint that you’ll be able to send SMS messages from Chromebook in the final version. Thanks to a recent change to the Android Open Source Project framework, we’ve now got a glimpse at an interesting new space-saving function.

This was spotted by the folks at XDA Developers last week, and it’s an automatic feature that will be triggered when your device is low on storage; it works by clearing the cache of apps which haven’t been used for a while.

Caches include certain, non-essential data like images and saved states which normally make the app faster and more efficient (cached data doesn’t have to be reloaded when you return to an app after doing something else, for example). So, clearing this data may mean it needs to be re-cached at some point later, but it seems like a smart idea to apply this process to apps that aren’t used very often.

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How much space this will save you, in the long run, will depend on individual apps and habits. Many apps can get by harbouring less than one megabyte of cached data, while others like Chrome can rack up far more (it currently has a 685 MB cache on my device). If I was to start using another browser, but leave Chrome installed on my device, this automatic cache-removal could come in mighty handy.

This has now been implemented in Android 8.1, though XDA notes that OEMs will have to enable it manually if they want to make use of it when they roll out the software to their customers’ devices.

Do you think this would be a good feature to have on your handset? Let us know in the comments.