The tenth iteration/version of Google’s popular Android operating system is officially out today – it is called Android Q and even though we do not know what the ‘Q’ stands for just yet, you can now download and start using it on compatible devices. Provided you’re a developer, or someone who likes to live their life on the edge. This is because Android Q is currently in beta, and therefore, it isn’t meant for everybody in its current raw stage of development – you’ll have to wait until May to hear more about it and until August to use a stable release.
As has always been the case with the first beta/preview release, the Android Q beta 1 is exclusive to Google’s Pixel phones – Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL. A wider beta rollout (for general public) is expected in May post Google I/O 2019 when the software will be also available on third-party phones.
Android Q will not be a substantial upgrade over Android P as far as visuals are concerned – and even though Google will continue to add more features all along until the final rollout, what we’re seeing now is what it’s going to look like eventually. The Android Q update instead will focus on under the hood changes. From enhanced privacy controls to a more seamless sharing process, from more audio and video codecs to enhanced Vulcan APIs – not to mention Android Q will offer faster app launches than Android P. Google is also opening Android to embrace a new category of devices, aka foldables, with Android Q. Let’s take a closer look at some of Android Q’s (beta) top features:
- Location sharing: Google is offering more granular control to users when it comes to location sharing with apps with Android Q. Android Q will offer as many as three levels of permissions – share location only when a given app is in use, or all the time (even when the app is running in the background), or don’t share location at all (at all times).
- High-priority notifications: Apps running in the background can’t “unexpectedly jump into the foreground and takes over focus” in Android Q, unless specified through a high-priority notification seemingly well in advance – what this means is that apps running in the background can’t just randomly pop up full-screen while you’re on a different app.
- Sharing shortcuts: Google is working to make sharing content (within apps) faster and easier – in just a few steps in Android Q. Google is taking a leaf from the app shortcuts feature it introduced in Android P for sharing shortcuts to “let users jump directly into another app to share content.”
- Settings panels: Taking a leaf from the slices feature it introduced in Android P, Google is also offering key system settings directly in a given app (that you might be using) so users can manage these settings directly without having to leave the app. “For example, a browser could display a panel with connectivity settings like Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi (including nearby networks), and Mobile Data.”
- Wi-Fi performance mode: Google is adding high performance and low latency modes for Wi-Fi to Android Q so users can easily switch to a desired mode depending on situation and usage – users can switch to low latency mode during active voice calls or real-time gaming for instance. In addition, Google is also adding “new Wi-Fi standard support, WPA3 and Enhanced Open, to improve security for home and work networks as well as open/public networks.”
- Dynamic depth mapping: More specialized background blurs/bokeh will be coming to apps running on Android Q-based devices – possibly making portrait mode all the more useful (and better) in all kinds of devices.
- New video and audio codecs: Android Q will support the AV1 video codec allowing for high-quality streaming even under shoddy internet connectivity. Android Q will also pack support for the Opus audio codec and HDR10+ (on compatible devices).
- Vulcan is the general standard for games in Android Q: To ensure visual/graphical consistency in games, Google is working with OEMs to make “Vulkan 1.1 a requirement on all 64-bit devices running Android Q and higher, and a recommendation for all 32-bit devices.”
- System-wide dark mode: Yes, a system-wide dark mode finally comes to Android through Android Q. As the name suggests, dark mode (which is ultimately designed to save battery life), turns the whole system UI (the settings menu, the notification menu and in-house apps) stark black – which should particularly stand out among the growing crop of OLED devices.
- Screen recording: The iPhone has had screen recording for some time, but it is coming to Android now – well, better late than never.
- Support for foldable phones: Foldable phones are all the rage these days and with legacy brands like Samsung and Huawei investing (and Apple said to be secretly working on) in them, it won’t be long before they become the new norm in the days to come. Software will be key to their success. Gauging the interest early, Google is working to make Android work well on foldable devices and Android Q is its first step in that direction.