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Android Q: Everything we know so far about Google’s next mobile OS

Android Pie may still be rolling out, but already we’re looking ahead to Android Q — and it could represent some significant changes to Android. While we have absolutely no idea what Android Q will be called, we do have an idea of what it may offer, thanks to the first Android Q beta, and the number of rumors and leaks that we’ve seen.

Here’s everything we know about Android Q so far.

Android Q beta 5 brings improved gesture navigation

Google released the fifth beta of Android Q, and while it largely brings with it bug fixes and small tweaks, there is one major change — the addition of a gesture to trigger the Google Assistant. With the fifth beta, users can now swipe diagonally from either bottom corner of the display to trigger Google Assistant. Small white “handles” will be added to the interface to visually hint at where Assistant can be triggered.

Other gesture changes include the fact that app drawers now have a “peek” behavior — so to open app drawers, you will tap on the edge of the screen then swipe to open the drawer up.

Google shows off new Android Q features at Google I/O 2019

At Google I/O, Google announced the third developer beta for Android Q, which is available for a number of devices. The company also showed off a number of new features for the operating system, including better support for foldable phones, and a new Dark Mode.

If you’re interested in using the Android Q beta and aren’t already signed up, check out our guide on how to get the beta. Otherwise, here’s a rundown of all the new features (and at least one omission) in Google next-gen mobile operating system.

Android Beam hasn’t made the cut

how to use android beam
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

While there’s a considerable list of new features to be added in Android Q, it’s inevitable that some older features are going to be pruned out. The first casualty to hit the cutting room floor is Android Beam, the feature that used a device’s NFC connection to send links, contact info, and other information. Android Q beta users noticed the missing feature back in March and flagged it on Google’s Issue Tracker, but didn’t get a reply from Google until April 30, at which point the response seemed to confirm the feature would not be returning for Android Q. Now, Digital Trends can confirm that the feature still is not present in the third beta of Android Q.

It’s a real tragedy for those regular users. Being able to tap a friend’s phone to receive information was a useful feature, even if most of us genuinely forgot it existed. Perhaps there was room for Google to change the branding in much the same way it has with many Android-branded features. That said, “Google Beam” sounds more like Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s special attack, so maybe it’s for the best.

Android Q Dark theme

Android Dark Theme

After rumors, Google is making a Dark theme on Android official. The Dark theme can be accessed through the Display settings in Android. It seems as though you can schedule Dark mode depending on the time of day, or you can have it always on or always off. When enabled, all apps will have a dark gray tint to them, while panels like the Quick Settings shade have a black background. The Dark mode seems to work in most stock Google apps, but it may also work in third-party apps that don’t have their own Dark mode, according to the report.

There are plenty of reasons you might want a Dark mode. Apart from it being a bit easier on the eyes, Dark mode could save battery on phones with OLED displays.

Focus Mode

Google also wants to make it a little easier to put down your phone and concentrate on other things. Focus Mode allows you to turn off notifications for certain apps, only keeping notifications for the apps that are important to you. Once you turn Focus Mode off, notifications from all apps will be able to show up again.

Better privacy and security

Android Q puts privacy controls front and center. Privacy controls will now be right at the top in the Settings menu, making it quick and easy to change those settings. Not only that, but Google is tweaking how location information is shared with apps. Now, you can choose to share location information only while the app is in use — similar to how location permissions work on iOS.

Live Caption

Android Q will bring native support for captions, which can show up in real time over videos that might otherwise not have support for captions. The feature is processed on the device and leverages Google’s speech recognition technology. On Android, you can activate Live Caption in your normal audio settings, and it can be moved around the screen whenever you want.

Bubbles

Google has adopted a feature called “Bubbles,” which is built into the notification system. Bubbles essentially float on top of other content on the screen and allow you to quickly and easily do things like reply to messages. Bubbles are expandable when you want to use them, and collapsible when you don’t.

Better permissions controls

Google is hoping to get permissions much more under control in Android 10 Q. At Google I/O 2019, Google shows off more controls for permissions in the operating system. Perhaps the most important change is that in Android Q users will have better control over location data, with the ability to share location with apps “never,” “only when the app is open,” or “always.” It’s similar to what’s already available in iOS, but definitely a step forward. When permissions are needed, Google is asking developers to make the reasons the permissions are needed more apparent to users.

Users will also get the ability to control access to shared files. In Android Q, apps will be required to use the system file picker, which will allow users to decide which files and photos apps can access, without giving apps access to all files.

Support for foldable phones

Android Foldables

Android is quickly adopting the foldable phone trend. We already knew that Google was working on ways to natively support foldables in Android, and that support will come in Android 10 Q. Particular improvements come in the form of how apps resize and added support for multiple-display app switching.

Faster sharing

The sharing feature in Android has always been pretty slow and Google confirmed it was working on a way to change this a few months ago. In Android 10 Q, Google is adding “Sharing Shortcuts,” which will allow users to jump directly into an app to share content, like a file or photo. This way, users can avoid the slow-to-load sharing menu and get straight to sharing.

In-app settings panel

With Android 10 Q, users will be able to quickly and easily toggle settings that pertain to the app. The example Google gives is that users will be able to toggle things like Wi-Fi or cellular connectivity from within a web browser, meaning that you don’t necessarily have to navigate to the Settings menu. It makes accessing settings that little bit easier and should come in handy for developers, too.

Depth formats for photos

When a camera with multiple lenses takes a photo, that depth information is stored along with the photo itself — and in Android Q, apps will be able to request that information. What that means is that users will be able to edit things like bokeh and blur to a photo within different apps, which could come in handy with apps that have specialized photo editing features.

HDR10 Plus Support

Google is building support for HDR10 Plus straight into the Android operating system, meaning that you’ll get better-quality video capture no matter what app you’re using. On top of that, Android is getting support for the AV1 video codec, which will help allow media providers to stream higher quality video to Android phones.

Other changes

Android, in general, is set to get a little faster too. Google is continuing to expand Vulkan within Android and is strengthening ART performance, which should help apps load faster and use less memory once they have loaded.

Rumored changes

A number of rumors have popped up showing off new potential new features for Android Q. These changes aren’t certain yet — but Google normally keeps some features for the final version of the operating system, so it’s possible they’ll eventually be included.

No more back button?

It looks like Google will double down on gesture controls for Android Q. According to a report from XDA Developers, Google will do away with the years-old back button in Android, replacing it with a new gesture. To go back, you will simply need to drag the home pill button to the left a little — allowing you to quickly and easily go back.

While like the idea of the gesture, it may be a little complicated for some people to get used to.

Desktop mode

Stock Android could be getting a desktop mode similar to what Samsung offers with Samsung DeX — though we’re not quite sure just yet. XDA Developers notes that there’s a developer option called “force desktop mode,” which has a description that says “force experimental desktop mode on secondary displays.” XDA Developers wasn’t able to actually enable the feature, but the fact that it’s described could suggest that Google is working on it for Android Q.

XDA Developers found a number of other, smaller tweaks to Android Q. For example, there are a number of added Developer options for things support for freeform multi-windows, an option for “Game Update Package Preferences,” which allows you to select a graphics driver, and more.

We’ll update this article as we find out more about the upcoming Android Q.

Updated on July 10, 2019: Android Q beta 5 has been released.

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