Android Q: What’s New So Far

    Android Q: What’s New So Far is a post by Cory Gunther from Gotta Be Mobile.

    Google recently released its fifth Android Q beta as they continue testing the next version of Android coming later this year. In this guide we’ll go over everything we know about Android Q, what’s new so far, what changed in the Android Q beta 5 release, how many betas are left and what owners can expect.

    Before we begin, it’s important to note that a lot of Android Q features recently leaked online, but not all of those are in the Android Q beta, at least not yet. So, we’ll be keeping this list to what Google confirmed, and not the rumors.

    Android Q Release Date & Betas

    First off, the official Android Q release date isn’t until sometime in Q3 of 2019, likely around the end of August. That said, starting on March 13th an early developer preview “beta” became available for select users, devices, and developers. A second more stable version with more features arrived on April 3rd, and on May 7th Google released the 3rd beta for 21 different smartphones. Since then we’ve seen a 4th and 5th “maintenance release” that’s a nearly finished product emerge.

    For those that don’t know, Android P debuted in March of 2018 and was later released as Android 9 Pie in August. And a similar beta program kicked off in 2016 and 2017 for Android 7.0 Nougat and Android 8.0 Oreo.

    Android Q Release Schedule

    Google already confirmed that they’ll release six betas of Android Q, and we believe it’ll be known officially as Android 10. Shown above is the release schedule and timeline, which matches previous years. The 5th beta is considered “stable” and now that it’s here we feel more confident recommending that users try the beta if they’d like.

    Important Android Q Links

    If you’re a developer you’ll want to go to the Android Q Developer page. Google also released an overview page showing all the nitty-gritty details. Then, don’t forget to submit feedback to help improve the software moving forward.

    What’s New in Android Q?

    So here’s the thing. While Google shared more information during the first and second betas, and even more at Google I/O during the third beta, they’re saving some stuff for later. So while we have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the next version of Android, we don’t know everything yet. There are some obvious changes like improved security and privacy controls, support for folding phones, Dark Theme, and a few other things, but that’s about all.

    As we said above, some of the exciting new Android Q features like Dark mode and Desktop mode that leaked earlier this year are missing or only just arrived with beta 3. Basically, here’s what’s new so far, but just know that a lot more is coming and we’ll update as we learn more and Google reveals new features.

    • Improved Privacy Protection & Controls –  Google made major changes in Android Q that focus on privacy protection. Additionally, users have a deeper level over privacy controls too, which was expected. Look for more information on this in the near future.
    • Dark Theme – A new system-wide dark theme is available by going to Settings > Display. This will improve battery life and offers several usage benefits.
    • Dark Theme Everywhere – That dark theme we just mentioned was added to the boot screen (so phones don’t blind you during a reboot) and in several apps throughout Android.
    • Privacy Manager – There’s a new “Privacy Manager” menu in settings where all the app privacy controls are simplified under one unified area.
    • Expanded Location Controls – Similar to the new privacy controls and options, Google is taking a huge new approach to location controls, location data, and user tracking in Android Q.

    As you can see, in Android Q device owners can see exactly what devices have access to their location. Furthermore, you can control WiFi and Bluetooth location scanning, grant or revoke permission to each app one at a time, or even only grant access to your location while the app is in use.

    • Multi-tasking Bubbles – We saw hints and leaks of the new “Bubbles” in Android Q earlier this year, and they arrived in the 2nd beta. Bubbles are little circles that go anywhere, float over other apps, and help you multi-task with ease. Think Facebook  Messenger “chat heads” where you can quickly open or minimize a conversation, but for entire apps. We’re unsure how this will work, but it’s exciting. Hopefully it’s not only for messenger applications.

    Android Q Beta 2 Added “Bubbles” for multitasking

    It’s no secret that “big tech” like Google, Facebook and Apple have been under a ton of scrutiny lately for how much information it collects about its users. Then, in turn, how that information gets used for ads and such. A big part of that focuses on location data, device tracking, or user tracking. As a result, Android Q has some strict privacy and location controls unlike any version of Android we’ve ever seen.

    • Support for foldable displays – With exciting new phones like the Samsung Galaxy Fold, Huawei’s folding phone, the Moto RAZR and more all coming soon, Google is building Android to work better with screens that fold or bend. If a device has a folding or innovative new design, Android Q will adapt to the shape in an effort to deliver a great experience, and that includes a neat new split-screen multitasking system. (Developers can access foldable API in beta 2 and beyond)
    • Sharing Shortcuts in Android Q – Another thing we’re seeing is a change to the “share” menu in Android Q. Google is making this quicker and easier with Sharing Shortcuts, which let users jump directly into another app to share content.
    • Smart Reply, Suggested Actions – Starting in Beta 3, Google enabled system-provided smart replies and actions that are inserted directly into notifications by default. Similar to smart reply options in Gmail.
    • Live Caption – One of the most exciting new features from Google I/O is live caption. This feature will automatically caption media that’s playing audio on your phone. The feature works with videos, podcasts and audio messages, videos you’ve recorded with the camera and more. It’s a compete system-wide caption system that works even when you’re offline. Very powerful.
    • Settings Panels – In Android Q app developers will be able to show key system settings directly inside of their app. Including WiFi, Bluetooth, mobile data, or even sound settings. A prime example is the Ultimate Ears app having a “settings panel” where users can instantly access BT settings, sound controls and more without leaving the application.
    • Connectivity permissions, privacy, and security
    • Theme Controls or Dark Mode – We know Android Q will have some sort of new Dark Mode, but digging through developer options we’re seeing full “theme controls” where users can change fonts, colors, accent fonts and colors, icon shapes and more. If Google delivers some sort of theme tool with Q a lot of users will be very happy.
    • Gestural Navigation – Well, Google returned the old on-screen keys with the 3rd beta of Android Q, even for the Pixel 3. Plus, they debuted a new “Gestural nav system” you can enable under Settings > System > Gestures. The 5th beta changed that yet again. It’s safe to say Google has no clue what they want to offer in terms of gestures. It’s a mess. There’s even a new gesture and “shelf” on the corners for the Google Assistant.
    • Focus Mode – Another powerful new addition from the 3rd beta is Focus Mode. It’s coming to Android Pie and Q, and is like a Do-not-disturb mode for your entire phone, not just sounds. You can silence and block (temporarily) apps, messages, people, services and more that will interrupt you, letting users “focus” on getting work done. Additionally, there’s an all-new parental controls system in Q designed to let parents monitor and limit kids using phones. You can see focus mode below.
    • Notification Assistant – In the Android Q beta 2 release we’re seeing a new “Notification Assistant” and we have no clue what it does. That said, the description on my Pixel 3 is rather scary. Maybe this will let the Google Assistant see, read, and use our notifications to better serve each user. Who knows?
    • Screen Continuity (Foldables) – A big part of Android Q will be about foldable displays, as we’ve seen from Samsung, Huawei, and likely Motorola. Plus, the device below could be a teaser of some sort of upcoming Google folding phone. Basically, this feature improves the way content gets displayed on the front, back, fold, or any screen on an Android device.
    • Improved Peer-to-Peer and Internet Connectivity
    • WiFi Performance Mode
    • Dynamic Depth Formats for photos
    • New Audio and Video Codecs
    • Native MIDI APIs
    • Improved Vulkan Graphics, Neural Network APIs, and much more

    Again, Google released the first Android Q beta on March 13th, the second beta with some bug fixes on April 3rd, then another each month until this 5th and “stable” version in July. We’re expecting one more 6th beta later this month or in early August, then the official release in mid-to-late August.

    For now, it looks like Android Q will make a big effort to improve performance, battery life, security, privacy, location data and more, along with obviously making the software smarter, faster, and better. Then, expect improved camera controls and software, better gaming support, and a lot more in the coming weeks and months.

    Final Thoughts & What’s Next?

    For now, just remember that this is only a beta of Google’s new software. Things can and will change in the future, and the stable final version. We’ve even seen software or features removed before a stable release at a later date. When they do, we’ll update this post with all the information. Personally, we still recommend people wait for the final release unless they really want to test Android early. Even on the 5th beta we’re seeing issues with gestures and controls with launchers, banking apps aren’t working, Pokemon GO still doesn’t work, and more. This is early software meant for testing, not for everyone to use daily. That said, Google feels good about calling this 5th release a “release candidate”. So it’s pretty safe.

    Plus, now that other manufacturers like Sony, OnePlus, Nokia, Oppo, Essential, Xiaomi can join in on the beta, Google and phone makers can work together to make this the best version of Android yet.

    Either way, this is an early look at what’s next for Android, and we’ll share more details as soon as Google decides to share them with the world.

    Android Q: What’s New So Far is a post by Cory Gunther from Gotta Be Mobile.

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