In 2019, Google is unveiling the 10th major Android release. We're still months away from the actual release date, most probably in the summer, but thanks to the Android Q developer beta that just went out, we already have a clear idea of what to expect from it. Here's a quick rundown of the best user-facing Android Q features and improvements Google is working on. But first...
Now that we've established that widgets are still used but not as wholeheartedly as before since developers have them as an afterthought, we'd have to admit that the Android Q widget system looks and feels very modern and convenient. Long-press an app icon, tap widgets, and the respective set for it will appear below for you to choose from. Beats scrolling an endless stream of widgets in alphabetical order until you find what you were looking for, as in the Yelp example below. In addition, you can access relevant settings directly from apps now. Apart from those widget and settings shortcuts, Android Q introduces "Sharing shortcuts" for the most frequented destinations. Cool.
That's the big one. Google is going all out on privacy and permission management with Android Q. Many changes to the way the OS handles permissions can be spotted in your daily Q interactions.
There are two new sections in the Settings app - Privacy and Location - which include the option for apps to access a sensor or feature only while actively used. In other words, you may have an app like Facebook Messenger or Yelp access your location or microphone only while on the screen. Another welcome tweak is that if an app is accessing those, its name will appear up in the Android status panel. And if you open the Permissions screen for an app, a new screen will provide details as to how many times it has been granted access to certain permissions, how about that for a granular approach.
The likeliness of Android Q arriving with a Dark Mode option seemed high – and not only because Google has been experimenting with dark themes in its Android apps for some time. An early build of Android Q running on a Pixel 3, had a dark theme option in Display Settings. It affected not only various UI elements, such as the backgrounds in the app drawer and the notifications panel but also stock apps like Messages and Phone. The dark theme could be either activated manually or scheduled to turn on and off automatically.
It goes without saying that a dark mode is much easier on the eyes than a light one, especially at night. Another well-known benefit is that it reduces the power consumption of AMOLED screens; the darker each OLED pixel is, the less power it draws. So, is it present in the developer beta of Android Q?
Well, kind of, as there is no settings option to turn it on, and you either have to use command prompt to activate it via the Android Debug Bridge, or turn on the dark mode on your Pixel on Pie before updating to the beta, and it will carry over into Pixel on Q. If you just want to have a look, you can turn on the battery saver mode in Android Q, and see a battery percentage below your current one as the threshold. It's pretty inconsistent, too - the Photos, Files and Contacts apps have it, but Messages or Calendar don't, for instance.
Verdict: not prime-time ready yet, and manufacturer overlays will probably run circles around it with their own dark modes, like on Samsung's One UI. Google just can't force-feed design guidelines, it seems, unless it updates all of its apps with a pretty dark mode option, and devs like what they are seeing, so they follow.
This rumor panned out as well, but not as you would expect. No, you won't be able to freely project your phone's screen in landscape mode on another display like with Huawei or Samsung phones. You'd have to bury in the dev settings to turn on the "force desktop mode," options and type a Secondary Display Launcher command in ADB. You'd be able to change the wallpaper, populate the desktop with apps that launch in windowed mode, and... that's about it. It's a desktop mode which may or may not be readily available in the retail build, what did you expect. Still, if the phone can be used as a desktop computer when connected to an external monitor and keyboard, we'd take it, even in its most basic form.
Back in November of last year, Google officially announced that it will fully integrate support for foldable and dual-screen devices into Android Q. This is expected to add a sense of continuity to the experience. Imagine having a foldable phone and tapping on a YouTube video while it's folded, then unfolding the device resuming playback on the bigger screen. With upcoming expensive harbingers like the Galaxy Fold or Mate X, you can run up to three app instances at once, you multitasker, you.
For the past 10 years, major Android releases have all had a nickname. This has always been the name of a sweet treat, and all names since that of Android 1.5 Cupcake have been picked in alphabetical order. Android 10 Q is the latest version of the OS, meaning that names like Qurabiya or Queijadinha suddenly get in the running (please, Google, no).
Android 9.0 Pie was first shown during I/O, Google's annual developer conference and Android 10 will also be detailed in May 2019. Like last year, Google is giving a Q3 timeframe for the release, but before that, it plans no less than six beta versions, so we'll keep rolling out what's new and changed. Thank you, Google, for Android 10 Q.