Android Q – the upcoming version of Google’s mobile operating system – is on its way. Early adopters and developers can already get an early look at the third beta version of the operating system due to be released this autumn.
At its annual developer conference, Google unveiled some of the first details about what Android Q will look like. Alongside support for foldable phones and 5G, Android Q will include a dark theme, live captioning and more tools that make it easier to spend less time on your phone.
Here’s our rundown of all the best features you can expect to see in Android Q later this year.
Users have long been asking for a dark mode, and Google has finally answered. You’ll be able to have the entire system in a darker hue, which will make it easier on your eyes and save battery life, particularly on OLED phones. Turning on the dark theme is pretty straightforward: just pull down the Quick Settings tile or access the display section in the phone’s settings. Also, the mode will automatically activate when an Android Q phone is switched to battery-saving mode.
At launch, this feature will likely be limited to Google’s own apps, but the company is offering developers an API for enabling dark themes so they can make sure their apps follow the rest of the operating system.
Smart reply in all messaging apps
In Android Q, Google’s smart reply feature as it we know it from Gmail will be available in third-party messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Signal. This feature uses machine learning to suggest three short responses that might suit the message you received. Basically, it’s anticipating what you’re going to say before you say it. The OS version of smart reply can also anticipate actions and will, for instance, suggest opening up the address your friend sent you in Google Maps.
By tapping the volume button and the icon below the volume slider, Live Caption will automatically add subtitles to videos, podcasts and audio messages － even for audio that you record yourself. The real-time captions are created through on-device machine learning and will appear as soon as speech is detected, without the need for Wi-Fi or network connection. The text box can be expanded, dragged and moved around the screen and will come in handy for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, or when listening to audio in a noisy environment.
Enhanced privacy and incognito mode for Maps
Q will feature a dedicated location section in a phone’s privacy settings giving users more control over the location data they share with apps. This means they can choose to share location data with apps only while they’re in use and receive reminders when an app uses their location in the background. A popular feature in the Chrome browser and Youtube app, Google Maps will soon gain a private search mode. By turning on the feature, users can search for and navigate to places without having data saved or linked back to their Google accounts. The private search mode can be activated by tapping on the profile picture in the search bar at the top of Maps. The company plans to offer this feature for the search app at a later stage.
Focus mode and parental controls
Following last year’s release of digital wellbeing tools, Google is adding a new feature to help users focus without distraction. Focus mode allows users to select particularly apps they want to avoid during a period of time, such as messaging or news apps. Those apps become grayed out and notifications are hidden. Together with app timers, the do not disturb mode, and notifications controls, this feature will hopefully help you find some balance.
Parental controls, which are already available via the Family Link app in the Google Play Store, will be built into the Q operating system and accessible in the digital wellbeing settings. This tool offers parents a way to monitor and manage their kids’ screen time by setting app-specific time limits and granting them “five more minutes” of bonus time, for example.
Google has come up with new gestures for Q and slimmed down the navigation bar. In addition to using the usual three-button features in the navigation bar and Android Pie’s swipe gestures, you can now swipe up from the bottom of your screen to go home, from left to right to go back rather than tapping a button. Swipe up and hold to access recently opened apps. Looks like Google may have taken some inspiration from iPhone X here – these new gestures will certainly make the transition from IOS to Android easier. To test the fully gestural navigation, enable them in system settings.
Wondering how to get to Google Assistant? Swipe diagonally from the right or left bottom of your screen and hold until it appears. Also, the assistant still has its own button on the home and multitasking screen. Before falling into a habit of using these new gestures: there is a chance that they will be tweaked before the final release of Android Q as they currently interfere with apps that rely on swipe-in gestures.
Fit for foldables
Folding phones might have gotten off to a bad start, but Google reinforced its support for the upcoming wave of devices. The company has optimised Android Q with changes to its multi-resume and display functions, to ensure apps can run simultaneously alongside other apps and transition seamlessly from a small to tablet-sized screen when a device is unfolded. Developers can start building and testing with Android’s foldables emulator to check that their apps scale properly across different screen dimensions and resolutions – in time for the release of these long-awaited devices.
It’ll be compatible with 5G
5G is coming soon and device manufacturers are preparing for it. So is Google. Dubbed “wireless fiber”, 5G is expected to be faster than any wired broadband and will virtually remove streaming lags, opening up the door for real-time video collaboration, AR/VR-based apps and multiplayer games. Google is bundling in 5G compatibility and extending existing APIs for Android Q – this will allow developers to get ready for the new era and make sure their apps can make the most of “super fast” speed.
Sending updates straight to your phone
Google is introducing Project Mainline in an attempt to push out security patches straight to a phone through the Play store – like for apps, these updates run in the background and are loaded next time your phone starts up, removing the need for a full system reboot as is now the case with Android. For developers, this means apps and games can be updated while in use without the need to interrupt users.
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