Google today detailed its next major update to Android during its flagship keynote at I/O 2019. Officially known as Android 10 Q, the new software offers upgrades for areas such as notifications, gestures, security, and updates.
Right out the gate, it’s worth mentioning that Android Q finally (finally!) brings over a native dark mode called Dark Theme to any device that runs it. It sports true blacks and not some sort of dark gray color. It’s also probably the most notable feature on this list for Android enthusiasts.
Also worth mentioning right at the top: new gestures. Starting with Android Q, Google is revitalizing how it handles gesture navigation on Android. From now on, there will be a thin white line at the bottom of your screen instead of a pill, enabling gestures extremely similar to that of the iPhone. You swipe up to go home, swipe up and hold to get to multitasking, and swipe left or right to navigate between apps. To go back, you can swipe from either the left or right side of your screen which may take some getting used. Oh well, I don’t care, I hate the gestures on Android Pie and I’m glad to see them leave.
Up next, notifications. Google has tweaked the way you handle them (yet again), and interacting with ones from messaging apps is getting better than ever. Starting with Q, Google will enable Smart Reply for all messaging apps, allowing you to see suggested replies right within the notification shade. You can tap on one to send as a reply to a message or, of course, dictate your own response. Smart Reply can also intelligently give you new actions to take. For instance, if someone sends you an address, you can tap on a Google Maps shortcut and get a look at where it is.
Another cool new feature is Live Captions. Whenever there’s a video playing on your screen – whether it’s in Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, or something else – you can see transcriptions of whatever the audio is saying. It also works for podcasts and any other audio playing out of your phone. It’s not only great for people hard of hearing, but also for those who don’t want to disturb others with the sound of a video they’re watching.
One of the nicest things about Live Captions is that it doesn’t require the cloud to operate, with Google demoing the feature all while their test phone was on airplane mode. This leads us into the privacy section of Android Q which Google is ramping up heavily this year.
With Android Q, Google is doing almost 50 new features and changes to better your privacy using the OS. Things like a new Privacy section in the Settings app, new Location settings, and more will help safeguard your data and further protect you from outside forces.
One of the biggest advantages Android phones have is the release of regular security patches from Google. With Q, the company looks to simplify the process of releasing these updates and, hopefully, get them on more phones.
Starting with Q, Google will release security patches through the Play Store. The process to make this possible is called “Project Mainline” and, essentially, it utilizes 14 different modules deeply rooted in Android’s foundation. Google will release a chunk of software updates that will effect all of these different areas of the operating system and improve upon their security. The modules, according to The Verge, are as follows.
Captive portal login
Media framework components
Network permission configuration
Time zone data
By individually updating these modules, Google will, in theory, be able to ship security patches to more phones more often, without the need for OEM and carrier approval. Google has tried to speed up updates in the past and seems to fail almost every time. I’m skeptical as to whether Mainline will actually increase the number of people running the latest patches, but time will tell whether the company’s efforts paid off.
Google is also bringing some improvements to Digital Wellbeing with Android Q. With this release, the company will introduce Focus Mode which will allow you to block access to apps you find distracting. You can add them to a list which, when Focus Mode is on, will block access to them and mute their notifications. The company will also introduce a suite of parental controls to trim down the amount of time younger users are on their phones. A new feature called “5 more minutes” will give kids access to their phones for an additional 300 seconds if their time has expired.
All in all, Google’s Android Q sounds like a promising update, with plenty more security measures in place, better gestures, potentially faster updates, and perhaps better performance. Nothing here is ground-breaking, and it doesn’t seem like that was what Google was going for. These are all, simply incremental updates to better the overall experience of using Android. And I’m here for all of it.
The third beta of Android Q will be available starting today. In addition to every Pixel phone, Google will also release the beta to 15 additional devices. A full list can be found below.