Google typically launches a developer preview for its next version of Android in March, followed by a public beta that anyone can join in May when it hosts its annual Google I / O conference.
This year, by releasing its first developer preview and public beta on the same day on March 13, 2019, Google decided to do stuff a bit differently. Beta 2 with some bug fixes and fresh characteristics was published on April 3. This was accompanied by Beta 3 initiated by Google during its annual I / O meeting on May 7, and Beta 4 made its debut on June 5. Recently, on July 10, Beta 5 fell.
In addition to Pixel phones, you can also sign up for the Android Q beta for the OnePlus 6T, Sony Xperia Z3, and LG G8. In fact, the beta is live for 20 phones across 12 manufacturers. After logging into your account and choosing the device you want to enroll in the beta, you’ll receive an over-the-air update on your phone to download and install Android Q.
Here are the top 15 features
Like we expect with every new Android version, Android Q is chock-full of all sorts of new features. We’ll likely be introduced to even more as beta updates are released throughout the year leading up to the final release, but even right now, there’s a lot to unpack.
We’ll dive into some of the biggest ones below, but if you want a recap of all the main highlights, be sure to check out the roundup below.
The iconic back button is going away
The back button, a navigation staple of Android, is officially going away with Android Q.
Following up on Pie’s gesture-based navigation that kept the aging back button around, Android Q now features a fully gesture-based method of navigation. Swiping up goes home, a swipe up and hold reveals the multitasking menu, and a swipe from the left or right edge of your screen goes back.
That’s a pretty big shift for Android navigation, and according to Google, it’s evolving app design so that the first swipe will open a side menu and a double swipe will take you back.
- How to enable the new gesture system in Android Q
- Android Q gesture FAQ: Understanding how Android’s new gestures work
There’s finally a system-wide dark mode!
After years of begging and praying, Google’s confirmed that Android Q will have a system-wide dark theme that can be turned on and off at any time via a Quick Settings toggle.
Even better, Google also created a new API that developers can use to have their apps go to a dark theme as well when the system-wide one is turned on.
New theming options
Being able to customize our phones to the fullest extent is one of the things that makes Android so great, and with Android Q, something exciting could be happening on this front.
Initially found in the developer options in Beta 1, there are settings to change the accent color of the entire UI. As of July 10 and Beta 5, the available colors include:
- Blue (default)
In Beta 2, a new app appeared called “Pixel Themes.” While not functional quite yet, it’s assumed that this is where these customization tools will live in the final version.
Live Caption transcribes media locally in real-time
Closed captions are crucial for deaf and hard-of-hearing people to understand what’s being said in a video, podcast, game, or any other form of media where words are spoken, and to make sure these are available virtually everywhere, Android Q comes with a feature called “Live Caption.”
Live Caption is able to provide real-time captions for just about anything on your phone where someone is talking, and the best part is that it happens locally on-device. In other words, no internet connection of any kind is required.
You can turn Live Caption on through Android Q’s accessibility settings, and for a lot of users, this will be a godsend.
Big changes coming to permissions
Privacy is a bigger concern than ever before, and with Android Q, Google is implementing some new features for app permissions to help give you a better understanding and more control over what exactly apps on your phone have access to.
According to Google’s blog post, apps that ask for your location will now reveal a new pop-up asking you if you want to grant location access all the time, only when the app’s being used, or not at all.
Furthermore, Google notes that:
In Android Q, the OS gives users even more control over apps, controlling access to shared files. Users will be able to control apps’ access to the Photos and Videos or the Audio collections via new runtime permissions. For Downloads, apps must use the system file picker, which allows the user to decide which Download files the app can access.
The “Permissions usage” page in Settings has been completely overhauled to show which permissions are being used by how many of your apps, the ability to filter by permissions to see which apps are using certain ones, and a new UI for the “App info” page.
An improved share menu
Android’s share menu has been a hot mess for a while now. The core functionality is fine, but it’s regularly slow to open no matter what phone you’re using. Thankfully, Android Q addresses this. Google briefly mentions this in its blog post, saying that “the share UI can load instantly when it’s launched” since the shortcuts are “published in advance”, but in day-to-day use, we have a feeling this will be one of Q’s best additions.
Speaking of sharing, Android Q also introduces something called “Sharing Shortcuts.”
A Sharing Shortcut allows developers to create a new option in the share menu that will share a file/photo/etc. in a specific part of another app much faster than before.
Better support for foldable phones
2019 will be the year that foldable phones finally hit the market, and to ensure the experience of these new devices is as good as can be, Google’s optimized Android Q with foldable-specific features and experiences.
According to Google:
To help your apps to take advantage of these and other large-screen devices, we’ve made a number of improvements in Android Q, including changes to onResume and onPause to support multi-resume and notify your app when it has focus. We’ve also changed how the resizeable Activity manifest attribute works, to help you manage how your app is displayed on foldable and large screens.
These changes are obviously meant for developers, but in the end, it should result in Android Q being optimized correctly for foldable of all shapes and sizes.
What will Android Q be called?
Perhaps the most important question of all — what will Android Q be called?
There aren’t a lot of dessert names that begin with Q that immediately come to mind, but some possibilities are:
- Queen of Puddings
We’re really stretching with a lot of those considering that many of them are desserts only known in specific countries all around the globe, so if you have any better suggestions, feel free to let us know in the comments below.
When will it be released?
On March 13, 2019, Android Q Beta 1 was launched out in the wild and made available to download on the Pixel, Pixel 2, and Pixel 3 series. Beta 2 was released on April 3, Beta 3 debuted on May 7 during Google I/O, Beta 4 arrived on June 5, and Beta 5 hit on July 10.
Now, we’re just awaiting one more beta before the final build drops sometime before Q3 is over.