The next major update to the Android mobile OS is now available in beta. Here's what's in it - and what Google has announced will be coming to Android Q in the future. 

It's a simple beta to use, allowing an over-the-air update on eligible devices, primarily designed for developers to start working on new features, but stable enough for enthusiasts to run on your devices.

You can find out how to try it yourself at the bottom of this feature, or in our dedicated guide right here

Android Q: What will the name be?

Months before a new version of Android rolls out to devices with an official dessert-themed name, it's known by a codename. They've been released in alphabetical order. For instance, Android 9 Pie was Android P. Before that, there was Android Oreo, or Android O. This year is Android Q. There are a few desserts that start with Q:

  • Android Quince Jelly
  • Android Qurabiya
  • Android Quindim
  • Android Queen of Puddings
  • Android Qottab
  • Android Quesito
  • Android Queijadinha
  • Android Quirks

Google could always bend the rules and do something less sweet, such as:

  • Android Quinoa
  • Android Quail
  • Android Quesadilla
  • Android Quiche

None of these are official, by the way. We're just guessing. What do you think Android Q will be called when it releases?

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Android Q: Release date

The Android Beta program is now live and you can check it out. Expect Q to launch in time for the announcement of Pixel 4 in October. We'd expect it will be available on some devices in September. 

Android Q features

Slight look and feel changes

On the surface, Android Q looks a lot like Android Pie and that's to be expected at this stage. There are some thematic developer options - like changing the accent colours - but nothing substantial: It's very much business as usual. 

On device AI

The AI that powers Google Assistant can now run locally on your phone - similar to the solutions announced by other vendors. Pixel 4 - and presumably Android Q - will feature a next-generation Assistant that processes speech on-device at near zero latency, with transcription that happens in real-time, even when you have no network connection. Google also says it will make it easier for users to understand and control Assistant data.

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New gestures

Android Q includes a full set of gestures so Android can move beyond buttons, virtual or otherwise. It's not the default setting in the latest beta however, you still have to go into settings and choose the new navigation option. 

If it looks familiar, there's probably good reason for that. It is very iPhone-like, even if the styling is slightly different. The bar at the bottom of the screen can be swiped across quickly to switch between apps. Just like the iPhone. And you can swipe up and across to get to app switching. A bit like the iPhone. The idea is to have a more consistent experience than in Android 9 Pie.

In Pie, there was a single home button and a back button, except the home button was your gesture control. Google clearly felt having one general/gesture-based icon and a back button that you just press as before makes it a bit inconsistent. Similarly, the slim navigation bar in the new method takes up a lot less space. 

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Revamped notification controls

For the past couple of Android iterations, Google has worked on helping you filter which apps you want to get notifications from; learning which apps you regularly dismiss notifications from and then adapt what it shows you. In Q, you get the options in the screen above. 

When you swipe away a notification you can choose to have either a silent notifications, or a regular, pings and everything notification. If you don't like either, you can just press the "turn off notifications" option and not be bothered by that app ever again. 

More uses for photo data

There are some more interesting highlights that give us a hint at things to come in the future around the camera. One such approach is allowing apps to package up photo data with the dynamic depth metadata that it's captured. Google suggests that the current arrangement is to capture these things that to bin the depth data.

Finding a way to preserve both could lead to more functions around photos and what you can use this data for.

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Bubbles

This is Google’s solution for better multitasking on a phone. It reminds us of Facebook Messenger’s Chat Heads, but this Android Q implementation will be system-wide. In an Android Developers blog post, Google provided guidelines for developers to implement the feature, and it's allowing any app to use the new Bubbles notification.

Bubbles work like this: When an alert is received, a tiny circular notification will appear on your screen for you to tap. For a messaging app, for instance, you'd tap the bubble notification to view a conversation thread or reply without having to launch the entire app. Google suggested developers could use Bubbles for notes, arrival times, and calls, too.

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Dark Mode

Users will be able to enable a dark mode to darken everything from notifications to the settings. Unlike previous dark themes built into the stock Android experience, however, it applies to all apps that support it too. 

So far, we've seen it running in Google Photos as well as throughout all notifications, Settings menus and the app drawer. 

Screen recording

Screen recording is coming to Android. It’ll be accessed similarly to how you take screenshots: by holding the power button down. It might seem like no big deal, but imagine having this the next time your parents ask how to do something on their Android phones. Instead of trying to explain, you can easily record your screen, show exactly how, and send the clip. It's not currently available in the Android Q beta, and is likely to be something that comes later on. 

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Foldable phone support

While technically an under-the-hood feature, this helps get apps and games to support foldable phones. This directly affects those of you who want to buy, say, the Galaxy Fold. Google even has a new Android Q foldable screen emulator so that we can see how apps might look on a foldable phone like the Galaxy Fold.

Mystery Desktop mode

One notable bit of information from the leaked Android Q build is the appearance of something called "Desktop mode" embedded in the code. What could it entail?

"Deep Press" 

Code within Android Q suggests the update will include support for "Deep Press" interactions on the screen. The idea being that you'll be able to activate separate actions by pressing harder on the screen. It's different to a regular short press, or a long press, in that it's based on how hard you press.

While it's an exciting inclusion, it's not the first time we've seen this kind of features on a smartphone. We all know Apple added a pressure sensitive display to its iPhone range a few years ago.

Other miscellaneous improvements 

  • Google is including limits on the access apps will have to photos, videos, audio, and downloaded files on devices. 
  • Android Q will have more control over how apps resume and pause when running in the background.
  • A new Settings Panel API that'll let developers push a pop-menu for settings like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and NFC, so users won't have to exit apps to go to settings and back.
  • Total support for foldable phones, which Google first promised us this past November.
  • Improved sharing shortcuts, designed to make sharing targets more obvious so you can jump right into other apps.
  • Google Assistant willl be able to do specific things in your favourite apps. “Hey Google, start my run in Nike Run Club.”

Also check out: Google updates Android Auto with default dark mode and more

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