The next major update to the Android mobile OS is now available in preview for developers (or anyone) who own Pixel devices.
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 their Pixel 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: Name
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?
Android Q: Release date
Google has released the second preview of Android Q for all Pixel device owners. It's fully available to anyone who wants to sign up, though we honestly recommend waiting to test it on your primary device. Those of you who are willing to deal with the inevitable bugs can enroll in the Android Beta program.
If you are a developer who wants to go the technical route (i.e., download the factory images and flash them to a compatible device), go here. Keep in mind Google usually doesn't officially release the update for consumers until later in the summer, usually around August.
Android Q: Features
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.
According to Google, the initial improvements include:
- 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.
Many of these things are background features designed to improve security of convenience of interaction with device settings. They're appearing in the beta because developers will likely have to make some changes to their apps to ensure everything behaves the way they want it to.
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.
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.
A early leaked build of Android Q suggested users will be able to enable a dark mode to darken everything from notifications to the settings. This is now a common option on many devices - Samsung has it in One UI, Xiaomi has it in MIUI 10, and Google let you set the device theme in Pie based on the wallpaper.
Dark mode is something of a unicorn feature. We've seen it appear and disappear in the past, but it's becoming commonplace, so we'd expect a device-wide option. Many apps are including it now, so having system conformity makes sense.
Screen recording is coming to Android, according to the early Android Q build. 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.
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. The people at XDA weren’t able to get it to function, but it will definitely raise a few eyebrows about what it could potentially entail.
Code within Android Q suggests the upcomingOS 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