Google’s Android Q beta is here. Here’s the very latest news on the first beta release; including all the new features and functions Google’s next major mobile OS release will supposedly bring to the table.
The long-awaited Android Q Beta 1 was launched on Wednesday March 13, with all existing Pixel smartphones able to get an early look at the next operating system update due later this year.
The first preview SDK for developers is available Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, and the official Android Emulator. However, Google is also making this available for other early adopters seeking to jump on board with the beta release.
The inclusion of the original Pixel and Pixel XL devices is somewhat of a surprise, given they weren’t expected to support Android Q. That’s great news for owners of the first Made by Google handsets.
Related: Android Pie Phones
While the beta doesn’t include all of the rumoured features like the Dark Mode and the redesigned stock apps and desktop mode, there are some little nuggets. There’s enhanced support for foldable devices, like the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X, a number of privacy and security updates and faster app startup.
While there’s no news on what Google plans to call Android Q, here’s what the company is bringing to the table with the first beta.
New location tools
As speculated, Beta 1 brings new location permissions options for Android Q users. With the OS running on their device, users will be able to access additional controls for when an app can access their location.
Users can choose from three options when an app requests for location permissions: “Allow all the time,” “Allow when using the app,” or “Deny.”
The company writes: “An app asking for a user’s location for food delivery makes sense and the user may want to grant it the ability to do that. But since the app may not need location outside of when it’s currently in use, the user may not want to grant that access. Android Q now offers this greater level of control.”
New privacy tools
Android Q Beta 1 also includes security tools that limit apps’ access to device IMEI, serial number, and other identifying information. It also gives users a little more protection when using Wi-Fi networks by randomising the devices MAC (media access control) address.
Google says there are “new restrictions on launching activities from the background without user interaction,” while apps “now need FINE location permission to do wireless scans Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, telephony, and camera metadata.”
New sharing and connectivity features
There’s not a lot in the way of user-centric features in this first beta, but Google is adding some new Sharing Shortcuts, which will allow users to jump between apps more easily.
Google explains it as such: “Developers can publish share targets that launch a specific activity in their apps with content attached, and these are shown to users in the share UI.”
Google is also adding a new connectivity settings panel within third-party, meaning they can easily access settings like Wi-Fi, Airplane Mode and other settings without having to leave the app.
Enhanced support for foldable phones
Google announced support for foldables within Android Pie last autumn and Android Q will continue that work, the company says.
It writes: “We’ve also changed how the resizeableActivity manifest attribute works, to help you manage how your app is displayed on foldable and large screens. To you get started building and testing on these new devices, we’ve been hard at work updating the Android Emulator to support multiple-display type switching — more details coming soon!”
When does Android Q launch?
The Android Q beta is here. Previously, betas such as these were limited to Google’s own Nexus and Pixel devices, however, as of Android P, other manufacturers have put forward their phones for testing, with the likes of Sony, Nokia, OnePlus, Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo and Essential getting involved last year.
We know the Pixel devices are compatible with this Android Q beta, but as the process goes on, devices from third-party manufacturers are likely to get in on the action too. This process certainly helped makers get their phones ready for Android Pie faster than in previous years.
Google says there will be six beta versions in total, with the main release planned for Q3 2019 (between July and September).
- Beta 1 (initial release, beta)
- Beta 2 (incremental update, beta)
- Beta 3 (incremental update, beta)
- Beta 4 (final APIs and official SDK, Play publishing, beta)
- Beta 5 (release candidate for testing)
- Beta 6 (release candidate for final testing)
- Final release to AOSP and ecosystem
According to Android Police, Google’s Iliyan Malchev told the Android Developers Backstage podcast that even more companies − and therefore more handsets − will be part of the beta this time, too.
It appears that anyone who signs up to the Android Q beta will automatically gain access to a feedback app called Android Beta Feedback (via Android Police). Here’s where you’ll be able to report issues, request features and provide general feedback.
Read more: Best smartphone
How to download the Android Q beta
Google is making the Android Q Beta 1 available for developers and early adopters from the get go. All you’ll need is a Pixel smartphone of any generation. Users can enrol their Pixel device with the beta program. Right now, it is still showing the completed Android Pie beta on the enrolment page, but we’ll keep you posted.
Rumoured Android Q features
Easily the most talked-about feature in the run-up to the release of Android Q. Some users have been requesting a system-wide dark mode for generations at this point, so the fact that it’s set to be a native part of Android Q is a major win for many.
While talk of a dark mode and signs that it might make an appearance in Q have circulated for a while, it wasn’t until Google product manager Lukasz Zbylut outright confirmed its existence that we knew it was set to become a base part of Q.
As spotted by Android Police, Zbylut seemingly confirmed its inclusion when responding to a comment on the Chromium bug tracker, saying: “Dark mode is an approved Q feature. The Q team wants to ensure that all preloaded apps support dark mode natively. In order to ship dark mode successfully, we need all UI elements to be ideally themed dark by May 2019.”
Based on Zbylut’s statement, how flawless this dark mode operates does partly hinge on third-party support for certain icons and other UI elements, but just knowing that Google has laid a foundation within Android is promising enough as it is.
In Android Q, dark mode will be accessible under Settings Display Dark Mode.
Revamped app designs
Google overhauled its Gmail web experience early on in 2018, and pushed similar changes onto its Gmail mobile apps at the start of this year.
The changes to Gmail on mobile include a brighter, cleaner, all-white interface, an ever-present search bar and a new compose icon. Switching accounts has also been designed to be more seamless, while images and other attachments should appear in-line more naturally, rather than appearing at the bottom of a message thread as before.
In the blog post announcing the release of the Gmail refresh, the company described it as “part of a larger effort to make G Suite look and act like products designed in the Google Material Theme, with ease-of-use in mind.”
As such, the thought process behind the Gmail redesign is expected to make its way to other Google mobile apps to coincide with the launch of Android Q.
Greater carrier SIM lock control
While consumers are usually the ones to benefit from the bevvy of new features that major Android updates bring, one new set of traits destined for Android Q is unquestionably geared in favour of networks.
As spotted by 9to5Google, Google added four new commits to the Android Gerrit source code management, under the title “Carrier restriction enhancements for Android Q.”
While the definitions of these “enhancements” aren’t spelled out, it seems that carriers will have the ability to lock devices off from rival networks on a whitelist/blacklist basis. Such restrictions could even extend to dual-SIM phones, with carriers able to block the second SIM slot unless an approved SIM sits in the primary slot.
Naturally, this could lead to frustration if a user wants to use their phone on another network outside of their contract term, or run a second SIM from another network in a dual-SIM device. Depending on the feature’s impact and whether carriers make use of it, we could see an uptick in the sale of unlocked devices and the purchase of SIM-only contracts to pair them with.
Force Desktop Mode
Android Q also sets the stage for a desktop mode that could let Android users plug their device into a dock, outputting to an external display that they could then interact with via a PC-like user experience.
The terms “force desktop mode” and “force experimental desktop mode on secondary displays” are already visible within Android Q’s developer options and hint at the feature, which looks like a native alternative to Samsung’s DeX user experience and Huawei’s Desktop Mode.
With the release of Android Pie, we said farewell to Android’s long-standing three navigation keys (although they never really left). In their place, Google showcased a pill-shaped button that consolidated the home and recent keys into a single UI element, that could perform the function of either by weaving swipe gestures into the mix.
Despite the change, the back button remained part of Android’s base navigation experience; appearing when needed. Now, that too looks as though it’s going to be assimilated into the pill too.
As uncovered by XDA Developers, swiping right on the home button in Android Q will serve as the equivalent of pressing the back button.
This isn’t the first implementation of a back swipe gesture we’ve seen from an Android device, with the likes of Xiaomi’s MIUI launcher, Huawei’s most recent EMUI launcher both feature swipe-based navigation in place of on-screen keys. Motorola’s latest one-button UI feature, as found on the likes of the Moto G7 Plus, behaves almost identically to how Android Q looks to interpret the back action too.
Have you ever regretted installing a software update? Perhaps you’ve downloaded a buggy release that breaks a fundamental feature or a particular update plays havoc with your battery life. Right now, such updates are part and parcel of smartphone ownership, and you’re usually saddled with any issues until the developer or Google steps in to dole out a fix.
With Android Q it looks as though users will have greater control over such situations, with the ability to uninstall updates that don’t sit right with their devices.
As spotted by XDA Developers, there’s code within these early builds of Android Q that contains lines like “PACKAGE_ROLLBACK_AGENT” and “MANAGE_ROLLBACKS”, which hint at Google’s intention of adding the option to downgrade apps.
Better native face unlock
There are already phones with the tech to rival Apple’s Face ID. Devices like the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and the Oppo Find X have had to engineer their own hardware and software to run atop Android’s existing security layer to support the in-depth facial recognition technology. With Q, such software might become a native piece of Android.
XDA Developers again stepped in to announce that it had unearthed “dozens of strings and multiple methods, classes, and fields related to facial recognition.” This doesn’t necessarily mean that the likes of the Pixel 4 will boast a Face ID alternative at launch, but it does hint at the fact that devices with compatible hardware will accommodate native face unlock and authentication support.
What will Android Q be called?
Still no word on what the ‘Q’ might stand for, though. Quince, perhaps?
Excited for Android Q? Which features are you most interested in? Let us know on Twitter @TrustedReviews.