Android 10: Cheat sheet

Android is still the most widely-used platform around the globe. With a market share that hasn't shifted much since the last iteration (approximately 81.7% around the release of Android Pie), Google has a strong grip on the mobile sector. With the release of Android 10 (aka Android Q), users will get a good blend of new features and a polishing of previously released features. Some of Android Q's new features will be eye-opening and should go a long way to cement the platform at the top of the mobile space.

Read this Android Q cheat sheet to get up to speed on Google's next OS. We'll update this resource periodically when there is new information about Android Q.

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What is Android Q?

Android Q (aka Android 10.0) will be the next Android OS released from Google. Since the initial release of Android, Google has used names of various desserts for the platform. These are the names that Google has used for Android versions. (Before its release, Android 1.1 was called Petit Four internally.)

Now we arrive at Android 10 (Android Q). At the moment, we have no idea what this release will be called; however, there have been plenty of ideas circulating, including:

Sameer Samet, Google's Vice President of Product Management for Android and Play, said "We're super excited about the desserts....At the same time, Q is a hard letter. But we're looking at it."

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What new features come with Android Q?

Android Q has a number of exciting features. Some of the new features will go a long way to setting Android apart from all other platforms, while others finally bring the operating system up to par with others.

Fully Gestural Navigation

The biggest change to the operating system is the navigation control, which is far more efficient than previous methods, especially when using a device with one hand. Gesture navigation was introduced in Android Pie, though what was brought to the table seemed like a bridge to something even better. That something better is Fully Gestural Navigation. This opt-in feature (users can choose to go the old-school three-button method, the two-button method in Android Pie, or the new "no-button" method in Android Q) relies strictly on gestures for navigating the interface. The new navigation includes the following:

Along with the "peeking in" feature, for those who have found the back gesture to interfere with the opening of app sidebars, a new Sensitivity configuration (Figure A) has been added to help alleviate this problem (as of Beta 6). This option is found in Settings | System | Gestures | System Navigation. Tap the associated gear icon to then adjust the sensitivity (from low to high) to avoid confusion between opening an app sidebar and initiating the back gesture.

Figure A

Chances are, you are not one of the ~3-7% of users who swipe to open sidebars (according to Android user interface product managers Allen Huang and Rohan Shah); instead, you use the "Hamburger menu" to gain access to that feature, so the back swipe shouldn't be a problem.

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New notification control feature

Notification control (Figure B) is getting a new feature. With the long press of an app alert in the Notification Shade, you can select Interruptive Reminders or Gentle Reminders.

Figure B

So, if you're worried about the sensitive information of alerts from certain apps making it to the Lock Screen, you now have control over which apps can display said data instead of the feature being On or Off.

Dark Theme

From the office of "What took you so long" comes the highly-anticipated Dark Theme. When enabled, the entire Android interface will take on a darker color (Figure C).

Figure C

Why is this important? Two reasons: Battery life and eye strain.

Live Caption

Another new feature coming to Android Q is Live Caption, which will automatically add subtitles to videos, podcasts, and audio messages. These captions are in real time and system-wide so they aren't limited to specific applications. The Live Caption text box can be resized and moved around the screen. Live Caption will not only be helpful for users who find themselves in situations where audio isn't an option, but what's even more important is Live Caption will be a boon to the hearing impaired.

5G compatible

Android Q will be 5G compatible. That means as soon as the infrastructure is rolled out, Android 10 will be ready to make use of the new technology.

Project Mainline

Google is introducing Project Mainline. With this new feature, security patches will be automatically pushed to phones through the Google Play Store (in the same way apps are updated). Updates are run in the background and loaded during the next time a device is rebooted.

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What enhancements are in Android Q?

Expansion of Smart Reply

One Android feature that's getting some much-needed polish by way of expansion is Smart Reply, which uses machine learning to anticipate what you might say in reply to a message. Although the feature was available in Android P, it was limited to Google-only apps. With the release of Android Q, Smart Reply is now built into the notification system, so any messaging app can suggest replies in notifications. Smart Reply also uses AI to predict your next action. For example, if someone texts you an address, you can tap that address to open it in Google Maps.

Privacy features for Google Maps

Speaking of Google Maps, the app/service will be getting some privacy-specific features. One feature is Incognito Mode. This mode will enable users to search for and navigate to locations without data being saved to or linked back to a Google account.

Digital Wellbeing's Focus Mode

Google's Digital Wellbeing will get a new feature called Focus Mode that allows users to select certain apps they want to avoid during a period of time. During the chosen period, those apps will be grayed out and their notifications hidden from view.

Gender Inclusive emoji

For those who like to use emoji, Google will bring gender nonconforming emoji to Android 10. Called Gender Inclusive, there will be 53 such emojis added to the platform.

More user-friendly App Permissions

App Permissions will have a much more user-friendly approach. Instead of the app offering little more than ON/OFF sliders for each app within a service (such as body sensors, calendar, call logs, camera, etc.), the new layout makes it very clear what apps have permission for a specific service and retains the simplicity of allowing or denying an app permission to access any given service (Figure D).

Figure D

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What security features are in Android Q?

There are a few Android Q features that focus primarily on security. The first feature is called Scoped Storage. In order to give users more control over their files, as well as limit file clutter, Android Q changes how all apps access files found within external storage. To make this more secure, all apps on Android Q are given a sandboxed view into the external storage space.

Android Q also gives users more control over when apps are able to access device location information (Figure E).

Figure E

Users will be able to configure if an app has access to location information either while in use (foreground only) or all the time (foreground and background). In other words, if you opt for foreground only, when an app isn't in use, it won't have access to location information.

Interruptions will become fewer with Android Q, thanks to new restrictions to background activity starts. By restricting when an app can start activities, it will not only minimize interruptions for users, it will also allow users to control what's shown on the device display.

One new addition that should go a long way for device security is that Android Q will now transmit randomized MAC addresses by default. Along those same lines, an app must have READ_PRIVILEGED_PHONE_STATE privileged permissions in order to access a device's non-resettable identifiers (such as IMEI and serial number).

In order to protect user privacy, manual configuration of the Wi-Fi networks list will be restricted to system apps and device policy controllers. If an app doesn't fall into one of those two categories, configuration of Wi-Fi networks will not be allowed.

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How can developers start using Android Q?

Android Q is in the beta 6 release (which is the final beta). Anyone with a supported device can sign up for the Android Beta program. Currently, the following devices are supported.

If your device is supported, installing Android Q is as simple as signing up for the beta program and selecting your device.

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When will Android Q be generally available?

For the general public, Android Q should be available in late Q3 or early Q4. All Pixel devices will receive the update first, followed shortly by smaller vendors, such as Essential and OnePlus. Larger vendors (with carrier tie-ins), such as Samsung, will then receive the update.

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Editor's note: This article was originally published on May 30, 2019, and it was last updated on August 13, 2019.