Google has officially released the first beta for Android Q, which will be the next version of its mobile operating system. Google’s Dave Burke, VP of Engineering, has put out a detailed blog post aimed at app developers, which highlights the key features of Android Q.
For users, Android Q will put the focus on additional privacy and security, while allowing app developers to take advantages of camera features like depth mode to offer more 3D filters, customisable bokeh filters, etc. Android Q will also offer faster app startup.
Beta 1 of Android Q is available for for early adopters and there’s a preview SDK for developers. Any Pixel device can be enrolled into the Android Q beta, including the original Pixel and Pixel XL phones.
Android Q’s final build will be revealed at Google I/O in May. Here’s a quick look at everything new in Android Q.
How to get Android Q on your device?
Users and developers can enroll their device by going here. All eligible Android Q devices will reflect on this page. Keep in mind only Pixel devices are eligible right now. This is Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL and Pixel and Pixel XL.
Google says the downloadable system images for those devices are also available. For those who do not have a Pixel device, they can use the Android Emulator, and download the latest emulator system images via the SDK Manager in Android Studio to test out Android Q.
Privacy focus on Android Q
Android Q will come with greater control over location data. Users will be able to decide when apps can get access to this particular data. Right now in Android, if apps ask for location and you grant it, then this is a done deal.
With Android Q, this changes. Just like Apple’s iOS, Android Q will let users decide whether they want to give access to their location. The three options will be when the app is in use (running), all the time (when app is in the background) or never.
Users will have more control over apps and access to shared files as well in Android Q. “Users will be able to control apps’ access to the Photos and Videos or the Audio collections via new runtime permissions,” says the post.
In Android Q, a user will decide which downloaded files can be accessed by an app. For developers, there will be changes on how apps can access shared areas on external storage. Further, Android Q will prevent apps from launching an activity while in the background. For developers, who need their app to come to the foreground to get the user’s attention, they will have the option of using a high-priority notification and provide a full-screen intent, says the blog.
More importantly, Google will limit app access to non-resettable device identifiers. These include details like device IMEI, serial number, etc. Android Q will also randomise the device’s MAC address when connected to different Wi-Fi networks by default. This setting was optional in Android 9 Pie.
Android Q and foldable screens
Given that Samsung, Huawei and other players are showcasing foldable phones, Android Q will also get ready for this. Google says they will have made improvements to help app developers take advantage of these foldable devices and other large-screen devices.
Google has also changed how the resizeableActivity manifest attribute works, in order to help developers manage how their app shows on foldable and large screens.
Sharing shortcuts in Android Q
Google says it will make sharing photos, etc with someone in another app easier and faster for users. Sharing Shortcuts will let users jump directly into another app to share content.
Settings Panels in Android Q
Google’s Android Q will have a new Settings Panel API also for developers to make use of; this will let them show key system systems directly inside their app.
The settings panel is a floating user interface, which can be invoked by the third-party app to show system settings that users might need, such as internet connectivity, NFC or audio volume.
The post explains one such use for this: a browser displaying a panel with connectivity settings like Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi (including nearby networks), and Mobile Data. The advantage for the user is they do not have to leave the app, and can instead manage the relevant settings from the app itself.
Connectivity in Android Q
Google says it will improve privacy and security of Bluetooth, Cellular and WiFi, by requiring apps to rely on the FINE location permission, instead of the COARSE location permission. With FINE location permission, it provides better and more accurate location as it gives permission for both GPS and Network provider location. COARSE only uses Network provider location.
Android Q will also add support for new Wi-Fi standard support, WPA3 and Enhanced Open, to improve security for home and work networks as well as open/public networks. There’s also improved peer-to-peer and internet connectivity, which will improve use-cases like managing IoT devices and suggesting internet connections. No location permission will be required for doing this.
With Android Q, app developers will be able to request adaptive Wi-Fi by enabling high performance and low latency modes.
Camera, media in Android Q
Google says with Android Q, apps will be able to request access to the Dynamic Depth image, which consists of a JPEG, XMP metadata that is related to depth related elements. Photos where the smartphones creates a shallow depth of field, either by relying on software or using the secondary sensor are referred to as Bokeh. Many phones offer these pictures in the ‘Portrait mode’
Google says the advantage for app developers with this kind of setting will be that they can then offer specialised blurs and bokeh options in their app. The data can also be used to create 3D images or support AR photography. Google says they will make Dynamic Depth an open format for the ecosystem.
Android Q will also bring support for open source video codec AV1, so users will be able to stream high quality video content using less bandwidth. Android Q also brings HDR10+ support for high dynamic range video on devices that which offer this kind of recording.
64-bit support for all apps
Google says they are “moving the ecosystem toward readiness for 64-bit devices.” By later this year, Google Play will require 64-bit support in all apps.
Gaming on Android Q
Google will be adding “experimental support for ANGLE on top of Vulkan on Android devices.” Vulkan is the Android specific API for high performance and 3D graphics. As the blog post explains, “ANGLE is a graphics abstraction layer designed for high-performance OpenGL compatibility” and it will let more apps and games using OpenGL take “advantage of the performance and stability of Vulkan.”
Google says their “goal is to make Vulkan on Android a broadly supported and consistent developer API for graphics.” It will also require that device manufacturer make Vulkan 1.1 a requirement on all 64-bit devices running Android Q and higher going forward to ensure a uniform high-performance graphics API for apps and games to use.
Neural Networks API 1.2
With Android Q, Google is adding more operations the Neutral Networks API with 60 new optimizations. Google says it will lay the foundation for accelerating a much greater range of models — such as those for object detection and image segmentation.
Apps to run faster
Android Q will bring improvements to the ART or Android runtime to help apps start faster and consume less memory. This will not require any work from developers. Android Q will also extend support for authentication methods such as face recognition.