July 9, 2020

Every new Android Q feature we have found so far [Continuously updated]

It’s that time of the year again. Google has pushed out betas for its latest, greatest version of Android: Q. Your eagle-eyed Android Police editors have been combing through looking for new features, changes, improvements, and even setbacks. We’ve enumerated everything we’ve found here, together with a brief description of what’s new. So, let’s take a look at Android Q.

As always, we have to thank our tipsters (❤️) for our feature-level coverage. Without all of you, our jobs would be much harder.

We’ve kept our general feature categories the same as last year for now, though they may be reorganized later if we determine different groups make sense. And keep in mind that we are still finding new features, so this document may sometimes lag a bit behind our series coverage. Based on a request I received last year, we’ve changed our format for these Android feature roundups to make them a little easier to follow over time.

What’s new?

Since yesterday, we’ve covered a few more changes in Android Q and tweaked a few things in some of our older coverage. We’ve still got a backlog of changes to get through, so anticipate future updates.

The list

Entirely new Q features

  • Theming: Android Q Beta 1 includes support for changing accent colors, fonts, and icon shapes — though the selection is limited.
  • Estimate for remaining battery life in quick settings: Apple may have responded to criticism around decreasing battery capacity in its latest MacBook Pro refresh by entirely eliminating battery life estimates, but Google is actually bringing that feature closer to the front and center in Android Q Beta 1, giving you that estimate in the quick settings shade. (Only if you enable battery percentage in the status bar.)
  • Share Wi-Fi details with QR codes: Alright, so QR codes didn’t exactly take off in the mainstream when it came to sharing sites on posters or business cards, but they’ve seen more use when it comes to security. Android Q Beta 1 will allow you to generate, share, and add network details including SSID and password via QR codes. Long passwords might be secure, but they’re also tedious, and this solves that problem.
  • System-wide dark theme: It’s incomplete, visually breaks a couple apps, and the setting has technically been removed, but Android Q further extends the previous device theme setting to apply Android Q’s dark mode to more things. However, the setting itself has been removed as of Beta 1, so you have to enable/disable it via ADB right now.
  • App defaults categories for call screening and emergencies: Android, unlike iOS, will let you replace default apps performing default actions with… whatever you want, really. The category of default apps is expanding to include a “call screening app” and an “emergency app,” letting you set new third-party defaults for both of those categories.
  • Native desktop mode: Mobile/desktop convergence is a longstanding dream (and one it’s easy to fail at), but Android Q Beta 1 introduced Google’s own take on the idea, with a desktop-style UI featuring free-form window management, though it’s clearly a work in progress.
  • Built-in screen recording: Bloggers everywhere will be pretty pleased to hear that Android Q Beta 1 shipped with a built-in screen recorder. YMMV, though, some have reported bugs with it, while others have no issue.
  • Android Q Beta feedback app: We knew it would be there and… well, it is.

General visual changes

Modifications to existing features

  • A faster and better (or at least, less bad) share menu: One of Android’s greatest strengths is also its weaknesses, and the intents system that lets us use any app for any purpose also somehow results in a share menu that is pretty laggy. Google said it would fix it, and it appears that it has.
  • Slices will bring options from Settings into apps: Although they haven’t been used very widely yet, Android’s Slices are a nifty way to integrate stuff from one app directly into another. In Android Q, they’re expanding to work with the settings app, so you’ll be able to control things like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other system-level settings from inside third-party apps. Snazzy.
  • Swipe left to snooze notifications: Android 8.0 Oreo introduced notification snoozing, but in Android Q it’s much better integrated, taking over the swipe left action. If you were used to swiping in any direction to close notifications, you’ll have to adapt to swiping right.
  • Accidental item removal on the Pixel Launcher: The version of the Pixel Launcher included with Android Q Beta 1 allows you to easily reset things if you accidentally remove a widget or icon from your homescreen, with a convenient “Undo” option in a toast-type notification which appears after the erroneous action.
  • Album art for the lockscreen: Android has long used album art for the lockscreen background with a slight blur, but as of Android Q Beta 1 the blur is pretty crazy, and it’s doing some strange things to colors. Definitely an acquired taste.
    • Turns out, this is a bug with Play Music, other apps still have unmolested album art blur.
  • Better, prettier “Files” app: Android Q Beta 1 also delivered an update to Android’s built-in, forgotten Files app. The new one is decidedly ‘Material 2/Theme” in look, with some added file filtering functionality, plus dark theme support.
  • Long-pressing notifications: Filtering notifications are becoming a greater priority these days, and Android Q steps things up by providing a new option on a long-press for how to manage them, plus an overall improved UI compared to Android Pie.
  • Easier access to audio output switching: Now Playing notifications on Android Q provide easier access to switch audio between devices (as in, between Bluetooth headsets/speakers and the device itself, etc.). This isn’t strictly new as Android Pie allowed you to do this, but it was buried in settings. Now it’s much more accessible.
  • Battery Saver can activate automatically based on your habits: Battery Saver has been a part of Android for a while now, but Android Q Beta 1 adds a feature you can enable which automatically triggers the power-saving mode if the phone believes that, based on your usage habits, it may not last until your usual charging time.
  • eSIM becomes dual SIM for Pixel 2 and 3: The Android Q Beta 1 enabled limited dual-sim functionality on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 3, though it doesn’t allow for simultaneous use of both connections, merely so-called Dual SIM Dual Standby, rather than Dual SIM Dual Active.
  • Freeform windows can be used without ADB: In what is likely connected to the Desktop mode addition, freeform window management is becoming more of a first-class citizen compared to the Nougat-era version, with an actual toggle in developer options.
  • Backup “cloud” icon’s arrow now points in a more logical direction: Easily the biggest new feature in Android Q, just don’t let that cloud fly away with all your precious bits.
  • Haptic feedback for text selection: Expect and enjoy a little tingle as you slide around input fields selecting text.
  • Vibration when plugged into charger: The “charging sounds” setting is now “charging sounds and vibration.” You’ll get a little bit of tactile feedback when you plug your phone into power on Q.
  • App info redesign, option to open app itself, notification stats, “Disable” becomes “Uninstall”: In Android Q Beta 1, the app info pane has seen a bit of a visual makeover, with newly centered icons and text. You can now open the app directly from it, daily notification averages are shown, and Google has changed “Disable” to “Uninstall” for system apps (and “Enable” became “Install”). This pseudo-uninstallation process also no longer offers to remove app updates.
  • New accessibility options make toast notifications last longer: Behavior for the two new “time to read” and “time to take action” settings is a little inconsistent, but Android Q Beta 1 added options to make certain types of notifications, including actionable and non-actionable toast notifications, last longer based on your settings.
  • New feature flags: Android Q Beta 1 added a literal pile of new feature flags, including animation tweaks, those hints at the top of the settings menu, two new flags that control item organization in other sections of settings, and two which control the previously discovered QR code Wi-Fi setting and audio output device.
  • Most of your disabled notifications end up on a list now: Android Q Beta 1 added a filter to the app notifications pane in settings that better helps you track down which apps notifications have been disabled for. However, as of Beta 1, this list doesn’t include individual channels, only blanket app-wide disabling.

Privacy tweaks

  • Privacy permission tweaks, background app changes: Android Q, as of Beta 1, limits access to non-changeable device IDs like the MAC address or IMEI, and further changes permissions to provide options so they can be granted “only while the app is in use,” rather than just a blanket yes/no. Background apps also can’t suddenly change focus to bring themselves forward anymore.
  • Clipboard managers are ded: Although clipboard managers can provide utility in some workflows, the permissions they rely on could be used surreptitiously by nefarious apps in ways that could violate your privacy. From Android Q on, Google’s giving them the boot. Only input method editors (keyboard apps, etc.) and foreground apps with focus will get access to the clipboard.
  • Revoke permissions at first launch for apps targeting older (pre-Oreo) API levels: Apps that haven’t updated to target Android 8.0 Oreo will spit a new interstitial screen at launch that asks which permissions you’d like to enable, allowing you to manually disable those you don’t want — and maybe break the app in the process.

Under the hood/API/developer stuff

  • Dynamic Depth data: Android Q will allow for apps to request depth information from the cameras. Google’s done some incredible work to extract that information from its cameras (without the help of parallax, I should add), and in Android Q, even third-party apps will be able to make use of that extra data in new and interesting ways. I can’t wait to see what gets cooked up.
  • ART enhancements: Developers can enjoy enhanced performance and more efficient garbage collection on Android Q via a suite of impressive but highly technical Android runtime enhancements.
  • Further non-SDK API deprecation: As much as possible, Google doesn’t want developers using undocumented APIs in Android, and Android Q furthers this crackdown, expanding the list of affected APIs.
  • Folding phone tweaks: Android Q will feature some developer-facing modifications to better work with the emerging device form factor, but they’re all too technical to get into here.
  • Smart home/IoT tweaks for Wi-Fi setup: Configuring smart home gadgets, which almost always need their own special app and require a peer-to-peer Wi-Fi connection, can be easier in Android Q. Developers will be able to configure their setup apps to have a list of preferred SSIDs, and paired with the expansion of slices to offer a built-in Wi-Fi picker in those apps, that can make the often tedious IoT setup process a little bit faster and simpler for consumers.
  • Apps assigned to default roles will get more permissions: Details are a little sparse on precisely which permissions each category gets, but apps that you assign as the default for a given role — like browser, SMS app, launcher, etc. — will pick up elevated access to certain functions based on that role.

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