We're not mincing words here: Android Q is a welcome addition, but Google isn't selling us on everything that the tenth iteration of their mobile operating system purports to offer.
With the recent release of the Galaxy S10 series and now the Android 10 beta, the Google side of the mobile field is all dimes, but the devices that will support it first will likely be far more costly than that. The new operating system, which has yet to receive an official treat-themed name, finally emphasizes one of the most important traits of a contemporary operating system: fine-grained security. In a nutshell, you'll have more control over which apps can access your location and files as well as when they can tap into this data. There's also native support for 3D face recognition in the works: another point for security.
On a humorous note, we approve of the likely unintentional connection to the similarly named Star Trek character whose penchant for godlike power is akin to the level of control that Android Q purports to confer upon its users. Perhaps the operating system will never receive a full name and always remain known as "Q" although fan suggestions such as quiche, quindim, qottab or even brand names like Quik and Quaker Oats could make the cut. Some of these are terms for desserts in other countries such as Brazil and Iran, which is to say that Google will probably need to reach out for a proper name.
With that said, here's the rundown on 10 important advancements that Google is implementing in the tenth version of Android:
- Privacy controls now extend to control when apps are allowed to access your location and files. Currently, you're only able to unconditionally approve or deny access to this data, meaning that you if you wanted an app to only access your location while it's in focus, then you'd have to manually switch the permission on and off, which is a hassle. Additionally, Q allows for app searches that are contextualized by allowed permissions, meaning you can search specifically for the apps that have microphone or camera access if needed.
- The nav pill now replaces the traditional three-key navigation system. This seems to be taking Google's newest navigational design language further in some direction that we don't fully understand. Many users had mixed feelings about how navigation was handled in Pie when things like floating windows, two-touch multi-window and the up-front brightness slider were forwent in lieu of supposedly convenient adjustments that needlessly complicated how the device was used. We don't see why Google needed to add this pill format as there wasn't anything wrong with the three-key layout, but fortunately, it may be a Pixel-only deal or could allow the user to switch out for the traditional nav bar if they choose. Google is either on something or onto something.
- When you receive a call, the current app focus isn't broken to switch to the call screen; instead, the call appears as an urgent notification while you continue to use your current app normally. Some variation of this already exists with the drop-down banner that shows who's calling, but it still cancels keyboard inputs and will halt certain activities mid-motion, which is admittedly pretty irritating. Q is set on correcting that.
- How does native dark mode support sound? This is a feature that should have happened back when it was first teased in Android 5.0 Lollipop — literally half of Android's current lifespan ago. Back then, AMOLED wasn't as popular as it is now, but as more devices have come to count on it, darkening the screen is a natural choice not only to go easy on users' eyes but also to drastically extend battery life. Q's implementation of it is what you expect: Everything goes black or dark grey, and as a bonus, apps that don't natively support it can be forced to emulate it.
- Native screen recording is now possible without jumping hoops in the developer menu or downloading third-party apps. There was once a time when native screen recording required a bit of technical knowledge and a USB debugging menu, but the functionality has now been baked straight into the screenshot feature along with the option to remove microphone audio if you so choose. We don't know why this waited so long to arrive, but it's finally on its way.
- You can now receive contextualized settings options via the Pie-introduced "Slices" feature based on the specific app that you're currently using. If you open your browser, you might be introduced to the option to enable WiFi from within the browser itself. Your camera might include the option to enable location for geotagging. Shazam may offer to enable your microphone so it can listen for music. While it could have solid applications, we're wary that this could be crossing lines in regards to security.
- You can now switch your WiFi performance mode between low and high. Low is considered the default, but you can amp it up for more precise connectivity if you happen to be gaming or streaming. The drawbacks of using it on high performance mode aren't clear — why would you disable that? — but you may find that it's helpful when you want to minimize data usage on one device so as not to suck bandwidth away from other devices on the network.
- Q brings ART improvements to enhance app load times and general performance without additional commitment from developers. This should theoretically streamline the overall experience.
- Face ID-like bometric support is now becoming an internal feature of Android, which means that genuine 3D face-scanning should become a whole lot more common once Q rolls out. This is an important step forward in biometric security since the traditional 2D face scanning technologies can be fooled with photographs of the owner under the right lighting, which makes it a little too simple to crack your friend's handset.
- In-app camera effects are now a thing, particularly bokeh. We don't see this being super useful, but it's worth noting that this probably goes hand-in-hand with the expanded accessibility that Google is allowing for apps. This means that apps should be allowed to do more with the soft- and hardware that's available to them, which is where the ability to apply special camera effects likely comes from. We're expecting more interesting augmented reality applications to come out of it.