It’s likely we’re now just a matter of weeks away from the first Android Q developer build, with a proper announcement anticipated for Google I/O on 7 May. Some of its new features have already come to light, and it’s possible we could be looking at the death of the back button on Android.
We already lost the recent apps button in Android 9 Pie, and now our back button could be at risk too. According to code found by XDA, the Back button’s functionality could be replaced by the newly single home button. We’re really not sure how we feel about this change, which will confuse many Android users upgrading from earlier operating systems.
Other rumoured changes to the OS are more appealing, with some suggestion of improved RCS support that could open up the platform to third-party apps.
RCS, or Rich Communication Service, is in essence a data-enabled revamp of the standard text messaging service with added bells and whistles such as read receipts, group texts, the ability to see when others are typing, full-resolution photos and video, and location sharing. It’s not new, but it’s hit and miss in terms of where it is used. Android Police reports that in Android Q we could see many more RCS options open to users, provided their carrier supports the standard.
As we wait on official news of Android 10, XDA-Developers has already managed to get hold of an early developer build, and having installed it on a Pixel 3 XL has been able to confirm rumours of a potential Dark Mode, as well as DeX-like docking support for a new Desktop mode and a revamp of privacy options.
This system-wide Dark Mode has already been tipped in recent weeks. Unearthed by Android Police, a post on the Chromium bug tracker from Lukasz Zbylut states: “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.”
XDA-Developers confirms: “Once enabled, the Settings, Launcher, Launcher settings, and Files app all gain a dark grey tinge. The volume panel, Quick Settings panel, and notifications all turn black. Even third-party notifications like download notifications from Google Chrome are themed black.”
In terms of privacy changes, the site claims the Settings app now offers “an overview of permission access by apps and [the ability to] restrict certain permissions like location only while the app is in use”. All the associated app and permissions screens have also been redesigned to optimise the provision of at-a-glance info.
Android 10 got its first mention in November 2018 during the Android Developer Summit when the company confirmed that the operating system would have ‘screen continuity’, which is native support for apps that work on foldable devices. Apps are able to transition seamlessly from a phone layout to a more immersive tablet layout and vice versa.
This perhaps shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, given that several foldable phones are expected to launch in early 2019, including models from Samsung, LG and Huawei.
Other new features coming to Android Q include ‘multi-resume’, an update to split-screen that lets two apps not only be viewed but also run simultaneously; and warnings about installing older apps designed for an earlier operating system.
We’ll hear more about new features when we get our first look at the OS in early 2019.
When is Android Q coming out?
In previous years we’ve seen a Developer Preview announced in March, with a public beta announced at summer’s Google I/O (7 May) and then a final release in August.
The operating then goes first to Pixel and Android One devices, and is prepared and gradually rolled out by phone makers and network operators to other devices over the next few months. (Read more about the upcoming Pixel 4 and 4 XL.)
We’re likely still looking at a similar timeframe as far as the general public go, but devs could get the new OS a little earlier in 2019.
During the Android Developer Summit the company hinted that prior to the Developer Preview it might release a Generic Source Image that can be manually flashed to a Pixel device.
Not all existing smartphones will get the upgrade, and it’s typically flagships released in the past year or so that make the grade. Operating system fragmentation is still a major criticism of Android, and as you can see in the chart below some users are still on Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread, and so few are on Android 9.0 Pie that it isn’t even shown in the table.
|4.0.3-4.0.4||Ice Cream Sandwich||0.3%|
(Data collected during a seven-day period ending 26 October 2018 by Android Developers.)
What will Android Q be called?
Aside from what features the new OS will offer, one of the major questions in the lead up to launch always concerns what it will be called.
Google typically uses the names of sweet treats for its operating systems, which are released in alphabetical order. So far we’ve seen:
- Android Donut (v1.6)
- Android Eclair (v2.0)
- Android Froyo (v2.2)
- Android Gingerbread (v2.3)
- Android Honeycomb (v3.0)
- Android Ice Cream Sandwich (v4.0)
- Android Jelly Bean (v4.1)
- Android KitKat (v4.4)
- Android Lollipop (v5.0)
- Android Marshmallow (v6.0)
- Android Nougat (v7.0)
- Android Oreo (v8.0)
- Android Pie (v9.0)
That presents us with a small problem for version 10: what sweet treats begin with a Q?
There’s Quality Street, of course, a British fave. Perhaps Queen of Puddings, potentially shortened to Android Queen because we’re all about Girl Power. Erm… Quiche?
Other suggestions we’ve never heard of include Quindim, Quesito, Queijadas and Qottab.
To be fair none of the options sounds terribly appealing, so could this be the year Google ditches its traditional naming system?