Google has released Beta 1 of Android Q for early adopters and a preview SDK for developers, and you can install it on any of Google’s Pixel phones. This release will inevitably include ample bugs and half-finished features, but it’s the first glimpse of Google’s vision for the future of Android.
Android Q, as normal, won’t have a name or version number until closer to release, doesn’t have any significant visual changes as we saw in Android Pie. However, this is the first beta. Google tends to add major UI changes and headlining features later in the testing process.
Privacy will be a major focus in Android Q. Google now treats your location as a special permission that has additional controls for app access. In the past, you could either grant or deny location access for an app, but there was no in between. With Android Q, you can choose to grant an app location access, deny it, or only allow access when the app is open. That effectively blocks apps from tracking you in the background.
There is, however, a new location permission called ACCESS_BACKGROUND_LOCATION that, if granted, could once again allow location information even if the app is in the background.
Along the same lines, Google is blocking access to non-resettable identifiers. This has been a problem because advertisers would use hardware IDs like your phones IMEI or MAC address to target ads. You should be able to disable or reset your advertising ID without being tracked, and Android Q makes that possible.
All apps running on Android Q have changes made, even if they target Android 9 (API level 28) or lower. Non-resettable device identifiers can not be read by apps unless they have the READ_PRIVILEGED_PHONE_STATE signature permission. These identifiers include both the serial number of the hardware and the IMEI code for the hardware.
Android Q removes automatic app access to /proc/net. Apps must refer to NetworkStatsManager and ConnectivityManager classes, which are handled differently from /proc/net. Meanwhile, devices running Android Q transmit their own uniquely randomized MAC address.
The following update does not affect apps targeting Android versions lower than Android Q: The same is true of the serial number of a USB device. If an app targets Android Q, it can not read a USB serial number until the device doing the reading gives the app permission to access the USB device in question.
Many of the previously announced features for foldable phones like the Galaxy Fold are also built into Android Q. For developers, that means supporting new paused and resumed states that allow multiple apps to work on a larger display. All the multi-camera systems everyone has added to phones will also get a boost with Google’s new dynamic depth format.
Apps will be able to request special JPEG metadata to create 3D depth maps using Google algorithms. So, you could get better portrait mode snaps.
Android Pie first introduced native support for monochrome cameras, and Android Q enhances capabilities further, adding MONO and NIR CFA enumerations to tell the difference between near infrared cameras and more basic monochrome cameras.
This update adds support for monochrome RAW DNG file capture – that’s brand new for Android in general, and may come to devices with mono camera modules in the future – if the manufacturer of said device wishes to allow their mono camera’s solitary use. Memory efficiency is increased with this update here with new Y8 stream format support.
Probably the easiest-to-notice change in Android Q is the slicing up of settings for each individual app. Android Q brings about “Settings Panels” that pop up from the bottom of each app, where applicable, showing system settings in the context of each app.
Developers will be able to show floating settings controls in Android Q as well. This floating settings panel could provide quick access to things like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Speaking of Wi-Fi, Google is adding new wireless technologies to manage IoT hardware via Wi-Fi.
Android Q better utilizes BLE CoC. That’s Bluetooth Low Energy’s Connection Oriented Channels. With CoC, Bluetooth is able to send larger amounts of data faster than ever before, just so long as both the sender and the receiver are both running a Bluetooth device supporting CoC.
At the other end of the scale, there’s a Wi-Fi performance mode to increase speed and lower latency at the expense of battery life. Android’s painfully slow sharing menu could get a boost, too. Developers will be able to register sharing shortcuts with the system so they will populate instantly.
Some low-level system changes to Android ensure that apps will open faster than in previous versions. The Android Runtime (ART) in Android Q can pre-compile parts of an app to reduce launch times. Google says apps like YouTube and Keep open about 21 percent faster on Q.
With 3D face unlock solutions becoming more common, Android Q will add support for face identification as a system-level security method. Thus, you’ll be able to unlock your phone and access secure apps like Google Pay on properly equipped phones.
Android Q changes the all apps tray to show one launcher icon for every single package installed on the device in which the tray is opened. Two exceptions are: System Apps, and Apps that “don’t contain any components inside their respective manifest’s application tag.
If you try to launch an app and you’re sent to the app’s settings screen, the developer of said app did not correctly modify their app for Android Q. Or the app wasn’t properly installed in the first place.
Contacts affinity is now no longer kept track of by Android. Before now, Android kept a list of contacts ordered by frequency of interaction, but now no longer. This is in effect for all apps running on Android Q, regardless of the API level they target.
Scooped Storage creates isolated storage sandboxes for app-private files. That means each app has its own folder, basically, protected from the rest of the phone. If you uninstall an app, the files saved by the app in isolated storage are also removed.
Apps in Android Q and forward are able to save files to their own isolated storage and can request access to shared collections of files. Shared collections include MediaStore.Images, MediaStore.Audio, and MediaStore.Downloads.
You can install the Android Q beta on any Pixel phone, going all the way back to the 2016 first-gen version. Google has a beta program that lets you update via a simple OTA. There are also system images and OTA files available for sideloading.
If you don’t have a Pixel device, you can use the Android Emulator, and download the latest emulator system images via the SDK Manager in Android Studio.