Android Q arrives in beta, doubles down on privacy and adds support for foldable devices

Google has released a preview of the next version of Android.

Going by the codename Android Q, in keeping with the usual letter-naming scheme that Google has employed for over half a decade now , the next version of Android ensures the platform is able to anticipate emerging user needs, concerns as well as the latest technology developments.

Foldable devices

Whereas Android P last year formalized the notch by adopting it in the software and making room for it, Android Q goes ahead and makes it easy for Google’s Android partners, the device makers and app developers, to work with foldable devices which are expected to be all the rage in coming months if what we saw at this year’s Mobile World Congress is anything to go by.

According to Google, Android Emulator, which developers use when developing applications since they may not necessarily have access to all the thousands of Android devices out there (the platform’s much-talked about fragmentation is very real), has been updated to support “multiple-display type switching”.

Now, for those that missed several events at MWC 2019, that is to mean better support for seamless transitions when one switches their foldable device from a single screen to the expanded screen, as is the case on Huawei’s Mate X foldable.

A new sharing menu

Besides better support for emerging devices like foldables, Android Q is also focused on making the overall Android experience better.

To that end, when it starts rolling out to everyone later in the year, users can expect an even better sharing experience. Long praised as one of Android’s core strengths when pitted against competitors like Apple’s iOS and Microsoft’s Windows Phone (back in the day), the Android share menu that allows users to share pretty much anything with compatible apps installed on their devices, has had no equal. In Android Q, thanks to a new feature called Sharing Shortcuts, users will be able to jump directly into another app to share content.

Settings panels

Another bother that we encounter in our day-to-day use of Android is the need to always drop everything and go back to the settings application in order to change something. What if individual apps could have quick access to the settings they need to function built in? Google is letting app developers do just that in Android Q.

No more interruptions

Pop ups, like those that one gets treated to when they have apps like Opera News installed, may be a thing of the past when Android Q rolls in later in the year. “We’ve also seen that users (and developers!) get upset when an app unexpectedly jumps into the foreground and takes over focus. To reduce these interruptions, Android Q will prevent apps from launching an Activity while in the background.”

Privacy and security first

Following up on its radical approach to protecting the privacy of users on its mobile platform, Google has enhanced most of the features and changes it introduced last year under Project Strobe, in Android Q.

“As the mobile ecosystem evolves, Android is focused on helping users take advantage of the latest innovations, while making sure users’ security and privacy are always a top priority.”

In Android Q, users will have even more control over how shared files on their devices are accessed as well as how apps access their multimedia content – photos, videos and audio content. When downloading content, the system will emphasis on allowing an app access to particular files so as to initiate the download instead of blanket access to the default download folder as is the case at the moment.

Even better, with Android Q, Google is doubling down on users’ privacy by extending the limit of location access that applications have.

“Android Q enables users to give apps permission to see their location never, only when the app is in use (running), or all the time (when in the background),” notes the blog post announcing the Android Q preview.

“For example, an app asking for a user’s location for food delivery makes sense and the user may want to grant it the ability to do that. But since the app may not need location outside of when it’s currently in use, the user may not want to grant that access. Android Q now offers this greater level of control.”

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Besides rogue apps interrupting users when they are engaged in a different activity or running in the background and broadcasting their location information, some, and there are well-documented instances of this happening, resort to transmitting sensitive information like MAC addresses, device serial numbers, IMEIs to remote servers unbeknownst to users and, thus, putting them at risk.

In Android Q, this will no longer be possible as the system will automatically generate random MAC addresses when a device is connected to a Wi-Fi network. This is particularly important since, normally, whoever manages a wireless hotspot is able to see the MAC address-es (a device’s unique identifier) of any devices that connect to their network. Google is also restricting app access to sensitive information like a device’s serial number, IMEI, etc., in Android Q.

Others

  • Better performance. Thanks to improvements made to the Android Runtime (ART), apps will automatically launch faster and consumer less memory, building on the progress that has been achieved since ART replaced the resource-hungry Dalvik, the process virtual machine originally used by Android, in 2014.
  • Better graphics/graphics performance thanks to the implementation of Vulkan everywhere and an updateable OpenGL driver – developers would know.
  • The ability to stream high quality video content using less bandwidth thanks to Google opening up the platform to support new video codecs.
  • Better Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Better bokehs…

We can expect to hear more about Android Q in coming days and months as the preview phase progresses and, of course, at the upcoming Google I/O 2019 where we can expect an announcement on this preview becoming available to even more devices besides Google’s own.

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Android Q is available for installation on all Google Pixel smartphones (yes, including the first generation Pixels whose software support has lapsed, at least on paper). Those with eligible devices can enroll to receive the Android Q beta here. The update for Android Q beta 1 is between 1.2GB and 1.3GB. Or, you know, if you feel nerdy, you can head over to XDA Developers and get your hands dirty.

It’s still early in the Android Q cycle but, what do you think Google will end up naming this new version of Android?

 

Huawei Mate X image: TechRadar

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