Google has just launched the much anticipated first beta version of the next version of its mobile operating system, Android Q. Android Q will be the tenth OS version bringing a number of changes to Android-powered devices in the market. According to the announcement on the Android Developers website, Google stated that Android Q comes with new privacy and security features including support for foldable smartphones. Other changes include Vulkan 1.1 support, faster start times for apps, new media codecs, new camera features, and NNAPI extensions.
According to the post, the first Beta version for Android Q is aimed at providing a peak of everything new that the next Android version will bring to early adopters. It is also aimed at providing a preview of the new SDK for developers. The post stated that the Beta version is rolling out to Google Pixel devices including the original Pixel and Pixel XL. Google also stated that it will share more details about Android Q at its upcoming developer centric Google I/O 2019 in May 2019. There are a number of important changes that come with the new version. Let’s dive into everything major in Android Q that you need to know.
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More control on location sharing in Android Q
Google has introduced several of privacy and security-focused features in the new Android Q version as part of its Project Strobe. As part of the project, the first major change that we see in the beta version is more control on how apps get access to the location of the device. The new thing here is the option for users where apps can only access the location when they are running in addition to previous options that gave access all the time or never. This third option “Allow only while the app is in use” is presented when the user first launches an app. Google will bring more improvements that are aimed at user privacy in the upcoming Beta versions.
Android Q with more privacy protections
The new version for Android brings a number of new privacy-centric protections which provide users with more control on Android apps. According to the blog post, the first thing that the company has done is to limit access to shared files on the device. This means that users will be able to limit access to photos, videos, or audio collections on the device with the help of new runtime permission. In addition to that, apps need to use the system file picker so that users can choose what Download files the app can access.
Apart from files, Android Q will also prevent apps from running in the background from automatically opening in the foreground. So app developers will need to figure out official full-screen intents such as seen during calls or in the official alarm app for Android for their apps. Google is also limiting access to important data that can be used to identify the device including the IMEI of the smartphone, serial number and other similar data. Android Q will also randomize the MAC address of the device when the user is connecting to a new Wi-Fi address by default.
Support to foldable smartphones on Android Q
As mentioned above, Google has added support for the foldable device with the new version of Android. This was essential as now the operating system and the apps can take advantage of the innovative different screen types. As part of the support, the operating system comes with improved onResume and on Pause states letting apps know when they are in focus. As part of adding support to transforming screens where a comparatively small screen changes to turn into a larger screen, Android Q had made changes to its resizableActivity attribute. Google is also working on updating its Android Emulator to add support to such new devices in the coming future.
Improved Share menu on Android Q
Google has made changes to the share menu on Android Q to ensure that it is somewhat better than what we see on Android 9 Pie. As part of the changes, the menu will be “quicker” allowing users to quickly jump into the other app. To make things quicker, developers can provide “share targets” so that the system does not have to make them when the menu is invoked. The company clarified that the new share menu is similar to how app shortcuts work.
New Settings panels
Android Q will come with a new settings panel in the system which will help users access important settings directly without leaving the app. According to the announcement post, this feature makes use of the Slices feature that Google introduced with Android 9 Pie. To provide more clarity about the functionality, the settings panel in a floating UI element that users can invoke to have quick access to important device settings including internet connectivity, NFC, or audio. For instance, a browser app can show Wi-Fi, Mobile Data, and Airplane Mode as the options in the settings so that users can make changes without leaving the app.
Wi-Fi performance mode and improved internet connectivity
Google has introduced a new performance mode for Wi-Fi in Android Q to ensure high performance and low latency for activities including real-time gaming, and voice calls. This is part of the adaptive Wi-Fi feature on the new operating system where Android works with the firmware of the device to function in the required mode with “lowest power consumption”.
In addition to adaptive Wi-Fi, Android Q also comes with new Wi-Fi stack that will result in improved privacy. The Wi-Fi stack will also let the operating system to manage IoT devices without the need for location permissions. Talking about peer-to-peer connectivity, the new stack makes the process easier with fewer prompts while taking into account past performance on different connections.
Dynamic depth map in photos
Android Q has finally added support for depth map in images by using the captured depth metadata. This means that the depth metadata will be recorded instead of being discarded after the blur or other depth-related effects are applied in the image. As part of this feature, apps on the new operating system can send a request for “Dynamic Depth image” which includes a JPEG image along with depth metadata including depth and confidence map stored in an XMP container.
The XMP will be embedded in the same image file. This will allow developers to provide more blue and bokeh options in their apps. Google is making the Dynamic Depth as an open format on Android while working with its smartphone manufacturing partners to ensure that this feature is available in future devices.
New audio and Video codecs, Vulkan 1.1 and Neural Networks API 1.2 and more
Other changes include the addition of new audio and video codes in the operating system. According to the announcement post, the operating system has added AV1 video codec along with Opus audio codec and HDR10+ for devices that support. Google is also improving Vulkan support all over the operating system with added support for Vulkan 1.1. The company also added that it will make Vulkan 1.1 support mandatory for all 64-bit Android devices in the future. The beta also comes with support for Neural Networks APU 1.2 in the operating system. Other changes include performance improvements in ART for faster app load times with reduced memory consumption and support for TLS 1.3 in the system for better connectivity.