The latest developer preview of Android Q adds an incredible array of user- and developer-facing features. The company focused on innovation, security, privacy, and digital wellbeing in Android Q. These core tenets should help developers build for the cutting edge tech that's just around the corner.
Google made it clear that privacy and security are now of the utmost importance. Android Q has extensive changes both under the hood and on the dashboard. Apps have more limited access to items such as storage and user location thanks to new controls for phone owners. Apps are less free to open in the background and may require more proactive permission from users.
Two big tentpoles are impacting security: the BiometricPrompt API and TLS 1.3. The API is meant to introduce prompts for biometric authentication more seamlessly through the user interface. Developers can target active authentication for payments (pressing the fingerprint reader) or passive authentication for logins (quick face ID scans.) Android Q adopts TLS 1.3, a new standard for encryption. This protects the traffic between the user device and the internet.
Project Mainline is a huge addition to the platform and may change Android forever. The idea here is to get core updates to end-user devices -- particualrly security patches -- as quickly as possible. As it works now, Google sends updated code to device makers one per month. It's up to the device maker to then push those fixes to end users. WIth Mainline, core aspects of the platform are broken into modules that can be pushed to devices via the Play Store. This means Google will take a more direct and active role in securing devices.
Android Q Beta 3 officially adds support for foldable devices. Using the codebases in the latest Android Studio beta, developers will be able to customize their apps for devices with folding screens -- whether or not those devices ever reach the market.
Wireless carriers that have invested in 5G hope developers put Android Q's new tools to use. Google added native support for 5G to Android Q. Importantly, it extends existing APIs so apps can be upgraded to support the speed and bandwidth afforded by 5G.
Google debuted Live Caption on stage at I/O and it wowed the crowd. Using an 80MB file, Android Q can support real-time voice transcription. This is a boon to those who need accessibility features to get the most from their devices, as it can handle live captioning during vidoe calls, or YouTube videos.
Android Q will take everyone to the dark side. The dark theme, that is. Android Q supports a system-wide dark theme. Moreover, it can force the dark theme onto apps even when those apps don't support their own version of a dark theme. Bottom line, it'll probably be best to update your app for the dark theme.
More gestures are coming to the home screen. Google has tweaked the awkward movements required to operate the homescreen on Android 9 Pie. The new UX is smoother thanks to revised swiping gestures. Developers will need to adjust how their home screen widgets interact with swiping movements on the screen.
A duo of new tools target wellbeing. Building on the foundation set last year in Digital Wellbeing, Android Q adds Focus Mode and Family Link. Focus Mode lets users quell notifications and interruptions from a customizable set of applications. Family Link builds parental controls more directly into the settings menu for Android Q.
Beyond these, there are still myriad changes to Android Q. Some worth pointing out include the Neural Networks API 1.2, the new Thermal API, Project Treble updates, ART optmizations, Vulkan 1.1, and new audio/video codecs.
Registered developers and John Q. Public alike can download Android Q Beta 3 to Pixel phones, as well as devices from Asus, Nokia, Huawei, Sony, LG, Essential, Vivo, and Xiaomi.