Google Announces Android Q Beta: Faster Apps, Privacy Boosts, and More

There has been more pre-release buzz about the upcoming Android release than usual this year thanks to a leaked build of Android Q several weeks back. It’s no longer so exclusive — the Android Q public beta is rolling out today, 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, which 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. This release is mainly to give developers a chance to begin testing apps against the new Android API features. And of course, so Android enthusiasts can have the pride of knowing they’re using the latest bleeding edge software.

We can see that 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.

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.

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.

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. 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.

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. Be warned: this is unstable beta software. Don’t install it on your daily driver. Google expects to have six beta releases this year before the final rollout, so you might want to wait for another couple of iterations. 

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