What to expect from Android Q

Android Q is coming. Learn what you can expect from this new release.

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Image: Jack Wallen

It seems only yesterday that Android 9 was released to devices near and far. That particular iteration of Google's operating system was quite an improvement over a version that was considered a drastic improvement over what it replaced.

The pattern is becoming clear. With each new release, Android gets better and better. That's one of the many reasons I'm excited to discuss the next version of the platform, which isn't far off from release. Said version is Android 10, aka "Q".

SEE: BYOD (bring-your-own-device) policy (Tech Pro Research)

What's in a name

For most geeks, that latter conjures up images of Jean Luc Picard's most famous foe ... "Q". Personally, I'd love to see Google name version 10 in honor of John de Lancie's performance in Next Generation, but we all know that Google is a stickler for naming convention. So Android 10 will be named after some tasty treat or other. Rumored names include:

  • Quesito
  • Quindim
  • Quiche
  • Qottab
  • Quince
  • Quarabiya
  • Queijadas
  • Queijadinha
  • Quesito
  • Quirks

Naturally, Google will stick with a name the average user can at least pronounce. That being the case, my favorite from the list is that chocolate bar by McVities, called Quirks (mostly because of the added bonus of double entendre).

What are the new features?

Far more important than the name are the features that we might find in the upcoming release. Here's the thing: Since Android 9 was a major overhaul of the platform, chances are Android 10 won't see such much in the way of drastic changes. Instead, we'll probably see a bit of refining to many of the new features released with Pie. That doesn't mean there won't be new bits and pieces. Let's consider the possibilities.

System-wide dark mode

For those hoping for a full-blown "dark mode," your dreams are about to come true. The system-wide dark mode has finally been seen in early builds of Q. Rumor has it the dark mode will include the ability to configure time-based enabling of the new mode (instead of just on or off).

The only caveat to this rumor is that "dark mode" was spotted in early builds of previous releases. It was in Android 9 and mysteriously vanished when Pie was unleashed. Although I think it's a safe bet this time around, don't be surprised if "dark mode" winds up on the cutting room floor.

Enhanced permissions

Remember when users had no control over application permissions? Things have changed since those days. Rumor has it, Google plans on handing over to users much more granular control over app permissions. Android 10 will likely allow users to manage app permissions not only with more control but with a much better understanding of how the system works. The latter is done via a complete redesign of the app permission window. The new window will:

  • Show which permissions are being used by apps.
  • Enable users to filter by permissions.
  • Only allow an app to use permission when the app is in use.

That last bit is important, as it will prevent apps from having certain permissions while running in the background (an issue that has caused a number of vulnerabilities in the past).

Refined gestures

Android 9 saw the release of new gesture-based navigation. Since I started using 9, I've found this new navigation system to be a good start. Why do I say that? Because the gesture-based navigation in Android 9 has always seemed incomplete. For example, why is there still a back button? Why not a one- or two-finger swipe to the left to go back?

Android 10 will likely see a refinement of the gesture-based navigation system brought about in 9. Will Google finally get rid of the back button? Probably. In fact, if I were to guess, that left-swipe back gesture will probably be done on the "pill" button and not just anywhere on the home screen. I do believe they'll keep the standard navigation as the default and allow users to opt into gesture-based navigation.

DeX-Like desktop

This should be filed away under the rumor sub-category "unlikely." Even so, it was reported by XDA Developers that a new option called "force desktop mode" was discovered with a description that reads "force experimental desktop mode on secondary displays." Hard to misunderstand what that feature would be all about—and it's one that would flip the switch from Android 10 being a polish of 9 to being an absolute must-have release for anyone who remembers the old buzzword "convergence." If Google is planning on making this happen as a default feature in Android 10, let's all hope they do so without requiring additional hardware. Make this as simple as plugging the device into a monitor, attaching a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, and voila! ... instant desktop.

A word of warning: Don't hold your breath on this feature.

When will Android 10 be released?

We all know this is a tricky question to answer. Why? Because it depends on your device, as to when you'll see Android 10. If you have a Pixel Phone, you'll see 10 sooner rather than later. All other devices (at this point in time) are up for grabs.

However, it's safe to say that the first developer preview will be released this month (March). The second preview and a beta will be available on the day of Google I/O in May. Pixel devices will likely see 10 sometime in summer 2019. After that, all bets are off.

If you're interested in the beta program for Android 10, it is officially live now. Head over to the official Android Beta Program website to see if you have a device that is eligible.

Will it be worth the upgrade?

The answer to that question depends on what you want. Clearly, Android 10 isn't going to ship with a bevy of new features. But if one of the features I've highlighted here catches your fancy, 10 will likely be a must-have. This is especially true for those who have been clamoring for a system-wide dark mode. That particular feature has been on the wish list for many user groups, who are always vocal about their disappointment when dark mode is removed from the official release.

If, on the other hand, you're looking for a massive change in the way Android looks and feels, you might be disappointed. To the contrary, if you're looking for an improvement over Android 9, I believe you'll be thrilled with what Google brings to the dessert table.

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By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.