Android Q: The top features we know about so far (Updated March 11)

Update, March 11, 2019 (04:23 AM ET): We’ve updated the Android Q hub with confirmation that more brands will be participating in Android Q previews. Hopefully your device makes the cut!


Many of us are still waiting for Android Pie to hit our phones, but Google doesn’t wait for anybody. The Mountain View company is already hard at work on Android Q, the next iteration of its mobile platform. But what will Google be bringing to the table in terms of new Android Q features?

Take a look at the Android Q features we know about so far below.

A proper dark mode

XDA-Developers ^(https://www.xda-developers.com/android-q-dark-theme-desktop-mode-permission-revamp/) gained a big scoop when it showed off an early build of Android Q, highlighting a number of potential Android Q features in the process. The headline-grabbing feature was certainly the addition of a system-wide dark mode (seen above) to the operating system.

According to the outlet, the dark mode applies to the settings menu, launcher, notification shade, and other UI elements. It’s believed that the dark mode can either be permanently enabled or automatically switched on at certain times of the day. And in a neat touch, it seems like it’s possible to force dark mode for unsupported apps.

A dark mode would be a long overdue feature for Android, reducing glare at night and improving battery life on OLED phones. But the company has toyed with the idea before and not delivered it, so don’t hold your breath just yet.

Permissions when you need them

Menu of various Android app permissions

We saw an overhaul of Android permissions way back in Android Marshmallow, and this system continues to form the foundation for Android Q. But we may see a major change in this update, as you can now reportedly specify that an app is only allowed to use a certain permission when the app is active.

This could be handy for privacy-focused individuals, or if you simply want to eke out more battery life. After all, why should that messaging app be using your microphone when it’s not even open?

A further leak by XDA ^(https://www.xda-developers.com/android-q-privacy-permission-controls/) gives us more insight into Android Q’s potential permission system. For one, it’s believed users can choose to let an app use the location permission while active or on a permanent basis. Another interesting addition is a new status bar icon to let users know when an app is using the camera, microphone or location.

There could also be new “roles” within Android Q, essentially bundling specific permissions together for certain app categories. One example cited is a gallery app automatically receiving access to writing photo/video files, and location data.

Desktop mode

Samsung DeX attached to a screen and peripherals.

We’ve seen both Samsung and Huawei deliver desktop modes in recent years, and it’s a pretty interesting concept. By connecting your phone to a larger display, the user interface changes to something resembling a desktop computer. That means a PC-like home screen, a start menu, resizable app windows, and the ability to use a keyboard and mouse.

Read: What is 5G, and what can we expect from it?

XDA‘s deep-dive into likely Android Q features has indeed yielded references to a desktop mode, but more information beyond the name wasn’t forthcoming. It’s likely that we’re looking at a take on Samsung and Huawei’s desktop experience, but it could potentially be something different altogether.

A more secure Smart Lock?

Google introduced Smart Lock functionality back in the Lollipop days, essentially keeping your phone locked when it’s not with you. The feature also lets you unlock your device based on location (e.g. home), Bluetooth device (such as a fitness band), or when you’re carrying it.

The early version of Android Q reveals two additions to Smart Lock. The first option lets you use Smart Lock to extend the unlock period of your device (but it won’t unlock your device once it’s locked). The second feature simply locks the phone when the trusted companion device is no longer trusted.

Better facial recognition?

Smart Lock isn’t the only security measure set to receive some love in Android Q, as XDA-Developers ^(https://www.xda-developers.com/android-q-face-id-rumor/) has spotted references to facial recognition as well. Android has had camera-based face unlock for a while, but these references are somewhat different.

More specifically, the code points to error messages that are shown when a phone doesn’t have facial recognition hardware. Furthermore, it seems like you can use this new take on facial recognition to unlock your phone, buy items, and log in to apps.

It wouldn’t be the first time we see facial recognition hardware on Android phones (see the Mate 20 Pro and Oppo Find X). But it would mark the first time Android actually supports the tech, allowing other brands to more easily integrate the hardware into their phones.

Native screen recording

Screen recording on a Huawei phone.

We’ve seen screen recording on Android before, thanks to third-party OEMs like Oppo, Samsung and Huawei. Unfortunately, stock Android is missing this feature, but it looks like we’re finally getting it in Android Q.

Read: How much does the RAM and storage in your phone actually cost?

According to a teardown of Android Q’s System UI by 9to5Google, the upcoming update will offer native screen recording. The feature will purportedly ask for the relevant permissions when you first try it out, while offering relevant controls in the notification shade (stop, sharing options). Furthermore, it seems like you’ll be given the option to record a voice-over to go with your video clip.

Android previews for more OEMs

Android Pie Gesture Navigation

Tired of Pixel users having all the fun when it comes to Android previews? It seems like Google felt the same way, as it opened Android Pie previews to a few third-party devices too. And it looks like the initiative will expand when Android Q gets pushed out.

Android engineer Iliyan Malchev told the Android Developers Backstage Podcast that more manufacturers will support the Android Q beta program. The developer confirmed that the number of participating OEMs was bigger for the upcoming release, but didn’t give any more details.

The likes of HTC, Huawei, LG, Motorola and Samsung all missed out on Android P previews last year. So it stands to reason that at least one of these brands will jump aboard the bandwagon this time.

The news comes after a Google developer suggested to XDA last year that improvements to the GSI (generic system image) — a key component behind Project Treble — could result in more devices gaining access to Android previews. Additionally, the developer said there might be a way to test-drive the GSI (essentially a stock Android ROM) without flashing your phone.

A possible warning for older apps

A warning set to appear in Android Q. XDA-Developers ^(https://www.xda-developers.com/android-q-warn-apps-target-android-lollipop/)

Code references spotted by (you guessed it) XDA in September 2018 show that Google could be planning to shame developers who don’t update their apps. The shaming in question might take the form of an alert, letting users know that the app you’re about to run hasn’t been updated and might not work properly.

Don’t fear though, as the alert seems to only target apps that haven’t been updated since the Lollipop days. Furthermore, it’s believed that Google won’t stop you from actually running these apps anyway.

Dynamic Android and Android On Tap

OnePlus 5T project treble termux

A potential pair of new Android Q features directed solely at the development community were unearthed by XDA Developers ^(https://www.xda-developers.com/android-q-dynamic-android-aosp-gsi/). Known as Dynamic Android and Android On Tap, the features will take Google’s Project Treble to the next level, allowing developers to easily flash different ROMs on one device without having to unlock the bootloader or perform a data wipe.

Read: The 6 most unusual phones we saw at MWC 2019

The information in the post is highly technical, but the bottom line is that Google is apparently trying to make it even easier for OEMs to update Android. If OEMs can test new Android versions with ease, it theoretically should make updates for devices come at a faster pace. However, it could be a long while before Dynamic Android or Android On Tap become useful for OEMs or the dev community. But at least it’s a start.

RCS for third-party apps?

Android Messages on the Google Pixel 2 XL.

The Rich Communication Service (RCS) protocol is meant to serve as a successor to SMS technology. We’re still in the early days of the standard, but the next version of Android might help adoption.

Android Police ^(https://www.appmarsh.com/2019/02/08/android-q-may-deliver-rcs-support-to-third-party-apps-finally-simplifying-things-at-least-a-bit-for-consumers/) spotted RCS-related APIs in Android Q on February 8, which suggests that third-party messaging apps could get in on the action too. Unfortunately, a code commit spotted on February 22 claims that the functionality has since been “punted from Android Q.”

Things could still change in the run-up to release, but the language used in the new commit means you shouldn’t hold your breath just yet. Hopefully Google changes its mind, as the RCS landscape is a bit of a mess right now.

No back button?

Android Pie Gesture Navigation

Stock Android Pie currently offers a gesture-based navigation system for the most part, using a pill icon for going home and multi-tasking. But we’ve still got the legacy back button, however, which appears as required.

It looks like Google could get rid of the button in Android Q though, according to early code spotted by XDA-Developers. The outlet reports that you’ll be able to swipe left on the pill icon to go back, complete with a subtle visual cue to convey a successful gesture. Things can always change in the final release, but this certainly seems like the next logical step.

Other Android Q features we’d like to see

Android 9 Pie review home screen 2

Google generally adds plenty of useful features to each major Android update, but it’s also guilty of being late to the party when it comes to fan requests. Some of the more popular features yet to come to stock Android that we’d like to see land on Android Q include scrolling screenshot support and LG-style smart settings.

Editor’s Pick

Another increasingly prominent feature we’d like to see pop up in stock Android is app twin functionality, which allows users to run two accounts on one social media or messaging app. Then there’s the biometric safe feature on phones from various OEMs, letting you add files and apps to a fingerprint-protected locker. You can view a few more popular features we’d like to see on stock Android over here.

What would you like to see in Android Q’s features set? Give us your desired features in the comments!

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Author: Marshmallow

Marshmallow Android is BT Ireland’s Head of Sales for Republic of Ireland domestic multi-site companies, indigenous MNCs and public sector accounts. He is responsible for the direction and control of all sales activity in the region. He has over 10 years management experience from high growth start-ups to more established businesses. He’s led teams in Ireland, India and China across various industries (ICT, On-Line Recruitment, Corporate Training and International Education).