This post was originally published at What’s New in Android: Q Beta 3 & More
Posted by Dave Burke, VP, Engineering
Today Android is celebrating two amazing milestones. It’s Android’s version 10! And today, Android is running on more than 2.5B active Android devices.
With Android Q, we’ve focused on three themes: innovation, security and privacy, and digital wellbeing. We want to help you take advantage of the latest new technology — 5G, foldables, edge-to-edge screens, on-device AI, and more — while making sure users’ security, privacy, and wellbeing are always a top priority.
Earlier at Google I/O we highlighted what’s new in Android Q and unveiled the latest update, Android Q Beta 3. Your feedback continues to be extremely valuable in shaping today’s update as well as our final release to the ecosystem in the fall.
This year, Android Q Beta 3 is available on 15 partner devices from 12 OEMs — that’s twice as many devices as last year! It’s all thanks to Project Treble and especially to our partners who are committed to accelerating updates to Android users globally — Huawei, Xiaomi, Nokia, Sony, Vivo, OPPO, OnePlus, ASUS, LGE, TECNO, Essential, and realme.
Visit android.com/beta to see the full list of Beta devices and learn how to get today’s update on your device. If you have a Pixel device, you can enroll here to get Beta 3 — if you’re already enrolled, watch for the update coming soon. To get started developing with Android Q Beta, visit developer.android.com/preview.
Privacy and security
As we talked about at Google I/O, privacy and security are important to our whole company and in Android Q we’ve added many more protections for users.
In Android Q, privacy has been a central focus, from strengthening protections in the platform to designing new features with privacy in mind. It’s more important than ever to give users control — and transparency — over how information is collected and used by apps, and by our phones.
Building on our work in previous releases, Android Q includes extensive changes across the platform to improve privacy and give users control — from improved system UI to stricter permissions to restrictions on what data apps can use.
For example, Android Q gives users more control over when apps can get location. Apps still ask the user for permission, but now in Android Q the user has greater choice over when to allow access to location — such as only while the app is in use, all the time, or never. Read the developer guide for details on how to adapt your app for the new location controls.
Outside of location, we also introduced the Scoped Storage feature to give users control over files and prevent apps from accessing sensitive user or app data. Your feedback has helped us refine this feature, and we recently announced several changes to make it easier to support. These are now available in Beta 3.
Another important change is restricting app launches from the background, which prevents apps from unexpectedly jumping into the foreground and taking over focus. In Beta 3 we’re transitioning from toast warnings to actually blocking these launches.
To prevent tracking we’re limiting access to non-resettable device identifiers, including device IMEI, serial number, and similar identifiers. Read the best practices to choose the right identifiers for your use case. We’re also randomizing MAC address when your device is connected to different Wi-Fi networks and gating connectivity APIs behind the location permission. We’re bringing these changes to you early, so you can have as much time as possible to prepare your apps.
To keep users secure, we’ve extended our BiometricPrompt authentication framework to support biometrics at a system level. We’re extending support for passive authentication methods such as face, and we’ve added implicit and explicit authentication flows. In the explicit flow, the user must explicitly confirm the transaction. The new implicit flow is designed for a lighter-weight alternative for transactions with passive authentication, and there’s no need for users to explicitly confirm.
Android Q also adds support for TLS 1.3, a major revision to the TLS standard that includes performance benefits and enhanced security. Our benchmarks indicate that secure connections can be established as much as 40% faster with TLS 1.3 compared to TLS 1.2. TLS 1.3 is enabled by default for all TLS connections made through Android’s TLS stack, called Conscrypt, regardless of target API level. See the docs for details.
Today we also announced Project Mainline, a new approach to keeping Android users secure and their devices up-to-date with important code changes, direct from Google Play. With Project Mainline, we’re now able to update specific internal components within the OS itself, without requiring a full system update from your device manufacturer. This means we can help keep the OS code on devices fresher, drive a new level of consistency, and bring the latest AOSP code to users faster — and for a longer period of time.
We plan to update Project Mainline modules in much the same way as app updates are delivered today — downloading the latest versions from Google Play in the background and loading them the next time the phone starts up. The source code for the modules will continue to live in the Android Open Source Project, and updates will be fully open-sourced as they are released. Also, because they’re open source, they’ll include improvements and bug fixes contributed by our many partners and developer community worldwide.
For users, the benefits are huge, since their devices will always be running the latest versions of the modules, including the latest updates for security, privacy, and consistency. For device makers, carriers, and enterprises, the benefits are also huge, since they can optimize and secure key parts of the OS without the cost of a full system update.
For app and game developers, we expect Project Mainline to help drive consistency of platform implementation in key areas across devices, over time bringing greater uniformity that will reduce development and testing costs and help to make sure your apps work as expected. All devices running Android Q or later will be able to get Project Mainline, and we’re working closely with our partners to make sure their devices are ready.
Innovation and new experiences
Android is shaping the leading edge of innovation. With our ecosystem partners, we’re enabling new experiences through a combination of hardware and software advances.
This year, display technology will take a big leap with foldable devices coming to the Android ecosystem from several top device makers. When folded these devices work like a phone, then you unfold a beautiful tablet-sized screen.
We’ve optimized Android Q to ensure that screen continuity is seamless in these transitions, and apps and games can pick up right where they left off. For multitasking, we’ve made some changes to onResume and onPause to support multi-resume and notify your app when it has focus. We’ve also changed how the resizeableActivity manifest attribute works, to help you manage how your app is displayed on large screens.
Our partners have already started showing their innovative foldable devices, with more to come. You can get started building and testing today with our foldables emulator in canary release of Android Studio 3.5.
5G networks are the next evolution of wireless technology — providing consistently faster speeds and lower latency. For developers, 5G can unlock new kinds of experiences in your apps and supercharge existing ones.
Android Q adds platform support for 5G and extends existing APIs to help you transform your apps for 5G. You can use connectivity APIs to detect if the device has a high bandwidth connection and check whether the connection is metered. With these your apps and games can tailor rich, immersive experiences to users over 5G.
With Android’s open ecosystem and range of partners, we expect the Android ecosystem to scale to support 5G quickly. This year, over a dozen Android device makers are launching 5G-ready devices, and more than 20 carriers will launch 5G networks around the world, with some already broad-scale.
On top of hardware innovation, we’re continuing to see Android’s AI transforming the OS itself to make it smarter and easier to use, for a wider range of people. A great example is Live Caption, a new feature in Android Q that automatically captions media playing on your phone.
Many people watch videos with captions on — the captions help them keep up, even when on the go or in a crowded place. But for 466 million Deaf and Hard of Hearing people around the world, captions are more than a convenience — they make content accessible. We worked with the Deaf community to develop Live Caption.
Live Caption brings real-time captions to media on your phone – videos, podcasts, and audio messages, across any app—even stuff you record yourself. Best of all, it doesn’t even require a network connection — everything happens on the device, thanks to a breakthrough in speech recognition that we made earlier this year. The live speech models run right on the phone, and no audio stream ever leaves your device.
For developers, Live Caption expands the audience for your apps and games by making digital media more accessible with a single tap. Live Caption will be available later this year.
Suggested actions in notifications
In Android Pie we introduced smart replies for notifications that let users engage with your apps direct from notifications. We provided the APIs to attach replies and actions, but you needed to build those on your own.
Now in Android Q we want to make smart replies available to all apps right now, without you needing to do anything. Starting in Beta 3, we’re enabling system-provided smart replies and actions that are inserted directly into notifications by default.
You can still supply your own replies and actions if you want — such as if you are using ML Kit or other ML frameworks. Just opt out of the system-provided replies or actions on a per-notification basis using setAllowGeneratedReplies() and setAllowSystemGeneratedContextualActions().
Android Q suggestions are powered by an on-device ML service built into the platform — the same service that backs our text classifier entity recognition service. We’ve built it with user privacy in mind, and the ML processing happens completely on the device, not on a backend server.
Because suggested actions are based on the TextClassifier service, they can take advantage of new capabilities we’ve added in Android Q, such as language detection. You can also use TextClassifier APIs directly to generate system-provided notifications and actions, and you can mix those with your own replies and actions as needed.
Many users prefer apps that offer a UI with a dark theme they can switch to when light is low, to reduce eye strain and save battery. Users have also asked for a simple way to enable dark theme everywhere across their devices. Dark theme has been a popular request for a while, and in Android Q, it’s finally here.
Starting in Android Q Beta 3, users can activate a new system-wide dark theme by going to Settings > Display, using the new Quick Settings tile, or turning on Battery Saver. This changes the system UI to dark, and enables the dark theme of apps that support it. Apps can build their own dark themes, or they can opt-in to a new Force Dark feature that lets the OS create a dark version of their existing theme. All you have to do is opt-in by setting
android:forceDarkAllowed="true" in your app’s current theme.
You may also want to take complete control over your app’s dark styling, which is why we’ve also been hard at work improving AppCompat’s DayNight feature. By using DayNight, apps can offer a dark theme to all of their users, regardless of what version of Android they’re using on their devices. For more information, see here.
Many of the latest Android devices feature beautiful edge-to-edge screens, and users want to take advantage of every bit of them. In Android Q we’re introducing a new fully gestural navigation mode that eliminates the navigation bar area and allows apps and games to use the full screen to deliver their content. It retains the familiar Back, Home, and recents navigation through edge swipes rather than visible buttons.
Users can switch to gestures in Settings > System > Gestures. There are currently two gestures: Swiping up from the bottom of the screen takes the user to the Home screen, holding brings up Recents. Swiping from the screen’s left or right edge triggers the Back action.
To blend seamlessly with gestural navigation, apps should go edge-to-edge, drawing behind the navigation bar to create an immersive experience. To implement this, apps should use the setSystemUiVisibility() API to be laid out fullscreen, and then handle WindowInsets as appropriate to ensure that important pieces of UI are not obscured. More information is here.
Digital wellbeing is another theme of our work on Android — we want to give users the visibility and tools to find balance with the way they use their phones. Last year we launched Digital Wellbeing with Dashboards, App Timers, Flip to Shush, and Wind Down mode. These tools are really helping. App timers helped users stick to their goals over 90% of the time, and users of Wind Down had a 27% drop in nightly usage.
This year we’re continuing to expand our features to help people find balance with digital devices, adding Focus Mode and Family Link.
Focus Mode is designed for all those times you’re working or studying, and you want to to focus to get something done. With focus mode, you can pick the apps that you think might distract you and silence them – for example, pausing email and the News while leaving maps and text message apps active. You can then use Quick Tiles to turn on Focus Mode any time you want to focus. Under the covers, these apps will be paused – until you come out of Focus Mode! Focus Mode is coming to Android 9 Pie and Android Q devices this Fall.
Family Link is a new set of controls to help parents. Starting in Android Q, Family Link will be built right into the Settings on the device. When you set up a new device for your child, Family Link will help you connect it to you. You’ll be able to set daily screen time limits, see the apps where your child is spending time, review any new apps your child wants to install, and even set a device bedtime so your child can disconnect and get to sleep. And now in Android Q you can also set time limits on specific apps… as well as give your kids Bonus Time if you want them to have just 5 more minutes at bedtime. Family Link is coming to Android P and Q devices this Fall. Make sure to check out the other great wellbeing apps in the recent Google Play awards.
Family link lets parents set device bedtime and even give bonus minutes.
We’re continuing to extend the foundations of Android with more capabilities to help you build new experiences for your users — here are just a few.
Improved peer-to-peer and internet connectivity
In Android Q we’ve refactored the Wi-Fi stack to improve privacy and performance, and also to improve common use-cases like managing IoT devices and suggesting internet connections — without requiring the location permission. The network connection APIs make it easier to manage IoT devices over local Wi-Fi, for peer-to-peer functions like configuring, downloading, or printing. The network suggestion APIs let apps surface preferred Wi-Fi networks to the user for internet connectivity.
Wi-Fi performance modes
In Android Q apps can now request adaptive Wi-Fi by enabling high performance and low latency modes. These will be of great benefit where low latency is important to the user experience, such as real-time gaming, active voice calls, and similar use-cases. The platform works with the device firmware to meet the requirement with the lowest power consumption. To use the new performance modes, call WifiManager.WifiLock.createWifiLock().
Full support for Wi-Fi RTT accurate indoor positioning
In Android 9 Pie we introduced RTT APIs for indoor positioning to accurately measure distance to nearby Wi-Fi Access Points (APs) that support the IEEE 802.11mc protocol, based on measuring the round-trip time of Wi-Fi packets. Now in Android Q, we’ve completed our implementation of the 802.11mc standard, adding an API to obtain location information of each AP being ranged, configured by their owner during installation.
Audio playback capture
You saw how Live Caption can take audio from any app and instantly turn it into on-screen captions. It’s a seamless experience that shows how powerful it can be for one app to share its audio stream with another. In Android Q, any app that plays audio can let other apps capture its audio stream using a new API. In addition to enabling captioning and subtitles, the API lets you support popular use-cases like live-streaming games, all without latency impact on the source app or game.
We’ve designed this new capability with privacy and copyright protection in mind, so the ability for an app to capture another app’s audio is constrained, giving apps full control over whether their audio streams can be captured. Read more here.
Dynamic depth for photos
Apps can now request a Dynamic Depth image which consists of a JPEG, XMP metadata related to depth related elements, and a depth and confidence map embedded in the same file on devices that advertise support. Requesting a JPEG + Dynamic Depth image makes it possible for you to offer specialized blurs and bokeh options in your app. You can even use the data to create 3D images or support AR photography use-cases. Dynamic Depth is an open format for the ecosystem — the latest version of the spec is here. We’re working with our device-maker partners to make it available across devices running Android Q and later.
With Dynamic Depth image you can offer specialized blurs and bokeh options in your app
New audio and video codecs
Android Q adds support for the open source video codec AV1, which allows media providers to stream high quality video content to Android devices using less bandwidth. In addition, Android Q supports audio encoding using Opus – a codec optimized for speech and music streaming, and HDR10+ for high dynamic range video on devices that support it. The MediaCodecInfo API introduces an easier way to determine the video rendering capabilities of an Android device. For any given codec, you can obtain a list of supported sizes and frame rates.
Vulkan 1.1 and ANGLE
We’re continuing to expand the impact of Vulkan on Android, our implementation of the low-overhead, cross-platform API for high-performance 3D graphics. We’re working together with our device manufacturer partners to make Vulkan 1.1 a requirement on all 64-bit devices running Android Q and higher, and a recommendation for all 32-bit devices. For game and graphics developers using OpenGL, we’re also working towards a standard, updateable OpenGL driver for all devices built on Vulkan. In Android Q we’re adding experimental support for ANGLE on top of Vulkan on Android devices. See the docs for details.
Neural Networks API 1.2
In NNAPI 1.2 we’ve added 60 new ops including ARGMAX, ARGMIN, quantized LSTM, alongside a range of performance optimisations. This lays the foundation for accelerating a much greater range of models — such as those for object detection and image segmentation. We are working with hardware vendors and popular machine learning frameworks such as TensorFlow to optimize and roll out support for NNAPI 1.2.
When devices get too warm, they may throttle the CPU and/or GPU, and this can affect apps and games in unexpected ways. Now in Android Q, apps and games can use a thermal API to monitor changes on the device and take action to help restore normal temperature. For example, streaming apps can reduce resolution/bit rate or network traffic, a camera app could disable flash or intensive image enhancement, or a game could reduce frame rate or polygon tesselation. Read more here.
Android Q introduces several improvements to the ART runtime to help your apps start faster, consume less memory, and run smoother — without requiring any work from you. To help with initial app startup, Google Play is now delivering cloud-based profiles along with APKs. These are anonymized, aggregate ART profiles that let ART pre-compile parts of your app even before it’s run. Cloud-based profiles benefit all apps and they’re already available to devices running Android P and higher.
We’re also adding Generational Garbage Collection to ART’s Concurrent Copying (CC) Garbage Collector. Generational CC collects young-generation objects separately, incurring much lower cost as compared to full-heap GC. It makes garbage collection more efficient in terms of time and CPU, reduces jank, and helps apps run better on lower-end devices.
More Android Q Beta devices, more Treble momentum than ever
In 2017 we launched Project Treble as part of Android Oreo, with a goal of accelerating OS updates. Treble provides a consistent, testable interface between Android and the underlying device code from device makers and silicon manufacturers, which makes porting a new OS version much simpler and more modular.
In 2018 we worked closely with our partners to bring the first OS updates to their Treble devices. The result: last year at Google I/O we had 8 devices from 7 partners joining our Android P Beta program, together with our Pixel and Pixel 2 devices. Fast forward to today — we’re seeing updates to Android Pie accelerating strongly, with 2.5 times the footprint compared to Android Oreo’s at the same time last year.
This year with Android Q we’re seeing even more momentum, and we have 23 devices from 13 top global device makers releasing Android Q Beta 3 — including all Pixel devices. We’re also providing Q Beta 3 Generic System Images (GSI), a testing environment for other supported Treble devices. All of these offer the same behaviors, APIs, and features — giving you an incredible variety of devices for testing your apps, and more ways for you to get an early look at Android Q.
Explore the new features and APIs
When you’re ready, dive into Android Q and learn about the new features and APIs you can use in your apps. Take a look at the API diff report for an overview of what’s changed in Beta 3, and see the Android Q Beta API reference for details. Visit the Android Q Beta developer site for more resources, including release notes and how to report issues.
To build with Android Q, download the Android Q Beta SDK and tools into Android Studio 3.3 or higher, and follow these instructions to configure your environment. If you want the latest fixes for Android Q related changes, we recommend you use Android Studio 3.5 or higher.
How do I get Beta 3?
It’s easy! Just enroll any Pixel device here to get the update over-the-air. If you’re already enrolled, you’ll receive the update soon, and, no action is needed on your part. Downloadable system images are also available.
You can also get Beta 3 on any of the other devices participating in the Android Q Beta program, from some of our top device maker partners. You can see the full list of supported partner and Pixel devices at android.com/beta. For each device you’ll find specs and links to the manufacturer’s dedicated site for downloads, support, and to report issues.
For even broader testing on supported devices, you can also get Android GSI images, and if you don’t have a device you can test on the Android Emulator — just download the latest emulator system images via the SDK Manager in Android Studio.
As always, your input is critical, so please let us know what you think. You can use our hotlists for filing platform issues (including privacy and behavior changes), app compatibility issues, and third-party SDK issues. You’ve shared great feedback with us so far and we’re working to integrate as much of it as possible in the next Beta release.
We’re looking forward to seeing your apps on Android Q!
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This post was originally published at What’s New in Android: Q Beta 3 & More