It is early 2019 and we have already witnessed a plethora of new features, technologies, and innovation in the mobile device arena this year. We have witnessed a bunch of smartphone makers launching all-new handsets with new and innovative features and have seen devices ready to latch on to 5G networks. We’ve seen edge-to-edge displays and have even seen foldable smartphones. The Android operating system is the largest mobile operating system in use worldwide today and it serves as the center of the innovation cycle for mobile technologies, especially as it moves more and more into use by businesses. Software plays a crucial role in making a successful device. And no matter how innovative and feature-packed a mobile device’s hardware is, it is ultimately the software that makes or breaks the deal — especially for IT admins deciding whether to incorporate a fleet of Androids into the workplace. To meet with the expectations of the billions of users across the globe, Google has released the first beta version of its newest mobile operating system, Android Q. Businesses will be most pleased that the Android Q beta version comes with a lot of security and privacy features apart from offering other enhancements. Android Q also comes preloaded with newer APIs and codecs for better connectivity and improved multimedia capability.
Users can sign up for the Android Q Beta version here. However, you will need a Pixel handset to experience Android Q beta firsthand — these are the only devices as of now that will be able to run the beta. Let’s look under the hood and see all the important features in the first beta version of Android Q.
Android Q and foldable screens
We’ve already witnessed foldable smartphones in the form of the Galaxy Fold and the Huawei Mate X. However, this fancy new innovation has paved the way for a bunch of new use cases and possible alterations needed in the operating system. Keeping these things in mind, Google has provided Android Q with additional features to accommodate foldable displays. Android Q comes with changes in the onResume and onPause functionalities of the Android OS to support multiple resumes and to notify the app in focus. Google also said that they have tweaked the resizableManifest attribute to manage apps when the display is folded and for large screens. But because Android Q beta is only available for Pixel phones, we will have to wait and see how it will work with the Galaxy Fold and other foldable phones.
Sharing shortcuts with Android Q
Easy sharing has always been a major advantage Android users enjoyed over other mobile operating systems. Android allows a very easy and convenient way to share contacts, data files, images, and more. With Android Q, Google has introduced an option to share shortcuts — yet another very handy feature.
This feature allows users to share content from an app in a much easier and faster way. In simple terms, sharing a shortcut is a much-advanced feature of “Direct Share,” which we’ve been seeing since Android Marshmallow.
Google also mentioned that the new “Sharing Shortcuts” API in Android Q will allow apps to send all available sharable information over to the menu even before a user chooses to share something. This allows the menu itself to load almost immediately.
Better security for businesses
Perhaps most crucial to businesses and IT admins, security has been a primary focus in recent updated Android operating systems. Accordingly, Android Q now supports TLS 1.3, which is a major upgrade in the existing TLS standards. This provides better speed and performance benefits along with enhanced security. Google has implemented BiometricPrompt as its unified authentication framework to support additional security at the system level. With Android Q, passive authentication security methods such as facial and retina unlocking can be customized and used for better security.
Connectivity is another enhanced aspect of Android Q — another feature of keen interest to businesses. With Android Q, it has added several connectivity options and extended what apps can do in terms of connectivity. It has also added enhanced security.
Until now, connectivity options such as Bluetooth, cellular network, and WiFi needed COARSE location permission to scan the networks. But with Android Q, the security has been increased around these APIs by requiring the FINE location permissions instead of COARSE. Android Q is also going to support the new and improved WiFi standard WPA3 and will be randomizing MAC addresses when connecting to different WiFi networks for enhanced security.
Portrait mode has been one of the most significant features in smartphone’s imaging lately. Smartphone markers have started stuffing their devices with multiple camera sensors for better depth sensing and portrait shots.
Thankfully with Android Q, Google has implemented the ability to request a dynamic depth image, which will be a single image containing the image as well as the depth map. The availability of depth map along with the image will allow users to alter the depth and blur strength after an image has been captured. This means users won’t have to rely on third-party applications to alter and edit the depth effect in the images.
While this not a new feature and something IT admins probably don’t want their users to get too familiar with — at least at work — gaming has seen huge improvements in Android over the years. Vulkan API has been powering the gaming and other graphics-related applications on Android for quite a while, but get ready for enhancements in Android Q. With Android Q, Google has implemented ANGLE (Almost Native Graphics Layer Engine) running on top of Vulkan API. For the uninitiated, ANGLE is a graphics abstraction layer that comes with OpenGL compatibility. It is built to provide high-performance OpenGL, which can allow users to handle many apps and games using OpenGL ES. Google has also made it clear that it is working on expanding the impact of Vulkan on Android for high-performance 3D graphics rendering on Android devices.
Other Android Q features
Apart from these features and enhancements in Android Q, there are several other productive and visually appealing additions. Some of them include support for an all new dark mode, more notification options, sharing a WiFi network with a QR code, better privacy controls, and a built-in screen recorder.
Several other features will probably be added to the final public version of Android Q. However, there are also chances that these features listed in its beta version might not make it to the final release of Android Q. The smartphone ecosystem is advancing and it is interesting to see how smartphone makers are coming up with exciting new features such as foldable displays, ever-increasing camera sensors, and more. And Android is coming up with software support to complement these features.