Update: August 22, 2019 at 4:45 p.m. ET: We’re getting one step closer to the Android 10 release date. Google officially announced the name of Android Q: It’s… Android 10! That’s right — Google is no longer naming major Android versions after sweet treats. Learn more about what went into the big Android rebrand right here.
Android 10 is available in developer preview (including non-Pixel phones too), and it’s a pretty significant update. Between privacy-related tweaks and long-overdue features, it’s clear that Google has been very busy.
So what are the standout Android 10 features worth knowing? We’ve got you covered with our round-up! Do note that we’re focusing on features that are either confirmed by Google or don’t require any extra tweaks to use. For a running list of Android 10 features, including additions buried in developer settings, you can check out our hub right here.
A dark mode (finally!)
Google has experimented with a system-wide dark mode for some time now, but the company has finally made it official with Android 10.
Dark mode can be activated via a quick-tile setting or when you activate the battery saver option. Furthermore, a screenshot shared by Google (seen above) shows that dark mode will also affect Google Podcasts, Photos, and Search.
It’ll undoubtedly be one of the most crowd-pleasing Android 10 features when the update eventually lands. But the Mountain View company is also working with third-party developers to implement dark modes in their apps.
Smart Reply for all messaging apps
Smart Reply is one of the better Google features out there, predicting what you’re going to say in response to a message. It’s currently available for Google apps, but it’s now coming to all messaging apps in Android 10.
This means you can now get suggested responses in the likes of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger — a handy way to save time when a short response will do. These suggestions are all made using on-device machine learning, purportedly maintaining your privacy as the relevant information isn’t sent to Google’s servers.
A better sharing menu
Many Android enthusiasts have criticized the platform’s sharing functionality for being slow and unintuitive. Fortunately, Google has overhauled this menu in Android 10.
The new sharing menu is meant to be much faster than the legacy menu, but it’s also supposed to do a better job of recommending contacts and apps for sharing. Time will tell whether Google indeed delivers on these goals, but third-party developers will also need to update their apps to take advantage of this tweak.
One of the more prominent user-facing Android 10 features is the so-called Focus Mode, an extension of the Digital Wellbeing suite. As the name suggests, this mode will help you focus by graying out apps you deem distracting and hiding their notifications.
Digital Wellbeing is also getting another feature thanks to integrated parental controls. Google has already offered parental tools via the Family Link app, but out-of-the-box support is welcome nonetheless.
Quicker access to settings
This new popup window can be summoned by apps in certain situations. Google gives the example of launching a browser when in airplane mode. The browser can now tell users to activate Wi-Fi, then automatically summon the settings panel.
A standard depth format
Android 10 also brings a new depth format, dubbed (surprise) the Dynamic Depth Format, and it opens the door for depth-editing in loads of third-party apps.
“Starting in Android Q, apps can 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,” reads an excerpt of the Android Developers Blog.
Google also confirmed that the new format will let third-party apps tweak depth data to create “specialized blurs and bokeh options.” Hopefully, third-party developers embrace this new, Google-pushed standard.
Previews for more OEMs
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 the initiative has expanded with Android 10.
Android Q developer previews are now available on roughly 20 phones. More specifically, they’re available on all Pixel phones, the Asus Zenfone 5Z, Essential Phone, Huawei Mate 20 Pro, LG G8 ThinQ, Nokia 8.1, OnePlus 6/6T/7, Oppo Reno, Realme 3 Pro, Tecno Spark 3 Pro, Vivo X27, Vivo Nex A/S, Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G, and Xiaomi Mi 9.
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 better files app
Google’s previous files app was a no-frills affair, and it didn’t even have a shortcut in the app drawer. Fortunately, the Android 10 files app is a step above the previous version.
Not only does the new app have a shortcut, but it also offers a revised UI, a universal search bar at the top, and quick access to other apps. There’s still a chance Google could tweak this app before the final release, but it definitely looks more polished than the previous version.
Android 10 also has plenty of privacy-related tweaks, with roles being one of the biggest additions in this regard. With roles, the platform can now automatically grant specific permissions to an app based on its use-case. So a text messaging app would automatically gain the ability to send/receive texts, as well as access to your contacts.
The other roles noted on Google’s support website include a music player, web browser, launcher, phone dialler, and gallery. But the Mountain View company says these roles and privileges might not be available in the final version.
Another major change is a tweak affecting location permissions. Now, users have the option to either grant location access in general to an app, or only allowing access when the app is actively being used.
Wi-Fi sharing via QR codes
Xiaomi and Huawei smartphones have allowed users to share Wi-Fi credentials via QR codes for a long time now. So we’re glad to see Google adopt this trend with the new Android update.
The feature is easy to use, as you tap on your Wi-Fi connection, hit the share button, then authenticate with your phone’s password or a fingerprint. From here, you should see a QR code, and your friend can scan this code to gain access. Again, it’s nothing new for third-party brands, but we’re happy Google is catching up in this regard.
Gestures, app drawers play nicely
The early Android 10 previews introduced more comprehensive gesture navigation, such as sliding your finger inwards from the screen edge to go back. Unfortunately, this gesture didn’t work well in apps with navigation drawers/menus. This meant users wanting to see these overflow menus might accidentally activate the back gesture instead.
Fortunately, Google has announced a so-called “peek” feature in Android Q beta 5 to solve the issue. Now, users wanting to see an app’s navigation drawer/overflow menu need to swipe in and hold for a second. Once you see the menu “peek” out (see image above), you can continue the swipe gesture to fully reveal it.
The search giant has also confirmed that it’ll automatically switch back to traditional navigation keys when a third-party launcher is used. This change is set for the sixth beta though.
Google Assistant ‘handles’
The switch to gesture navigation means that you can no longer activate the Google Assistant via the home button. You can however activate the assistant via an inward swipe from the lower corners of your screen if you’ve got a Huawei phone or device running Android Q beta 4.
This activation method isn’t obvious though, so Google has added visual cues in the form of Google Assistant “handles” in the corners (seen above). Hopefully this subtle addition eases confusion about Assistant’s activation in Android 10.
That’s it for our look at the top Android 10 features! We’ll be updating the article as Google reveals more big changes for the platform. Are there any more features you’d like to see in stock Android?