Introducing Android Q

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Introducing Android Q

 

Pie is still on its way out to most of the world, but today we’re going one step further.  Android Q’s first beta has officially launched!  As Android’s developer blog puts it so perfectly: “…mobile innovation is stronger than ever, with new technologies from 5G to edge to edge displays and even foldable screens.  Android is right at the center of this innovation cycle”.

The bug tracker for Q first opened on Monday, and since then we’ve all been waiting expectantly to see its release.  Now that it’s here let’s take a look at some of the things it has to offer.

Privacy and Security: 

Whenever we’re discussing privacy, one of the first things that comes to mind is location.  We don’t all like the idea of being tracked everywhere we go by 3rdparties.  Currently on Android no app is able to track your location unless you explicitly allow it. Q takes this to the next level by allowing users to grant location based on app usage.  So if you want, no more being tracked when an app isn’t open.  This could be useful for things such as food delivery apps that really have no business monitoring you during other parts of your day.  

Another improvement for user security that revolves around runtime permissions is access to files and media. The Photos and Videos and Audio collections will be featured in a new set of runtime permissions.  And downloads must use the system file picker, allowing the user to decide which download files an app has access to.  This is just another step to help silo information and enhance a user’s experience without having to give an app everything.

Innovative Screens and Experiences:

You’ve undoubtedly seen some of the new foldable phones that have been revealed recently.  They look incredibly fun (unfortunately also incredibly expensive), but it should be no surprise that Q will be accounting for these.  To help users make use of an unfolded device with lots of screen space, changes have been made to onResume and onPause to support multi-resume (we wrote about this in one of our Q hypothesis posts a while back).

In addition, some changes have been made with sharing and setting to speed up a user’s navigation. The process of moving from one app to another to share content has been streamlined with Sharing Shortcuts.  You can also show key system settings insideof your app using a new Settings Panel API.  This uses the Slices feature from Pie and lets you present a modal to users where they can directly access things such as what Wi-Fi they are connected to. No more redirecting users into the Settings app to mess with things!

There are also changes to the camera, media, and graphics utilizing Dynamic Depth.  Using Q users can request a Dynamic Depth image which consists of a JPEG, XMP metadata, and a depth and confidence map all embedded in the same file. The result of this is the possibility to offer specialized blurs and bokeh options in your app.  Or if you want you can create 3D images/photograph things in AR much more accurately.

Getting Q On Your Phone:

As with many of Google’s recent technologies, you can get your hands on it first if you own a Pixel. Beta 1 is available all the way back to the original Pixel/Pixel XL.  Click here to enroll in the Android Q Beta and start playing around with it.  And if you don’t own a Pixel, you can always use the Android Emulator and download a system image via the SDK Manager.

There is a ton to explore for Android Q still since it’s just day 1.  Let us know what you think about it in the comments below!

Backing Away From The Back Button

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Backing Away From The Back Button

If you ever have a conversation between an Android user and an iPhone user, each will have their arguments for why one phone is superior.  While many of the differences are in the software, one is glaringly different between the two: the back button.  At least is used to be, but we may be seeing the end of days for this feature.

Q Follows P:

The back button is one of the most prominent features on Android phones.  At least it was, but there has been discussion recently about moving deeper into the world of gesture recognition.  The idea is to move closer to a buttonless screen, and thus create more screen real estate for users on smaller devices.  Android Pie took a step in this direction with some of its changes in navigation between apps, and Q will likely continue the trend.

If you own a phone that operates on Pie, then it likely took you a few days to adjust.  The whole process of navigating between apps is different from Oreo.  Instead of swiping left or right to kill apps you swipe them up (much like iOS).  And while Pie still has a back button on the left side of Pixel devices, there are some unique interactions you can use with the bottom nav bar.

What’s New With Q?

On Pie phones today if you swipe from the left side of the nav bar over to the right, your phone will exit the current app and open whatever app you were using just before it.  What’s more, if you swipe to the right and don’t release, you’ll be able to scroll between all of your apps to select one quickly. It’s not too different from checking all the paused apps and selecting one, but one swipe actions put a grin on your face.

Q is looking to do just this by removing the back button entirely and replacing it with a swipe to the left.  The exact motion discussed above, just in reverse.  So when users want to back out of an application or go back in an app, they will swipe instead of pressing the back button.  Whether you like it or not, this is a pretty drastic change from years of tradition on a feature that has separated Android from iOS.

Swiping: The Good, Bad, and Ugly:

My initial reaction to this was not a good one.  It seemed rather counter intuitive to have users swipe in one direction to go back in an app, and swipe in the opposite direction to go “back” to other apps.  Change is scary.  But if you can get past that, then this could make for an interesting user experience.  If we take it one step further and swipe up in place of the home button, then the entire bottom drawer could cease to exist.  A marginal change, but every centimeter counts when we only have a few to deal with.

These changes have not been confirmed, and I’m still undecided on how I feel.  But I think it’s important to not jump on the bandwagon of “Change is bad”.  Q could bring some really cool things to the Android world, and for all we know in a few years we’ll be looking back at the old ways of navigation and shaking our heads!

What are your thoughts on Q’s possible removal of the back button?  How about the other changes we’ve talked about with Q?  Let us know in the comments below!

 

 

Android Q for Quick Release

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Android Q for Quick Release

You may think we’re getting ahead of ourselves here, but Android Q is already on the horizon.  Yes, we just finished covering the release of Pie a few months ago.  But it looks as though rollouts are starting to pick up more speed in the Android community.  Android Q’s full scale release is slated for 2019, and last week it was hinted that it will be available on a wider scale than we’ve seen before.

Android’s History:

Unless you own a pixel device chances are there’s been a time where you were waiting for your phone to have the newest software.  While Android is an amazing operating system, it’s notorious for rolling out very slowly.  Many phones just updated to Oreo as Pie was already being released.  In July Oreo was only active on 12.1% of devices.  This is somewhat understandable since Google is not the only player in the Android user experience But people still want what’s new, and that’s never going to change.

Last week at Android Dev Summit Hung-Ying Tyan, an engineer for Google’s Project Treble team, hinted that Q may be coming out on a trial basis sooner than we thought.  He said “We are also exploring ways to make future GSI available earlier than the release of next Android version.  So you will be able to try out next Android version earlier over GSI, and at the same time, we can get early feedback from you, so the benefit is mutual.”  GSI stands for Generic System Image and is a version of Android based on the Android Open Source Project.

What will Q have to offer?

Things are of course mostly speculation at this point, but predictions exist for a reason.  One such prediction is that the software is going to develop to match the ever-expanding tablets and foldable smartphones.  With increased screen size and split screen functionality users are bound to want to use multiple apps at the same time.  Enter Multi-resume.  I don’t know about you, but I find it incredibly frustrating when I’m trying to use split screen but one app pauses once I interact with the other.  Depending on the app, this could render the whole feature pointless.  Split screen is an amazing tool, but it needs to be perfected still.

In the Android activity lifecycle there are different states an app can be in.  Currently when an app is no longer the forefront of attention in split screen it goes into a paused state.  Then when a user interacts with it again it enters the resumed state.  In Q we may see a multi-resume where two apps can both be “resumed” at the same time.  It’s also speculated that Q will have features like multi-monitor support, but only time will tell what all is on the table.

Coming Soon to a Phone Near You:

Android Q source code will be shared with users and app developers for testing before the version officially launches.  The long term goal of this is to make users and developers more acquainted with the upcoming version.  Increased comfort equals an increased adoption rate.  I’m currently enjoying and exploring Pie, but as with the rest of you I’m looking towards the future!  What are your thoughts on Android Q?  Is there a feature it desperately needs?  Let us know in the comments below.

 

 

Android Pie is Fresh Out Of The Oven

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Android Pie is Fresh Out Of The Oven

Today Google officially dubbed the newest version of the Android operating system as Pie!  Along with this naming they’ve also released the first official version of it to Pixel phones.  Android users around the world are debating whether this was the right dessert name or not, but either way we know that Pie has some great things in store for us.

The Build Up:

Over the past few months we’ve seen a few beta version of Pie released on a series of smartphones, but this official release is only available on Pixel phones.  People who signed up for the Android Beta program will receive the update by the end of this fall though.  Google also said it’s working to launch/upgrade other devices sometime this year.

Those details are pretty vague, and if Pie behaves anything like other Android versions, it could be over a year before it’s adoption rate breaks double digit percentages.  All the same it’s officially available to Pixel users and it has a name.  That’s plenty for now, but let’s also not forget that Pie is available in its beta format on a number of different devices.

A review of Pie:

We’ve talked about Pie and its cool new features a few times here at RootJunky.com.  The new software is designed with predictive analytics and AI for battery power as some of the main features.  The idea is to improve things behind the scene for users.  Pie monitors and adjusts screen brightness as well as what apps are in the background during different times of the day.  It gets used to user’s habits, and then preps itself in advance to recreate that behavior.  AI is definitely a buzz-word, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have some perks.

It also features an official dark mode option in settings, something Android user’s have been asking for for years.  Notifications also offer features such as smart replies for texting and a new feel to them, so the changes in this version are both front and back end.

Aaand the Notch:

Of course when we’re talking about new looks we have to mention the notch.  It’s taken a hold of both the iOS and Android markets so much that Google has actually come out and banned phones with more than 3 notches from getting Google support.  Somewhat crazy to even think more than 3 notches could exist on a phone right now, but you never know!

One more feature that I have to mention that I’m very excited for is the change to rotation.  Instead of just locking your rotation or having it rotate every time you accidentally turn your screen, you now have optional re-orientation.  Android Pie will display a small button when it detects a screen rotation, and if you select this then the phone knows to readjust, and if not then you can continue doing things as you were, undisturbed.

The Pixel 3 will be coming out on October 4th just a few months from now, and it will likely be the first phone to be released with Pie as it’s initial operating system, but Pie is now available to those who are willing to take the steps to get it.  I’m excited to see it grow this year, and I’m also very interested to see what Q is going to be named.

What are your thoughts on Pie’s name?  Could Google have done better?  And if so, do you think it’s new features will make up for it? Let us know in the comments below.

 

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