The sixth and final beta for Android Q has just rolled out, which means it's on track to arrive before the end of September - a little behind its August release in recent years. It's now looking probable that it's full name won't be announced until release day, but we have a good idea about what new features it will bring.
You can try Android Q now if you have a compatible device.
What's new in Android Q?
At I/O 2019 Google gave more details about what we can expect from Android Q. The improvements fall into three main categories: Innovation, Security & Privacy, and Digital Wellbeing.
Foldable phones: Android Q maximises what's possible on foldable screens, from multitasking to screen continuity.
5G: Promising lower latency and faster connectivity, 5G will be natively supported in Android Q
On-device learning: Smart Caption creates captions for any video in real-time and on-device, without any data leaving the phone. Meanwhile Smart Reply saves you time by auto-suggesting what you'll type next - in any messaging app - or your next action, such as copying and pasting an address received in a message into Google Maps.
Dark theme: A system-wide Dark mode will be available in Android Q, helping to reduce the screen's impact on battery drain.
New emoji: 65 new emojis will be revealed in Android Q, and these will include new skin tone variations, gender-inclusive and disability designs, as well as - randomly - a sloth, otter and garlic.
Security & Privacy
Top-level Settings: Google gives security and privacy the attention it deserves in Android Q, placing related options right up top in the Settings menu, giving you easier access to things like location data and activity controls.
Stricter control over location data: Android Q introduces more control over when you are sharing your location, offering helpful reminders when an app accesses this data without you actively using it, and letting you choose whether it should be able to do this or only when you're using the app.
Faster updates: Over the air updates will now be split into Compatibility, Security and Privacy updates, allowing them to be delivered faster. They will work in the same way as updating apps, meaning you won't even need to restart your phone.
Focus mode: Choose which specific apps distract you the most and block them from disturbing you while you're in Focus mode, without worrying about important messages from friends and family not getting through.
Parental Controls: The age of people getting their first phone is getting lower every year, so Parental Controls is also being moved to the forefront in the Settings menu. In addition to allowing you to choose which apps are installed, when and for how long they are used, and at which time your child should put down the device and go to bed, in Android Q you will be able to set app-specific restrictions. At the same time you can reward good behaviour by relaxing some of the restrictions - Bonus Time lets you give them an extra five minutes before they go to bed.
What didn't make the cut for Android Q?
There's at least one Android feature that you won't see in Android Q, and that's Android Beam, a peer-to-peer sharing service that works over NFC. It was introduced in Ice Cream Sandwich, and has been a part of the OS ever since.
In Android Q this will be replaced with Fast Share, which is very similar to the Files by Google app, allowing you to share files, URLs and text snippets with other Android users in close vicinity.
When is Android Q coming out?
In the past couple of years the final release has landed in mid-August, but with the sixth and final beta having just rolled out a September release date is more likely.
The operating then goes first to Pixel and Android One devices, as well as those that are part of the Beta programme, then is prepared and gradually rolled out by phone makers and network operators to other devices over the next few months. (Read more about the upcoming Pixel 4 and 4 XL.)
Not all existing smartphones will get the upgrade, and it’s typically flagships released in the past year or so that make the grade. Operating system fragmentation is still a major criticism of Android, and as you can see in the chart below some users are still on Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread, and so few are on Android 9.0 Pie that it isn't even shown in the table.
|4.0.3-4.0.4||Ice Cream Sandwich||0.3%|
(Data collected during a seven-day period ending 7 May 2019 by Android Developers.)
What will Android Q be called?
Aside from what features the new OS will offer, one of the major questions in the lead up to launch always concerns what it will be called.
Google typically uses the names of sweet treats for its operating systems, which are released in alphabetical order. So far we've seen:
- Android Donut (v1.6)
- Android Eclair (v2.0)
- Android Froyo (v2.2)
- Android Gingerbread (v2.3)
- Android Honeycomb (v3.0)
- Android Ice Cream Sandwich (v4.0)
- Android Jelly Bean (v4.1)
- Android KitKat (v4.4)
- Android Lollipop (v5.0)
- Android Marshmallow (v6.0)
- Android Nougat (v7.0)
- Android Oreo (v8.0)
- Android Pie (v9.0)
That presents us with a small problem for version 10: what sweet treats begin with a Q?
There’s Quality Street, of course, a British fave. Perhaps Queen of Puddings, potentially shortened to Android Queen because we're all about Girl Power. Erm… Quiche?
Other suggestions we’ve never heard of include Quindim, Quesito, Queijadas and Qottab.
To be fair none of the options sounds terribly appealing, so could this be the year Google ditches its traditional naming system?
Vote for your favourite in our poll below.
Read next: Android Pie review