Android 10: Everything we know so far about Google’s next mobile OS

Here are all the new features you can expect in the freshly named Android 10

Android Pie is still rolling out, but we’re looking ahead to the next version of Android — which looks set to introduce some significant changes, not least to the naming scheme. Android 10 will not roll with a Q-themed dessert name, and will instead ape Apple’s iOS in identifying itself with a version number. But the rebrand isn’t all we’re looking forward to. There are lots of new features expected, from a system-wide dark mode, to new gesture navigation methods. Here are all the new features we know about in Android 10 so far.

Android ditches desserts with Android 10

Android 10
Official Android 10 branding. Google

That’s right, Google has gone down the boring route of naming the latest version of Android after its version number — Android 10. This makes Android 10 the first version of Android since Android 1.5 Cupcake to forgo a sweet treat-themed name, and it’s probably just because Google couldn’t come up with a decent dessert starting with “Q”.

We’re only joking. Google has clarified the reason behind the change — simply put, the dessert-themed names don’t always translate well internationally, and the lack of a prominent numbering system also makes it harder for casual users to know which version of Android is the latest one. But it’s not just the name Google is changing — Android itself is getting a rebrand. The wordmark for “Android” is shifting from green to black, and the beloved Bugdroid mascot is being brought into more prominence. Well, it’s just its head, but it’s a start.

Android rebrand
Google

Bugdroid’s color is also changing slightly. The old green color was harder to read for those with certain visual impairments, and the new color helps to sidestep that particular issue. Bugdroid isn’t restricted to those colors though, and manufacturers have the option of matching their branding by using Bugdroid in a selection of colors, including blue, navy, orange, and chartreuse.

Android 10 Dark theme

Android Dark Theme

Google is making an official Dark theme on Android, accessible through the Display settings menu. You can schedule Dark mode depending on the time of day, or you can have it always on or always off. When enabled, all apps will have a dark gray tint to them, while panels like the Quick Settings shade have a black background. The Dark mode seems to work in most stock Google apps, but it may also work in third-party apps that don’t have their own Dark mode.

There are plenty of reasons you might want a Dark mode. Apart from it being a bit easier on the eyes, Dark mode could save battery on phones with OLED displays.

New gesture navigation

android q wish list
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Since its inception, Android has always featured navigation buttons, including a back button — but they’re now going away with Android 10 in favor of a new gesture-based navigation system. Now, swiping up takes users home, while swiping up and holding enables multitasking. Swiping from the left edge goes back — so there’s no longer a back button. You can even tweak the sensitivity of the back gesture, with four options. The second sensitivity level is the default.

If you don’t like the new gesture navigations, you should be able to disable the gestures and go back to the classic Android navigation buttons.

Customizable themes

android 10 q review hands on 5
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

You can now tweak the color highlights in Android 10, making the interface a little more customizable. With this feature, things like the quick access icons and highlights in the settings menu will change color. In the beta, there are around eight colors available, though that might change in the final version of Android 10.

New menu drawer peek

Thanks to the new gesture navigation system, other aspects of Android will need to change a little. Notably, there’s a new drawer peek system — where the menu drawer of an app can be accessed by simply holding on the edge of the display for a second, after which the drawer will “peek” and you can swipe it out. Of course, you can still access these menus with a tap of the hamburger button.

Focus Mode

Google also wants to make it a little easier to put down your phone and concentrate on other things. Focus Mode allows you to turn off notifications for certain apps, only keeping notifications for the apps that are important to you. Once you turn Focus Mode off, notifications from all apps will be able to show up again.

Better privacy and security

Android 10 puts privacy controls front and center. Privacy controls will now be right at the top in the Settings menu, making it quick and easy to change those settings. Not only that, but Google is tweaking how location information is shared with apps. Now, you can choose to share location information only while the app is in use — similar to how location permissions work on iOS.

Live Caption

Android 10 will bring native support for captions, which can show up in real time over videos that might otherwise not have support for captions. The feature is processed on the device and leverages Google’s speech recognition technology. On Android, you can activate Live Caption in your normal audio settings, and it can be moved around the screen whenever you want.

Bubbles

Google has adopted a feature called “Bubbles,” which is built into the notification system. Bubbles essentially float on top of other content on the screen and allow you to quickly and easily do things like reply to messages. Bubbles are expandable when you want to use them, and collapsible when you don’t.

A new Google Assistant trigger gesture

Triggering Google Assistant is already pretty easy, but there’s also a new gesture for it, too. Now, users can swipe diagonally from either bottom corner to trigger Google Assistant. Thankfully, there will be visual cues to alert users to where Assistant can be found — in the form of small white “handles” in the interface.

Better permissions controls

Google is hoping to get permissions much more under control in Android 10. At Google I/O 2019, Google shows off more controls for permissions in the operating system. Perhaps the most important change is that in Android 10 users will have better control over location data, with the ability to share location with apps “never,” “only when the app is open,” or “always.” It’s similar to what’s already available in iOS, but definitely a step forward. When permissions are needed, Google is asking developers to make the reasons the permissions are needed more apparent to users.

Users will also get the ability to control access to shared files. In Android 10, apps will be required to use the system file picker, which will allow users to decide which files and photos apps can access, without giving apps access to all files.

Faster sharing

The sharing feature in Android has always been pretty slow and Google confirmed it was working on a way to change this a few months ago. In Android 10, Google is adding “Sharing Shortcuts,” which will allow users to jump directly into an app to share content, like a file or photo. This way, users can avoid the slow-to-load sharing menu and get straight to sharing.

In-app settings panel

With Android 10, users will be able to quickly and easily toggle settings that pertain to the app. The example Google gives is that users will be able to toggle things like Wi-Fi or cellular connectivity from within a web browser, meaning that you don’t necessarily have to navigate to the Settings menu. It makes accessing settings that little bit easier and should come in handy for developers, too.

Depth formats for photos

When a camera with multiple lenses takes a photo, that depth information is stored along with the photo itself — and in Android 10, apps will be able to request that information. What that means is that users will be able to edit things like bokeh and blur to a photo within different apps, which could come in handy with apps that have specialized photo-editing features.

Night Sight

google-pixel-3a-xl-camera-app
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Google’s Night Sight has been a success on the Pixel as a way to capture clear, bright photos, even in poorly lit environments. Now, the feature is being moved into the main Google Camera interface, making it much easier to access quickly and easily.

HDR10 Plus Support

Google is building support for HDR10 Plus straight into the Android operating system, meaning that you’ll get better-quality video capture no matter what app you’re using. On top of that, Android is getting support for the AV1 video codec, which will help allow media providers to stream higher quality video to Android phones.

Support for foldable phones

Android Foldables

Android is quickly adopting the foldable phone trend. We already knew that Google was working on ways to natively support foldables in Android, and that support will come in Android 10. Particular improvements come in the form of how apps resize and added support for multiple-display app switching.

Desktop mode?

Stock Android could be getting a desktop mode similar to what Samsung offers with Samsung DeX — though we’re not quite sure just yet. After XDA Developers found a reference to a desktop mode feature that they couldn’t enable, developer Daniel Blandford later found a way to enable it, and has shared a video of the feature online.

XDA Developers found a number of other, smaller tweaks to Android 10. For example, there are a number of added developer options for things support for freeform multi-windows, an option for “Game Update Package Preferences,” which allows you to select a graphics driver, and more.

Other changes

Android, in general, is set to get a little faster, too. Google is continuing to expand Vulkan within Android and is strengthening ART performance, which should help apps load faster and use less memory once they have loaded.

There are a number of other changes in Android 10 that we didn’t feel needed their own section. Here’s a list of smaller tweaks and changes.

  • There’s a new emergency icon in the power menu.
  • The Google Assistant logo has been placed on the screen when the Google Pixel is on the Pixel Stand.
  • Android 10 will now boot with a dark screen instead of a white one.
  • The lock on the lock screen has been moved to the top of the interface, like on iOS.
  • There’s a preview button on live wallpapers that allows you to see the animation.
  • There’s an estimated time remaining for the battery life in the quick settings menu.
  • Android 10 now has a built-in screen recorder.

Android Beam hasn’t made the cut

how to use android beam
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

While there’s a considerable list of new features being added in Android 10, it’s inevitable that some older features will be pruned out. The first casualty to hit the cutting room floor is Android Beam, the feature that used a device’s NFC connection to send links, contact info, and other information. Android 10 beta users noticed the missing feature back in March and flagged it on Google’s Issue Tracker, but didn’t get a reply from Google until April 30, at which point the response seemed to confirm the feature would not be returning for Android 10. Now, Digital Trends can confirm that the feature still is not present in the third beta of Android 10.

It’s a real tragedy for regular users. Being able to tap a friend’s phone to receive information was a useful feature, even if most of us genuinely forgot it existed. Perhaps there was room for Google to change the branding in much the same way it has with many Android-branded features. That said, “Google Beam” sounds more like Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s special attack mode, so maybe it’s for the best. However, Android Beam may be being replaced by the AirDrop-like Fast Share feature.

We’ll update this article as we find out more about the upcoming Android 10.

Updated on August 22, 2019: Changed the article to reflect the new name, and added details of the Android rebrand.

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