Editors’ Note: Updated on May 31 with a new list of phones eligible to run the beta.
The first public beta of Android Q arrived in March, but Google hasn’t stood still since then. We’re now up to Beta No. 3 for the successor to Google’s current Android 9.0 Pie mobile operating system, after Google announced even more of Q’s upcoming features during May’s Google I/O developer conference.
Not only does the latest beta for Android Q reveal new enhancements including a much anticipated dark mode and an impressive-looking feature that adds closed captioning to videos in real time, the latest release works on more devices, not just Pixel phones. Google says the latest beta is compatible with 21 different devices from more than a dozen phone makers.
If you’re curious about what’s coming to Android phones in the near future, or want to know how to download and test the beta for yourself, then we’ve got what you need to know about Android Q below.
Android Q Beta Timeline
Google’s shown off its schedule for beta releases and the final version in a handy timeline.
To summarize it in words: with the latest beta arriving at Google I/O, we’re due another update in June. After that, there will be two final versions of the beta, before the full Android Q release arrives at some unannounced point in the third quarter of 2019.
Right before that final release, we should find out what Google’s calling this version of its mobile OS. Your guess on the Q-named dessert Google finally settles on is as good as ours
Android Q New Features
A lot of what’s new in Android Q is behind-the-scenes stuff that developers will like, but users aren’t likely to notice. Still, at Google I/O, the company announced a few more high-profile additions to Android that will mark a change in how you use your smartphone.
It’s long been rumored and even spotted in some early Android Q builds, but Google made it official at I/O: Android is getting a Dark Theme, which gives you a black screen and alters the other colors in apps. This not only makes it easier on your eyes when the lights are low, it can also conserve smartphone power, as your device’s battery isn’t whirling away to keep the screen lit up.
Activating Android Q’s Dark Theme is as simple as toggling on a Quick Settings tile. The feature also turns on when you activate your phone’s battery-saving mode.
If you watch videos with the sound muted, Android Q is adding a feature that will allow you to still follow along with what’s being said — a closed caption capability that should also benefit people with impaired hearing or anyone straining to hear a video in a noisy environment. And the way Google has pulled off this feat sounds quite clever.
Live Captions will appear in near real-time, automatically. And that closed-captioning will take place entirely on your phone — Android Q won’t be turning to the cloud for help with speech recognition.
Google credits a breakthrough in on-device machine learning for powering Live Captions. The neural net Google needs to turn speech into text has been reduced from 2GB to about 80MB — small enough to live on your smartphone without squeezing out other applications and features.
Live Captions will work with video, podcasts and audio messages across any app with just a tap. Google also says the feature will work with videos you shoot yourself. Once speech is detected, captions start appearing on your phone’s screen.
If you use Gmail, you’re likely familiar with the Smart Reply feature in that mail client, which suggests pithy responses based on how you frequently reply to messages. Google’s working a similar feature into Android Q, baking Smart Reply into the OS’s notification system. That means you’ll get suggest replies to notifications, but it’s not just pity responses to text messages. Android Q will also suggest actions — opening maps when you’re sent an address, for example.
Google wants to make sending files a quicker process, so it's added Sharing Shortcuts as a feature. This lets app developers set a path into their app from the sharing menu, making sure everything’s in place for the user to send what they want.
Foldable Phones Support
Even after Samsung’s Galaxy Fold ran into trouble with its display that forced a delay of its April launch, foldable phones are still tipped to be the next big thing in smartphones. Google’s making sure that Android Q is ready for it.
Functions for pausing and resuming apps have been updated to allow for the multiple different processes that could run simultaneously on a foldable phone, and apps can now be more easily resized for changing between screens. Android Q will also support screen continuity where the app you were using on the folded-up display picks up right where you left off after you unfold the phone.
Wi-Fi and Connectivity
There have been some under-the-hood changes to Wi-Fi in Android Q, which Google says will make it faster and more secure to connect to other devices — handy if you’ve got a house full of smart home tech that needs controlling via app.
It’s now also easier to give your Wi-Fi password to someone else via the Settings menu. Under the Wi-Fi section, you can share the password in the form of a QR code, or read one such QR code to connect to Wi-Fi. No more turning your router this way and that to find the sticker with the password on it.
If you’re frequently bothered by telemarketers and robot callers, Android Q wants to help with its screen feature. Calls that don’t come from numbers saved in your contacts book can be automatically rejected, while still appearing in your call log if you want to check on the source of these irritating calls. There’s also the option to access and display information associated with a calling number, such as a business name or social network profile.
Camera and Photography
There are currently two improvements to photography included in the Android Q beta — changes to monochrome photography and depth
Monochrome is self-explanatory, and can be found in the current version of Android, 9.0 Pie. The changes let these greyscale images be saved in RAW format, which is good for anybody or any app wanting to process them; a new data storage method means the images will take up less space too.
App makers can now read more kinds of image data, including XMP (depth information) and compressed JPEGs, in their camera apps, by saving the information in a new dynamic depth format (DDF) file. For users, this means both default and downloaded photography apps will have the potential to produce better effects and more effectively process images.
Apps can now add support for a kind of settings pop-up that features only relevant options to the app you’re in. For example, if you’re not connected to the internet when you open a browser, the settings panel will let you immediately toggle your Wi-Fi, mobile data and Airplane Mode settings without having to go into the full Settings menu.
In other permission related changes, the Access Storage permission has now been split to individual folders that includes Photos, Videos, Audio and Downloads. Apps can no longer leap into the foreground while you’re using another app; the most an app can now do is give a notification that it wants to do something.
Privacy looks like it will be a major focus in Android Q, at least based on the attention Google paid to the topic during its developer conference. The company says almost 50 new features and enhancements in Android Q are dedicated just to security and privacy.
That includes making privacy features more accessible in Settings with a dedicated Privacy setting to help you manage activity data and ad settings.
Unless you’re devotedly toggling the settings before and after each time you use something like Google Maps, it’s most likely that you’re giving any apps that ask for your location your permission once, and then leaving it on forever, letting apps track your movements even if you’re not using them.
In Android Q, the permissions have expanded. You can still prevent an app from accessing your location, or give it permanent access, but now there’s a middle ground of only letting an app access your location while it’s running — iOS offers a similar feature.
You’ll be able to adjust your location-sharing preferences through a new Location section in settings. Android Q will also notify you when an app running in the background is trying to access your location so you can adjust that setting.
Android 9 Pie introduced the Digital Wellbeing feature for managing how often you look at your device and providing tools for minimizing interruptions. Android Q will continue the latter half of that mission with a new Focus mode that lets you block specific apps when it’s time to concentrate. Pick the apps you see as potential distractions, and they’ll be inaccessible when Focus mode is turned on.
In addition, Android Q will add Family Link parental controls to every device with Digital Wellbeing features. In addition to setting limits on screen time, parents will also be able to set limits on specific apps and grant bonus time if their kids need to use a particular app just a little bit longer.
Audio and Video
Thanks to some new codecs, and a developer tool to analyze the capability of the phone an app’s installed on, you will enjoy improved video and audio quality on phones running Android Q.
How to Download the Android Q Beta
One of the major barriers to testing new versions of Android has been the right phone in the first place. Earlier betas required a Google Pixel — 1,2 or 3, it doesn’t matter which version. (Google says that the newly released Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL will be eligible to run the beta in June.)
That’s changed with Android Q beta 3, which opens up the testing process to more deices. You’ll find a complete list of eligible devices at Google’s developer site, along with instructions for installing Android Q. In addition to Google’s Pixels eligible devices include:
- Asus 5Z
- Essential Phone
- Huawei Mate 20 Pro
- LG G8 ThinQ
- Nokia 8.1
- OnePlus 6T
- Oppo Reno
- Realme 3 Pro
- Sony Xperia XZ3
- Tecno Spark 3 Pro
- Vivo X27
- Vivo Nex S
- Vivo Nex A
- Xioami Mi 9
- Xiomai Mi Mix 3 5G
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro returns to the list of supported devices after briefly disappearing, no doubt because of Google's decision to suspend doing business with the Chinese phone maker after the U.S. effectively blacklisted Huawei. Additionally, OnePlus says its newly released OnePlus 7 Pro will be able to run the Android Q beta.
Whichever phone you happen to have on hand, make sure it’s not one you regularly use. Bugs in the beta can cause you to have to reset the device.
You can enroll in the Android Q beta here, and download the beta onto your phone or use a system image to update it. If you don’t have an eligible phone, you can download system images onto the Android Emulator program on your Windows, Mac or Linux computer.
We must however repeat: this beta is more for developers rather than for general use. Don’t do this out of casual interest, especially since future betas figure to be more stable.