Android Q Gets Location Privacy, On-the-Fly Updates

UPDATED with additional details about on-the-fly Android updates, plus Google Maps Incognito Mode. This story was originally published at 5:09 p.m. Eastern time May 7.

As you'd expect, Google is adding a few new security and privacy features to Android Q, the as-yet-unnamed update to its mobile operating system. By far, the most important is the ability to update the OS on the fly.

Photo credit: Tom's Guide

(Image credit: Photo credit: Tom's Guide)

"This means that you can get the latest security fixes, privacy enhancements and consistency improvements as soon as they're available, without having to reboot your phone," said an official Google blog posting timed for the first day of this year's Google I/O developer conference in Mountain View, California.

It's not yet clear whether those updates would be automatically pushed out to Android devices, or whether the user would have to authorize them. The desktop version of Ubuntu Linux has a similar update-without-reboot feature, but it's a pretty rare mechanism among operating systems otherwise.

The other enhancements mainly have to do with presentation. The Settings menu will get a new Privacy subsection, which will include a Location section that will give you "more transparency and granular control" about sharing location data with apps.

Android Q will also notify you when an app is using your location data, so that you can turn it off if needs be. There will also be an option to let an app access location data only when you're actively using the app.

"Android Q also provides protections for other sensitive device information, like serial numbers," the Google blog posting says, but doesn't provide any more details.

Presumably, this will let Android users limit the amount of tracking that Android-app adds can perform — recent studies found that locating and tracking Android users via online ads could be done for as little as $100.

As before, you can try out the Android Q beta on your Google Pixel phone, and the latest beta will also work on 21 devices from 12 phone makers.

Apart from the on-the-fly updates, there wasn't any news about the rather feeble Google Play Protect antivirus software built into Android. For now, stick to one of our recommended best Android antivirus apps.

UPDATE: The Verge's Dieter Bohn, who appears to have official but unnamed Google sources, says there are two big caveats to Android Q's on-the-fly updates that will, unfortunately, reduce their impact.

First, device makers can opt out of the program, which Google called "Project Mainline," meaning entire products lines may not get the updates. Second, the live updates will not work on phones that don't ship with Android Q installed. That excludes every phone sold today, including Google's current Pixel line.

In a related bit of news, Google also will give its Google Maps mobile app an Incognito Mode for when you don't want people to know what you're trying to find.

Check out all the news Google announced at its developer conference on our Google I/O 2019 hub page.

Paul Wagenseil

Paul Wagenseil is a senior editor at Tom's Guide focused on security and privacy. He has also been a dishwasher, fry cook, long-haul driver, code monkey and video editor. He's been rooting around in the information-security space for more than 15 years at, SecurityNewsDaily, TechNewsDaily and Tom's Guide, has presented talks at the ShmooCon, DerbyCon and BSides Las Vegas hacker conferences, shown up in random TV news spots and even moderated a panel discussion at the CEDIA home-technology conference. You can follow his rants on Twitter at @snd_wagenseil.