Google Android 10 is here. The first version of Google’s mobile operating system without a prominent, dessert-themed code-name is also the first to feature native support foldable displays, 5G connectivity, and a system-wide dark theme.
There aren’t a lot of surprises, since Google has been releasing public beta versions of Android 10 for months. But now that Google has released the source code and begun pushing Android 10 to Pixel smartphones, the company is giving us a better idea of what’s in Android 10… and what’s not.
A lot of the new features are under-the-hood changes that will affect developers, but may which not be as visible to end users. But here are some highlights:
- Dark Theme – This is one that folks have been years in the making, and allows users to switch to a dark theme to save battery life on phones with AMOLED displays (or for purely aesthetic reasons). Developers can adopt custom dark themes or Android 10 can create a custom one.
- Gesture Navigation – Goodbye navigation bar. Hello swipe gestures for moving forward, back, switching apps, or viewing the home screen.
- Live Caption API – This allows third-party video app makers to enable automatic captioning using on-device machine learning (so nothing is sent to a remote server).
- Foldable support – Apps can now adapt to different screen sizes or layouts on the same device depending on whether a screen is folded or unfolded.
- 5G support – There are new developer APIs to detect 5G networks and check to see whether a connection is metered.
- Smart Reply in notifications – Now when you’re replying to a message from the notification window, you may be presented with some personalized “smart reply” options.
- Focus mode – Still in beta, this feature lets you temporarily pause some apps for a distraction-free environment.
- Audio playback capture – Any app that plays sound can allow other apps to capture audio through a new API, which could be useful for things like game streaming or live captioning.
- Dynamic Depth for photos – Third-party apps can now use dynamic depth data.
- Sound Amplifier – This feature lets you boost sound, reduce background noise, and more when using headphones.
- Hearing aid support – Phone calls and media can now be streamed to Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids.
- Live Transcribe – While the Live Caption API can transcribe videos in real-time, this accessibility feature can transcribe real-world sounds in real-time, including indications for sounds like a dog barking or a person clapping.
- Privacy – Google has put all privacy controls in a new Privacy menu in the Android Settings app, given users more control over the way location data is shared with apps (always, while in use, or never), added an option to opt-out of ad personalization and retargeting, and made other changes (including stopping background apps from unexpectedly taking focus in the foreground).
- Security – Google will begin offering security and privacy updates through Google Play, which means you won’t have to wait for Google or your phone maker to release an OS update. All devices that ship with Android 10 will also have encryption enabled and have TLS 1.3 enabled by default.
- Emoji – There are 65 new ones.
- Share WiFi – You can generate a QR code to share your network login with a guest while keeping them from seeing your password.
- Quick Wallet Access – You can view credit cards, boarding passes, and other details from Google Pay from the Power menu, along with emergency info.
Other changes include support for the AV1 video codec, the Vulkan 1.1 graphics API (it’s now required for all 64-bit devices), the ability for apps to use high-performance and low-latency WiFi modes, and much, much more.
If you have a Pixel device, you can either wait for Google to push an over-the-air update to your device or download an Android 10 factory image or OTA update for your device if you want to update manually.
Meanwhile, the folks at Essential have already released Android 10 for the Essential PH-1, their first and only smartphone to date.
Updates should begin rolling out to other phones in the coming weeks and months.
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