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.

You can read more about Android 10 at the Android website, the Android 10 for Developers page, or in Google’s Android 10 announcement for developers.

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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10 replies on “What’s new in Android 10?”

  1. “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.”

    Actually you do have to wait for Google as they are the ones who deliver the updates, not your 3rd party phone maker.

    1. Yes, but they say “don’t have to wait for an OS update” which is technically true. This isn’t specific to 10 though, it’s been baked into Play Services / Treble for a while a now.

      1. TL;DR – I’ll believe it when I see it.

        The skeptics will win this debate.
        Even with many redundancies, Google will (as it always does) prove its incompetence in time, on-top of this so will too other OEMs and Carriers.

        This is one of the many factors I admire Apple for. They’ve been put under the pressure by Carriers to add bloatware and updates for years, and they didn’t falter their stance. And this chasm between being consumer-friendly and being pro-business has caused underdog brands like OnePlus and HMD to blossom, as the majority of players are taking the route of Planned Obsolescence.

  2. Add me to the group of people not excited for gesture navigation. I know it has fans and can make some things more efficient, but I prefer the simplicity of easy-to-understand buttons, even if some things take extra steps. I know my parents would hate having to switch to gesture controls. My favorite gesture control is tapping on the on-screen buttons. I already migrated over to Nova Launcher, so I should be fine. I do think it would be a good idea for Google to continue offering the buttons to avoid angering users. Microsoft tried it with Windows 8 and ended up with a lot of angry users because they didn’t want to provide choice when making major changes to the interface.

    1. I second the older parents aspect of this. I’m fairly young and tech literate and even I’m not a fan of the gestures, at this point anyways, we’ll have to wait and see until I can try them out. My real concern though would be if my parent’s phones updated overnight, they would be so confused and would be calling me all day complaining they can’t do anything on their phone now. What a nightmare! I hope software buttons are still enabled by default and gestures are an option you need to enable, though I doubt it.

  3. – Gesture Navigation more like good bye reliable buttons and hello confusion and frustration. I am sure gestures will cause more trouble than provide benefits. I just don’t get why Google is so adamant on shooting itself in the foot.

  4. While I am looking forward to getting Android 10 on my Android One phone (Nokia 6.1) I am not looking forward to gesture navigation. Hopefully there will be the option to use a navigation bar. If not, hello Nova launcher.

    1. I just updated my Pixel and the navigation bar is still here. I don’t know if gestures are here and I’m not using them or if I have to turn them on. I don’t want them so I don’t plan on looking.

    2. Settings -> System -> Gestures -> System Navigation

      there you have a choice of:
      Gesture (10.0)
      2-Button (Pie)
      3-Button (8.x or earlier)

      1. To be fair, this Android10 gestures seem much better than the one on the iPhone X/r/S.
        And that was a poor-copy from BBX/QNX. Which itself tried to imitate ye olde webOS.

        I still like my Custom Navigation back from 2011 on ICS Android 4.0.3
        It was Tap for: Back, Home, Menu.
        Hold to: Kill App, App Switcher, Launch Task/App (flashlight).

        Although I feel like we should move toward gestures, but do so intelligently. I was drafting my own back in 2012-2014 where it would scale up from small phones, to large phones, tablets, laptops, and TVs. But it requires a complete departure/redesign from where iOS/Android were and are going, and its just too large of a task for myself. Perhaps it could be doable as a fork of AOSP with a small team. Then again, my ideas for wearables have changed since the emergence of side-mounted touchpad to simulate a rotating bezel and features like a digital crown.

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