Android Q developer beta is available for all Google Pixel phones

After some early peeks at features from leaks, Google has released its Android Q developer beta, which you can use if you own any Pixel phone, from the latest Google Pixel 3 all the way back to the first Pixel and Pixel XL.

This is the first Android Q beta of several before its full release, which will likely be in fall. As expected, it’s got a bunch of new features that will refine (and hopefully improve) the Android experience…but since this beta is for developers, a lot of the changes listed on the Android Developers Blog post explain all the new features and APIs for apps.

Those interested can enroll here to get Android Q beta updates over-the-air, but only on their Pixel phones (at least for now). 

Features aimed at developers, not consumers just yet

This initial beta may not have all the fun new UI changes that will come in the eventual release, and more exciting features will likely be revealed at Google IO 2019 in May, as XDA Developers points out. 

Instead, this beta has developer-focused tools and options. Some of these are obvious, like compatibility features for foldable phones. Others are more nuanced quality-of-life refinements, like improved shortcuts to make sharing content between apps easier and faster. 

What's in the box?

That said, there's a lot in this developer beta, so strap in.

As rumors suggested, the Android team has refined privacy settings in Android Q, and we're starting to see some. Users will have more control over app access to location info, shared files and repositories like Photos and Videos. Another helpful change: instead of apps automatically switching focus when they have an Activity in the background (like an alarm or call), appmakers and opt to send high-priority notifications first. 

These might be some of the most onerous changes for developers in Android Q, which is why, as the Android Developers Blog post reads: “We are bringing these changes to you early, so you can have as much time as possible to prepare.”

Developers will also be able to show contextually-important system settings within their apps, which harnesses the 'Slices' feature that came in Android 9 Pie. So instead of having to navigate to Settings to switch on Airplane Mode or toggle Wi-Fi or Mobile Data on/off, say, you'll be able to do that right within your mobile browser.

There are also tweaks to connectivity, including 'adaptive Wi-Fi' that enables high performance/low latency modes, which would be useful for things like online gaming or voice calls.

Like all the depth and blur in Pixel camera software? In Android Q, apps can request depth data (JPEG + XMP metadata + depth and confidence map) to, say, offer “specialized blurs and bokeh options in your app,” as the Android post suggests. “You can even use the data to create 3D images or support AR photography use-cases in the future.”

Android Q will also support more multimedia codecs: AV1 to let media providers stream high-quality video, Opus for audio encoding, and HDR10+ for high dynamic range video “on devices that support it” – like, say, the Samsung Galaxy S10 family.

As for gaming, the Android Q beta enhances support for OpenGL along with bug fixes and more functionality. 

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David Lumb

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