Google has released the first preview of Android Q to developers today in what’s become the annual tradition of an early March look at the next major version of Android. As is usually the case, today’s release is really meant for developers only. Most of the bigger, front-facing changes that will affect users likely aren’t here yet, although Google says that the new update will bring some interesting changes, like better privacy controls and native support for foldable phones.
Available today for any Pixel device
The first beta of Android Q is available now for any Pixel device, including the first-gen Pixel and Pixel XL — Google says it extended support to those models due to popular demand — but you should probably avoid installing it on your main device. But even if Google is saving features for later announcements like Google I/O, the early preview still gives us a valuable look at what Google is updating with Android Q.
One major change coming to Q is an additional privacy setting for location access that will let users limit apps to only pull that information while the app is in use, instead of just giving a blanket switch to for apps to either always have location access or never have it. Google is also putting new limits on the access apps will get to things like photos, videos, and audio as well as any downloaded files on devices.
Also coming in Q is better support for foldable phones, which is something that Google already promised back in November. Q is getting better support for resuming and pausing apps from running in the background as well as improvements to resizing apps for split-screen modes, all of which should be helpful for when the first foldable devices like the Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X are released later this year.
Another neat feature is a new Settings Panel API, which will let developers give instant, pop-up access to phone settings like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and NFC without having to kick users out to the settings app and back. The idea is that if you’re, say, setting up a Bluetooth speaker, your configuration app would be able to pop up the device’s native Bluetooth panel to turn on the radios and connect right from the app.
Google is also finally, finally improving the share sheet in Android Q, allowing developers to pre-publish how their apps work with sharing, meaning that the share UI can load instantly instead of having to manually rebuild all the possible options every time. It’s a small change, but one that should make Android Q far more enjoyable to use.
There’s also some new photo and video options in Q: Google is standardizing how depth map images with work with Android through a new Dynamic Depth format that contains a JPEG image, depth metadata, and a depth map bundled together. Developers will be able to pull Dynamic Depth images from devices with cameras that support it, meaning that it’ll be easier for third-party apps to offer specialized blurs and bokeh options. Google also announced that Android Q is getting support for the next-generation AV1 video codec, which should offer improved streaming quality with less bandwidth once content providers start supporting it.
There is one thing that’s missing from Android Q, though: Google has given no hint about which Q-named snack the operating system will eventually be named after, although the company certainly has an uphill battle ahead of it.
Update March 13th, 4:05pm: Updated post to reflect that Android Q Beta 1 is now available to download.