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Android Q’s second beta embraces foldable phones, multitasking Bubbles

Android Q’s second beta embraces foldable phones, multitasking Bubbles


The new Bubbles feature aims to make multitasking better

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Google released its second Android Q developer preview today for all Pixel phones. They’re mostly under-the-hood tweaks, but the update also helps get apps and games ready for the first wave of foldable phones, and it brings along Bubbles, Google’s new take on multitasking that looks similar to Facebook Messenger’s Chat Heads, which could change how Android looks and works depending on how it’s implemented.

See the animated GIF immediately above? That’s Android Q’s new foldable screen emulator for developers (and us) to see what today’s apps and games might look like on actual foldable phones. Speaking of actual foldables, the emulator appears to target two rather familiar hardware configurations in particular: a 7.3-inch screen that folds down to 4.6 inches, and an 8-inch screen that folds to 6.6 inches. Those screen dimensions just so happen to match up with the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei’s Mate X.

Here’s a look at Bubbles in Android Q’s second beta
Here’s a look at Bubbles in Android Q’s second beta

Meanwhile, Bubbles might end up being a pretty divisive change to Android Q, depending on how it plays out — it’s a twist on multitasking that lets individual apps leave some floating bubbles on top of whatever else you’re doing on the screen. The idea is that when you get a notification in, say, Messages, you’ll be alerted by a Bubble and a keyboard will pop up so you can type a reply, but it won’t totally obstruct the app you’re using beneath it.

If that sounds familiar, it’s probably because a bunch of individual Android apps already do the same thing, most prominently Facebook Messenger with its Chat Heads — but Bubbles isn’t limited to messages. Google says that Bubbles can give users “a convenient view over ongoing tasks and updates, like phone calls or arrival times. They can provide quick access to portable UI like notes or translations, and can be visual reminders of tasks too.” This could end up being a better solution for some than running apps in split-screen mode, but for others, it might be annoying. Google’s actually already been experimenting with Bubbles in its Phone app, but this could make the idea go broader.

The Android Q beta has already made sharing things on social media and with your contacts faster and more intuitive, and now the share sheet interface can show a quick preview of what you’re sending before you share it, potentially preventing you from sharing an embarrassing photo with your family. Sure, it’s a relatively small quality-of-life improvement, but it’s a boon for those who share a lot of stuff.

New gesture navigation wasn’t detailed in the release notes, though 9to5Google found that the new beta actually has some revised controls for switching between apps. Similar to gestures introduced in the iPhone X, you can switch between apps by swiping to the left or right on the home button. It works in its beta form, but it’s not pretty. Part of the Google search bar shows up every time you swipe instead of remaining hidden.

We expect Google to release at least one more Android Q beta before Google I/O kicks off on May 7th. But don’t expect much in the way of buzzworthy features just yet; Google tends to save the more impressive announcements for the stage. If you want to download the beta, here’s how to do it.