It’s June time and Android Q Beta 4 has been released! This is the update they finalized all the Developer APIs and have the official API 29 SDK done. This is the calling to all us developers that it is critical that we get our apps tested for Q compatibility straight away!

So far, the releases for Android Q have followed quite a consistent schedule with Beta 1 released in March, 2 in April, and 3 in May.

Beta 5 and 6 which we can expect in the following months are going to be release candidate builds which just mean there are going to be a few optimisations here and there, as well as some bug fixes if we find some along the way.

With that said, we now know we have to respond to our calling but what about the meat that Beta 4 has brought to the table? Well, quite a lot actually.

What’s New?

Adaptive Notifications and Smart Reply

The ability to respond to messages right from the notification was a feature I adored when it came out in Android Nougat.

Q Beta 4 takes this a step further. When faced with any sort of message-type notifications, your notification will now present you with up to 3 smart replies making the process a lot more seamless if it happens to present you with the right options.

On top of this, we now have a new set of features called Adaptive Notifications which Smart Replies actually falls under. Adaptive Notifications allows the system to automatically determine lower priority notifications and automatically set them to Gentle which means they won’t ring, they show up lower on the notification tray, and you can have them not show their icon on the status bar.

As a side note, notifications can once again be dismissed by swiping toward either direction!

Theming

Android Q brought a lot to the table when it comes to theming. Beta 2 gave us a new Developer Setting to fully customize our system colors and accents the way we love Android for. Beta 3 even added a system-wide dark mode which was a long requested feature.

Beta 4 adds a bit more on to this as we have 4 new accents to pick from: Cinnamon, Ocean, Space, and Orchid.

Digital Wellbeing – App Timer

The App Timer has been around for about a year now and it’s already gathered strong statistics to its name (app timers helped people stick to their goals over 90 percent of the time).

Beta 4 takes this just one little step further by adding the timer at the bottom of each app in the Recents view so you can manage your time just that little bit better.

Bubbles… without ADB

It’s finally a thing now. Gone are the days of requiring some ADB hacking to get bubbles into your system. They are now accessible on the surface through a toggle in the notifications settings… yup it’s not in the developer options.

Google previously mentioned that Bubbles in Q isn’t going to be a user-facing feature just yet, but rather a preparatory step for developers to get their apps working with it before the coming of Android R. The option’s even turned on by default!

Yet apps which we expect to work with Bubbles like Hangouts just aren’t showing the functionality working just yet which is just bound to leave us confused as to what’s actually going on. Give us an answer Google.

Screen Attention

One thing XDA developers found hidden under Q’s code is the all-new Screen Attention. The feature uses your camera to figure out if you’re reading a long passage so it doesn’t put itself to sleep just because you ain’t touching the screen.

The feature will be under the display settings. Privacy concerned? This is Android Q we’re talking about! None of the data recorded by the phone is saved anywhere, not even locally on the phone. It’s all simply discarded.

Always-On-Display

Always-On-Display is another feature that Android had for a while now for those who want a slight battery trade-of to have some key information more easily accessible.

Q Beta 4 makes a minor addition by including the current weather and temperature. The clock now has a bolder look, if you got music playing, the music icon now appears beside the artist instead of the track title. These little improvements might make you consider that this ambient display is worth the little battery it uses.

Gesture Navigation

 

Beta 3 introduced the option to navigate through the system completely through the use of gestures by swiping around the edges of the screen. This couldn’t be done perfectly though as some apps simply don’t support this way of navigation, such as when they got hamburger menus.

A slight tweak to Gesture Navigation has been made when apps go into fullscreen. The back gesture is now disabled, primarily for the sake of games. There are still consequences to this though such as in Twitter when you open an image and the app goes into fullscreen. Hopefully developers will notice and make ammends to these scenarios.

With the hamburger menus however, the Play Store and the native Android Files apps show how developers should implement back navigation alongside them. The way is for the first swipe to open the hamburger menu, and a second swipe to trigger the back action.

One more note about Gesture Navigation is that Screen Pinning is disabled when using full gesture navigation. This is to fix a problem where you can get stuck in a pinned app and would have to reboot to escape.

Dynamic System Updates

Android Q now provides a way to temporarily install updates to temporarily try a new version of Android on your phone. These updates tend to be pure Android and so have none of the device-specific optimizations you see that makes Android the streamlined system it is.

Still though, it’s great for testing your apps on newer Android versions without having to rely on emulators.

Minor Updates

  • Contextual Rotation Button is back
  • Share menu added a new row for “frequently used targets”
  • ‘Sleep’ renamed to ‘Screen Timeout’ in settings
  • Live wallpapers now have a preview button to see the wallpaper fullscreen

On top of these, there were hidden features found that tell us a lot about what’s to come for the final release of Q

  • ‘Smart Lock’ changed to ‘Pixel Presence’ outside of US localizations
  • Google Pay will be accessible through the Power Menu
  • Searching for “face” in Settings reveals some Face Authentication related settings, will likely be a complete feature in Q’s final release