It's that time of the year again. Google has pushed out betas for its latest, greatest version of Android: Q. Your eagle-eyed Android Police editors have been combing through looking for new features, changes, improvements, and even setbacks. We've enumerated everything we've found here, together with a brief description of what's new. So, let's take a look at Android Q.

As always, we have to thank our tipsters (❤️) for our feature-level coverage. Without all of you, our jobs would be much harder.

We've kept our general categories the same as last year for now, though they may be reorganized later if we determine different groups make sense. And keep in mind that we are still finding new features, so this document may sometimes lag a bit behind our series coverage. Based on a request I received last year, we've changed our format for these Android feature roundups to make them a little easier to follow over time.

What's new?

Android Q Beta 3 landed just in time for developers at Google's I/O conference to play with. Going by the originally released timeline, This version represents the last incremental update before the new APIs and SDK are finalized, so features are still trickling in — you can expect that to slow down a bit after Beta 4. Sadly, this latest version also seems to be the least stable of the betas released so far, and as always we recommend against using these developer-targeted builds for your daily driver.

A whole lot of new features have been discovered since our last major update to this list, many from the new Beta 3, as well as a few lingering surprises from Beta 2. Let's dive in:

The Android Q feature list

Entirely new Q features

General visual changes

  • Rounded screen corners/notches in screenshots: As of Beta 1, Android Q shows both the rounded corners on screens in devices like the Pixel 3, as well as the notch on the Pixel 3 XL. This may have been a mistake, and we might see this reverted, or it could be the norm going forward. Time will tell.
  • Grayscale options for individual apps: We don't know what it's going to look like or how it may manifest, since it isn't live yet, but Google assures us Android Q will eventually allow us to set individual apps as grayscale — presumably outside the existing option for that via Digital Wellbeing's Wind Down setting.
  • 'Bell' icon to indicate recent notifications: Google's all about notification management these days, and Android Q Beta 1 introduced a subtle new feature that gave notifications a ringing bell-shaped icon to indicate which is responsible for your recent interruption.
  • App info redesign, option to open app itself, notification stats, "Disable" becomes "Uninstall": In Android Q Beta 1, the app info pane has seen a bit of a visual makeover, with newly centered icons and text. You can now open the app directly from it, daily notification averages are shown, and Google has changed "Disable" to "Uninstall" for system apps (and "Enable" became "Install"). This pseudo-uninstallation process also no longer offers to remove app updates.
  • Ambient Display shows music info during playback: If your Pixel is playing back music on Android Q Beta 1, the Ambient Display will show details about the current track.
  • New battery icon: Following the style set by Google's new iconography elsewhere, you get an outline to the battery icon, and battery saver no longer makes it orange.
  • Profile picture in Settings: Pretty self-explanatory, your Google account's avatar appears now in the top right, sort of like some other Google-made apps. It is also a shortcut to account settings, device information, emergency info, and payment methods.
  • Active media playback app in Ambient Display now gets only one icon: Before the app playing content would appear as an icon next to the associated text (track/artist info), as well as in the list of notifications below for its ongoing notification. Now it doesn't appear in that second location.

Modifications to existing features

Privacy tweaks

  • Tweaks to identifiable permissions like location, IMEI MAC address, background app changes: Android Q, as of Beta 1, limits access to non-changeable device IDs like the MAC address or IMEI, and further changes permissions to provide options so they can be granted "only while the app is in use," rather than just a blanket yes/no. That means an app that isn't immediately open doesn't necessarily have access to your location. Background apps also can't suddenly change focus to bring themselves forward anymore.
    • If an app configured to do so does use your location in the background, you'll get a notification about it as of Beta 3, so you'll always be aware of when it happens.
    • The background app activity limits are now present in Beta 3.
    • More location permission tweaks: If an app with background location access takes advantage of that permission, you'll get a notification about it as of Beta 3, so you'll always be aware of when it happens.
  • Clipboard managers are ded: Although clipboard managers can provide utility in some workflows, the permissions they rely on could be used surreptitiously by nefarious apps in ways that could violate your privacy. From Android Q on, Google's giving them the boot. Only input method editors (keyboard apps, etc.) and foreground apps with focus will get access to the clipboard.
  • Revoke permissions at first launch for apps targeting older (pre-Oreo) API levels: Apps that haven't updated to target Android 8.0 Oreo will spit a new interstitial screen at launch that asks which permissions you'd like to enable, allowing you to manually disable those you don't want — and maybe break the app in the process.
    • As of Beta 2, Android will ask for permissions to be granted again when launching apps installed before the update.
  • Overlay attack mitigation: In the world of Android security, overlay-based attacks are one of the bigger problems, but Android Q works to mitigate their effect by changing how the overlay permissions work. From now on they'll need to be granted again every time you open an app that uses them.
  • Smart Lock developer options: Tweaks to how "trust agents" (like Google's Smart Lock) can keep the device unlocked.
  • MAC address randomization: Initially added in Android P as an experimental feature, MAC address randomization is now on by default in Android Q — though it's consistent, you will see the same randomly generated address when connecting to the same network again. It can be disabled if you need to turn it off, though.
  • Scoped Storage in Android Q nerfs filesystem access: Apps targeting Android Q will be limited in how they can access the filesystem via new isolated storage sandboxes. That means apps won't need permissions to write their own files, while also enhancing security between apps through isolated storage. It also means that they won't have blanket filesystem access by default. Old permissions aren't going away any time soon, and apps targeting platforms before Q will work via a "compatibility mode" that doesn't include these restrictions.
  • Encryption for all devices, including low-end hardware: Performance remains a question, but Android Q will require disc encryption, even on low-end hardware and.
  • TLS 1.3 will be enabled by default, and biometrics will now be classified as explicit and implicit based on type for different levels of security and privacy in different circumstances, plus other developer-facing improvements and changes.

Under the hood/API/developer stuff

  • Dynamic Depth data: Android Q will allow for apps to request depth information from the cameras. Google's done some incredible work to extract that information from its cameras (without the help of parallax, I should add), and in Android Q, even third-party apps will be able to make use of that extra data in new and interesting ways. I can't wait to see what gets cooked up.
  • ART enhancements: Developers can enjoy enhanced performance and more efficient garbage collection on Android Q via a suite of impressive but highly technical Android runtime enhancements.
  • Further non-SDK API deprecation: As much as possible, Google doesn't want developers using undocumented APIs in Android, and Android Q furthers this crackdown, expanding the list of affected APIs.
  • Folding phone tweaks: Android Q will feature some developer-facing modifications to better work with the emerging device form factor, but they're all too technical to get into here.
  • Smart home/IoT tweaks for Wi-Fi setup: Configuring smart home gadgets, which almost always need their own special app and require a peer-to-peer Wi-Fi connection, can be easier in Android Q. Developers will be able to configure their setup apps to have a list of preferred SSIDs, and paired with the expansion of slices to offer a built-in Wi-Fi picker in those apps, that can make the often tedious IoT setup process a little bit faster and simpler for consumers.
  • Apps assigned to default roles will get more permissions: Details are a little sparse on precisely which permissions each category gets, but apps that you assign as the default for a given role — like browser, SMS app, launcher, etc. — will pick up elevated access to certain functions based on that role.
  • Foldables (running Q) added to Android Studio emulator: Developers looking to get a head start on developing for foldable devices can do so via the Canary release of Android Studio 3.5, which includes emulator images that have folding functionality.
  • API for microphone direction: Android Q includes new APIs that allow developers to request specific microphone directions like "front" or "back."
  • New "Notification Assistant" API for apps like Tasker: Android Q may be making things harder for apps that harness things like automation or overlays, but Google is introducing a new default app setting and associated API that might mitigate things for those sorts of apps slightly — at least when it comes to notifications.
    • This feature isn't intended for general public use, though. After enabling it in Beta 3 and accidentally publishing documentation for the API, the pages have been taken down, and Google has confirmed that these actions were intentional. Notification Assistant is an invite-only API club.
  • Vulkan 1.1 required on all 64-bit devices running Q or higher: Support for Vulkan API 1.1 was introduced on Android P, but as of Q and forward it will be a hard requirement for 64-bit devices.
  • AV1 video codec, Opus audio codec: Android Q will have native support for the new, data-saving AV1 video codec and the Opus audio codec.
  • Device temperature API: Smartphones get a lot warmer now than they used to — at least, excluding Qualcomm's wonderful Snapdragon 808/810. With developers already pushing the limits of passive cooling with heatpipes, as well as external active cooling solutions, a new Thermal API can further help apps respond to changes in temperature for an enhanced experience.
  • Audio Playback Capture API: A new API is behind the upcoming magic of Live Caption shown off at I/O, which allows for real-time subtitling of any audio being played on your device. However, the app could also be used for other novel purposes by enterprising developers.