The tenth version of the operating system will bring to your smartphones some new and significant features: security updates directly from Google, real-time video transcription, application blocking for defined periods of time and tools for parental control.
Sometime in the coming months Google will press a button – and version 10 of its operating system for smartphones, known as Android Q, will begin its journey to devices around the world.
The beta version of the Q is available today for dozens of smartphones, and Google recently unveiled some of its new and significant features.
The full name of the operating system will probably be revealed close to its launch, and it is likely that tradition will call it after a dessert.
What desserts start with Q? Not much. Google will have to be very creative this time.
In recent years the “big” version of Android is launched once a year, as Apple’s rival iOS. This has slowed down since the beginning of this decade, when there were several years in which several versions were launched, but the transition to annual launches does not indicate a slow pace of innovation in Android.
They just do not come just as part of a great update, but in other ways, and one of the highlights of Android Q is about reducing Google’s dependence on these annual updates.
One of the main problems of Android has always been fragmentation: thousands of companies use this operating system, which reaches hundreds of millions of devices. Unlike Apple, which is pushing iOS updates to all its devices, Google’s grip on Android is smaller. Those who distribute the upgrades in most cases are the manufacturers, sometimes in cooperation with the local cellular provider, which also approves the update. The result is that even today there are devices that update slowly or stop receiving support from the manufacturer a relatively short time after their launch.
Google understood this a long time ago, and began to disconnect some of its services from the operating system update, so you can update them by itself like any other application. It’s easy to forget, but in the beginning applications like Gmail and YouTube were part of Android and could not be downloaded. In Q, Google is trying to get out of the umbrella some of the security updates as part of a project called Mainline.
This does not mean that from now on, all Android devices will be secure and receive updates from Google itself – these are just some of the components that the company needs to update in order for the device to be secure, but this is a welcome step towards a future where we will not depend on the manufacturer.
New User Interface
At Google’s developer conference last week, the company talked about Android Q support for mobile phones and the unique challenges they pose, such as switching from using tablet apps to using phone mode. But given the price of today’s folding devices, these capabilities will be relevant to a few people. Most of us will be interested in more changes such as adding a system-wide dark mode that will save battery time, or changes in the navigation interface.
Google has been trying for some years a gesture-based interface, and it seems that the new Android version will be suspiciously similar to the gestures of the iPhone. At the bottom of the screen will be a small horizontal bar, and moving it will allow you to go to the home screen (top), to see the open windows (top and then sideways) and move quickly between windows (aside). Only the “Back” command is taken from the Huawei interface, and it allows you to move back by moving your finger from the left or right edge of the screen.
And if you already have an interface, also the alert screen in Q is slightly different from the previous version. To close an alarm you need to move it to the right. Moving right will open a menu of alarm options. Another innovation in this area is a new window size – not a warning but not a full screen, a kind of bubble, which you can move around the screen and reduce when needed.
Privacy and Distractions
Like all the Internet giants whose profits are based on advertising, Google is also under the thumb of regulators in Europe and the US One of the innovations in Android Q is a privacy control center that will be located in a conspicuous and permanent place in the notification window. And Google, and Google finally aligns with Apple, allowing you to decide that an app can only see your location when it’s on.
Another area where Google wants to stay ahead of its visitors is the argument that smartphones are taking over our lives. Last year, it allowed Android to track your application usage time and limit yourself, a feature that joined the Do Not Disturb mode, shut down alerts, and forwarded calls from unauthorized numbers to voicemail. This year, Focus Mode will allow you to select specific applications that you want to ignore for a certain period of time, and enable a situation where alerts will not appear and you will not be able to access them.
About a year and a half ago, Google launched a parental control application called Family Link, designed to allow parents to monitor their children’s use of their Android device and limit them when needed. In Android Q, FamilyLink’s capabilities will be integrated into the operating system itself, including the ability to submit to the children’s pleas with the “five minutes” button, which adds more game time even if they have already completed their daily quota.
One of the most intriguing innovations in Android Q is Live Caption, which was born in the Israeli R&D center but will be available in the first stage only in English. New developments in voice recognition technology enable Google to put into the phones a real-time transcription mechanism that does not require a network connection. In Q, this mechanism will be used to produce subtitles for any video or audio recording in English. This will be done at the operating system level, and no application support will be required. This can be very helpful for people with hearing impairments, but also for people who simply want to watch videos but can not or want to use a loudspeaker or headphones.
Google says that all the processing done for the benefit is local, and the information is not sent to their cloud or stored anywhere. In fact, even if you want to, you can not save the words on the device, and if you watch the video several times, the transcription will be repeated each time.