Google gave Android users a first look at the next version of its mobile operating system at its I/O developer conference in California this week.
Known as Android Q, the operating system will be available as a free software update later this this year, and will introduce a whole range of new features, gestures, AI and privacy advances.
Perhaps the feature that Android users are most excited about is “dark mode”, which allows you to switch from black text on a white background to white text on a black background.
This not only saves your eyes, but also your battery life – as the dark screen consumers a lot less power.
Android Q will also introduce 53 new gender-neutral emoji, in an attempt to challenge what Google describes as “man-centred culture”.
These include a range of professions, sports and hobbies – as well as fantasy characters such as zombies, vampires and merpeople – without any discernible gender.
“We’re not calling this the non-binary character, the third gender, or an asexual emoji – and not gender neutral. Gender neutral is what you call pants,” Google designer Jennifer Daniel told the Fast Company .
Other features coming with the Android Q update include:
- Gesture navigation: Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to go home, swipe up and hold to go to recently-used apps, swipe in from either the left or right edge of the screen to go back.
- Smart replies: Tap on a notification from any messaging app to get a list of suggested responses.
- Support for foldable displays: If you’re planning on buying a Samsung Galaxy Fold or Huawei Mate X, Android Q will be a crucial update to make your device run smoothly.
- Live captions: Get subtitles on any media that’s playing audio on your phone. Android Q uses AI to transcribe the audio in real time without needing internet access.
- Parental controls: Family Link feature lets you set screen time limits, approve app installations, track usage and set the phone to switch off at bedtime.
- Privacy controls: Android Q lets you limit location access to only when the app is being used, never, or all the time, and also control which apps can access which files or sensitive data,
- Faster updates: Security fixes, privacy and consistency updates will be installed in the background, as soon as they are available, so you won’t have to reboot your phone.
Google has released Android Q as a public beta, so if you have a Pixel phone you can try it now – although you might notice a few bugs.
The final version of the operating system will be released in the third quarter of 2019, which in previous years has meant some time in August.
At that point, people with Google’s Pixel smartphones will be able to update to the new operating system immediately.
Other Android users will have to wait for their smartphone manufacturer to make the update available at a later date.