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Android 10: what's new

We're getting a better idea of the new Android 10 features to come thanks to the beta of Google's mobile operating system. Additional features and bug fixes have come with all the beta releases up through the sixth and final beta that came out in early August.

Some of the changes are confirmed, while others remain rumors. Here's what you can expected ahead of the official Android 10 release date in August.

Android Q won't have Android Beam

One feature Android 10 won't have is Android Beam, the NFC peer-to-peer sharing method when two devices are nearby. Placing phones back-to-back will do nothing in the beta and final software, we confirmed at Google IO.

Will Google replace Android Beam with another peer-to-peer sharing method? That remains to be seen. We may have to wait until the final Android 10 release date to see it, or maybe when the Google Pixel 4 launches (excepted in October).

Closing privacy loopholes

report from the International Computer Science Institute found that over 1,300 apps on the US Google Play Store routinely scraped personal data from users even if explicitly denied by relevant permissions settings. 

Appmakers have been using multiple clever workarounds to get the info they wanted: if a user set their permissions to not share location data, the apps took their MAC address from routers connected to the phone. They stored the device-identifying IMEI number accessed by one app and shared it with others. They even determined user locations with image metadata.

Google is reportedly fixing these issues with the full release of Android 10 in August, though presumably not in any planned beta beforehand.

Android Q 'bubbles' multitasking

You've seen the bubbles UI before if you've used Facebook Messenger chat heads. It's an easy way to keep active conversations on-screen as small floating profile pics, while going about your normal tasks in the rest of the interface. You can tap the pic when you want to switch back to the conversation.

Google is supporting this idea throughout Android 10 and calling it a new way to multitask. So far, its examples are coming to Messages and Hangouts. But Google is reducing development time, interactivity consistency, and user privacy safeguards, so expect to see it in additional apps outside of Google's ecosystem.

Dark Theme, the system-wide dark mode

There's a system-wide dark mode coming to Android 10 and it's called Dark Theme. We've tested in out at Google IO and it works as intended, but needs to roll out to more of the menus. So far it's limited to the settings menu. It's very early.

You'll be able to trigger Dark Theme in two different ways, and both are in the notification shade. The first way is with a dedication Dark Theme quick settings button that switches between the default Light Theme and new Dark Theme. 

The second way is to turn on a Battery Saver mode, which automatically turns on Android 10 Dark Theme. This is a boon for phones with OLED screens, which will burn fewer pixels by essentially turning off pixels in regions of the display that are intentionally black.

New Android 10 privacy features

The Android Developer Blog post announcing the developer beta confirmed a heavy emphasis on boosting privacy in Android 10, a focus that was reaffirmed in the Google IO 2019 keynote.

Users will have more control over app access to location info, shared files and repositories like Photos and Videos. Another helpful change: instead of apps automatically switching focus when they have an Activity in the background (like an alarm or call), appmakers can opt to send high-priority notifications first. 

Android 10 beta 3 also introduced a new feature – Scoped Storage – which allows users to control how apps access external storage (say, in a MicroSD card). It will also better protect users from being identified by restricting access to non-resettable device identifiers, like your phone's serial number and/or IMEI, and randomizing its MAC address when connected to different Wi-Fi networks. 

These might be some of the most onerous changes for developers in Android 10, which is why, as the Android Developers Blog post reads: "We are bringing these changes to you early, so you can have as much time as possible to prepare.

Back Button

The back button, a navigation staple of Android, is officially going away with Android 10.

Following up on Pie's gesture-based navigation that kept the aging back button around, Android 10 now features a fully gesture-based method of navigation. Swiping up goes home, a swipe up and hold reveals the multitasking menu, and a swipe from the left or right edge of your screen goes back.

That's a pretty big shift for Android navigation, but if you aren't ready to commit to 100% gestures quite yet, you don't have to.

In addition to the new gesture navigation, Android 10 also allows you to switch back to Android Pie's two-button system and the traditional three-button array. It's unclear if these options will remain on devices like the Pixel 4 that ship with Android 10 out of the box, but at least for phones like the Pixel 3 and 3a that are updated to Android 10 from an older version, it's up to you as to what navigation system you use.