Android 10 Released, Starts Rolling Out to All Google Pixel Phones: Here’s What’s New

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Android 10 is now rolling out to all Pixel phones – namely, the Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 3a, Pixel 3a XL, Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel, and Pixel XL. Users can either wait for the over-the-air (OTA) update to roll out, or, they can sideload the OTA update files apart from flashing factory images. For the latest software version, Google decided to break the 10-year history of naming Android releases after desserts, and call its next version as just Android 10. Google claims that it is changing the way it names the Android releases to make it clear and relatable for global users. We tell you how you can go about getting Android 10 onto your Pixel device. And, now that Android 10 has finally released, we also take a look at all the new features the update brings along with it.

Android 10: How to download, install

As we mentioned, if you have a Pixel smartphone – you can either wait for the Android 10 OTA update to arrive, or check for new updates via Settings > System > System updates. Google has also published the Android 10 OTA update files for all the Pixel smartphones, and you can find them here. These files can be sideloaded once downloaded onto your Pixel phone. Despite this OTA method not erasing your data, we recommend users back up in any case before taking the plunge.

Finally, Pixel phone users can visit the Android 10 factory images pages if they want to flash the full ROM onto their phones. This method will erase data, and users should back up before starting the process of flashing. As we mentioned, Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 3a, Pixel 3a XL, Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel, and Pixel XL₹ 34,990 are the eligible devices. Google announced the rollout in a blog post by Dave Burke, VP of Engineering, Android. The Android Open Source Project (AOSP) page has also received the Android 10 source code, Stephanie Cuthbertson, Senior Director of Product Management, Android, said in a developer-focused post. 

Android 10: Top new features

Google Android Q is now officially called Android 10.

Dark Theme

Announced at I/O 2019, Android 10 brings system-wide Dark Theme, which essentially will help in reducing eye strain as well as save battery life. Users will be able to activate system-wide dark theme from Settings > Display, the new Quick Settings tile, or by turning on Battery Saver. Apart from changing the system UI to dark, supporting apps will also show their new dark theme. If developers don’t want to build their own dark themes, they can opt-in to a new Force Dark feature that lets the OS create a dark version of their app. The feature can also be extended by developers to all versions of their app, including those meant for older versions of Android.

Enhanced Privacy Controls

In terms of privacy, Android 10 brings a brand new Privacy section within Settings, and this section includes Activity Controls, Location History, and Ad Settings, amongst other options. It also brings new features including options for when to grant an app location permission (i.e., All the time, Allow only while using the app), and Scoped Storage that gives users better control over their apps can access files on external storage like a microSD card, as well as limiting app access to sensitive user and app data.

Privacy features also include blocking unwanted app launches from the background, and in an effort to prevent tracking, Android 10 will limit access to “non-resettable device identifiers” apart from randomising MAC addresses.

Location Controls

Android 10 brings enhanced location controls allowing users to control how apps access device location. It will offer more granular options to choose from – like grant access all the time, never, or only when the app is open.

Focus mode

Focus mode is also a new Android feature that will be made available to Android 9.0 Pie users as well, alongside Android 10. A new feature for the company’s Digital Wellbeing initiative, Focus Mode lets users silence apps they find distracting until they leave the mode. The new mode can be quickly turned on and off via Quick Tiles. A more nuanced DND mode, if you will.

Live Caption

Live Caption is perhaps the most interesting new feature in Android 10. Building on the captions technology developed for YouTube, Live Caption is a completely on-device captioning tool that lets the OS provide captions for audio messages, videos, podcasts, and more, across any app. While beneficial to those that want to watch things on mute, it will also be very useful to those with difficulty hearing.

Enhanced Notifications

Android 10 also introduces a hierarchy system for notifications, classifying them into Gentle and Priority tiers. This is intended to help users manage the overload of notifications that we all have to deal with. Priority notifications will grab users’ attention with sounds and status bar icons, and will appear on the lock screen, while Gentle notifications will always be silent and will simply live in the pull-down notifications shade.

Bubble notifications

One of the most interesting new Android 10 features is a completely new style of notifications, called Bubbles. Similar to the Chat Heads that some messaging apps use, Bubbles allow users to quickly multitask while carrying on a conversation. Floating icons will appear on screen for chat notifications. They can remain there so a user can pick up a conversation at any time. Users can drag these to any part of the screen, and simply tap them to expand the associated app’s message view and composition tools.

Bubbles will be prioritised for communication notifications, and users will be able to pin them to their home screens for continual access. Bubbles are designed for notifications that require or can lead to a lot of user interaction. Google understands that they will take up screen space, compete for user attention, and might potentially be annoying. Not all notifications need to be presented as bubbles, so they will be limited to messaging, calling, and user-initiated interactions.

Smart Reply and Actions

Also new are the inclusion of Smart Reply and Actions into the Notifications framework, offering system-provided smart replies and actions inserted directly into notifications by default. App developers will be able to supply their own replies and actions. By default all notifications from messaging apps will let users quickly send useful contextual information as a reply, or launch an app, such as Google Maps, if the received message contains an address.

Redesigned share sheets

Android 10 has a completely new share sheet, which is the UI that appears when you want to send content from within an app, such as a link or a snippet of text, either to a specific person or to another app in order to do something with it. The new sheet is simpler to use and makes the available options more obvious. It’s also designed to be quicker.

The sheet will have a preview of content right at the top, so users can get an idea of what recipients will see. There’s a default style for this, but developers will have options to customise the preview with rich metadata including a thumbnail and additional descriptive text. The overall UI is meant to mimic that of the Android launcher, with a list of auto-suggested shortcuts above a full, alphabetised list of possible actions.

The upper rows will encourage users to share content within an app, with other users as the gargets. These rows will show up to eight targets, which are specific actions such as sending something to a particular person using a particular app. On the backend, developers will have access to a new API to define these actions and they can prioritise a small number of sharing actions that happen within the app, which will be shown first.

Gesture navigation mode options

Android 10 also brings a new fully gestural navigation mode that eliminates the navigation bar area, with the aim of allowing “apps and games to use the full screen to deliver their content.” Back, Home, and Recents can be accessed with edge swipes rather than visible buttons. These can now be switched on from Settings > System > Gestures. Now, swiping up from the bottom of the screen takes the user to the Home screen, holding brings up Recents, while swiping from the screen’s left or right edge triggers the Back action.

Native Support for Foldable Devices

Android 10 also brings native support for foldable devices, and in its demo I/O 2019, Google showed a cool continuity feature wherein games switched from a smaller screen to a larger tablet-like screen seamlessly. With the impending arrival of the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X, this support will be useful and extend support to more such phones in the future.

Other features include improved Family Link, Sound Amplifier, as well as improved security updates.

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