Hands-On with Android Q Beta 1

Posted on March 17, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Mobile with 22 Comments

When Google announced the first beta release of Android Q this past week, I resolved to ignore it. That lasted about two hours.

And honestly, I have no good rationale for installing this thing, beyond my general interest in personal technology and, more specifically, what comes next. I’ve long enrolled all of my iOS devices in the next version of that system via Apple’s developer program, for example. And I’ve had good luck with previous Android betas and developer previews (where Google seems to have dropped that latter moniker this year, perhaps to get more users on board).

And … Call it prerelease regret, but I wish I had waited. Android Q Beta 1 has negatively impacted my Pixel 2 XL in two immediately obvious ways: The Fitbit app can no longer sync to my Fitbit Charge 3, and the Instagram screen that appears when you want to post one or more photos no longer displays thumbnails, making photo selection—especially for multiple pictures—painfully hard to use.

These issues are problematic because I recently switched back to the Pixel as my primary device, primarily to discover whether I’d miss the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and its superior camera. And … the answer is yes, actually. So regardless of these Android Q-related problems, and perhaps other coming problems that have not yet surfaced, it’s likely that I’d have switched back to the Huawei soon anyway. But these problems certainly don’t help Team Pixel.

In any event, Android Q does bring a number of changes, and some of them are no doubt improvements over what is currently being offered in Android P. I don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of the differences between Android versions—these days, I’m having trouble differentiating different Windows 10 versions as well, given the feature update frequency—but that’s OK: I can lean on various Android enthusiasts for the nitty-gritty. For example, Android Police has a great resource detailing all of the changes they’ve found so far in Android Q.

Here’s what I’ve actually noticed in day-to-day use over the past several days.

Dark mode. It’s basically broken in Beta 1, but Android Q will officially support a Dark mode theme. And … my phone is using it, with no way to turn it back to a Light theme. That’s OK, but many apps don’t work properly with the Dark mode.  As you can see here, some of the UI elements in Google Photos are still white. (And the status bar is completely wrong.) Google could be adding more theming features, including an accent color (similar to Windows 10) but those are only in Developer options for now.

A new Now Playing experience on the lock screen. Android Q displays a nicer-looking Now Playing experience for music/audio apps on its lock screen that incorporates album art. And there are more controls when you swipe down on the display to activate the notification shade.

Music information on Ambient display. In a related vein, the Ambient display—which normally just displays the clock and a few status icons, if necessary—now displays the name of the currently playing song and artist.

Estimated battery life remaining. If you enable the battery percentage display in the status bar, which I do on non-notch-based phones, you’ll see a new estimate of remaining battery life when you pull down the notification shade, which is nice.

Updated screenshots. When you take screenshots in Android Q, they will visually indicate the curved corners and notch (if present) on your display’s device. The shots I’ve seen from Pixel 3 XL are particularly hilarious given that device’s comically-large notch, but my Pixel 2 XL just has nicely curved corners. (As you can see on the screenshots in this post.)

Updated Share pane. Google advertised this in its Beta 1 announcement post, and given how slow the Share pane is today in current Android versions, I was very curious to see how well it would work. (Today, you need to literally wait while this pane appears and then fills in.) And … it’s still slow. The main pane panel (for apps) appears pretty much immediately, but the top panel, for users, still takes a second or two to fill-in.

Share Wi-Fi password with a QR-code. I haven’t had a chance to actually use this feature—I assume it requires that a second device also be using Android Q—but you can now share the password for a connected Wi-Fi network with others by using a QR-code.

New notification alert options. When you swipe to the left on a notification in the shade, there’s a new ringing bell icon. Select that, and you’ll be presented with new notification alert options: Block, Show silently, and Keep alerting. This is smart: Like many Android users, I’m often interrupted by notifications I don’t want and wish to immediately fix the problem.

Home screen icon removal undo. When you remove an icon from the Home screen, Android Q now provides a handy “Undo” option in the “Item removed” toast, just in case you did it by mistake.

Settings suggestions. When you open the Settings app, you’ll find a selection of Settings suggestions that the top. Some are useful—like “Add emergency information” or “Identify the music around you,” but there’s no way to turn them off that I can find. I assume this will change over the course of the beta.

Finally, I also noticed that the notification shade-based method for determining what to do when you connect the phone to your PC has disappeared. Which means it was painful getting my screenshots off the device. I assume this will change over the course of the beta as well.

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