Dark theme and gestures: iOS-inspired changes coming in Android Q


  • TECH
  • Friday, 17 May 2019

On devices with OLED displays, dark mode consumes far less energy. — dpa

Google has unveiled a host of new features planned for the next version of its operating system, Android Q. Dark theme, gesture controls, digital wellbeing – hold on, is there anything iPhone users don't already have?

Judging by the applause at Google's recent developer conference I/O, the most exciting new feature set to arrive on the next version of Android is a dark theme.

This isn't just about a newer, cooler look, but far more about saving power. On devices with OLED displays, a dark mode costs far less energy, and the battery power will last longer.

And yet a dark mode was introduced by Apple on the iPhone two years ago. Indeed many of the features promised for Android version Q in the second half of 2019 will appear familiar to anyone with an iPhone.

Google is also continuing along the path of "digital wellbeing", a feature that compares to Apple's "Screen Time" on iOS devices. The idea is for users to be able to help themselves concentrate on important tasks instead of wasting time on social media or with email.

First introduced on the current Android Pie, this feature is getting an update on Android Q. The Digital Wellbeing features will let users push distracting apps like Instagram, Gmail and Twitter into the background, effectively switching off notifications for a set time period.

Attendees at the conference were divided when it comes to the new gesture controls presented for Android Q, which is heavily based on controls for the iPhone. In place of a back button, the next version of Android will have a back gesture.

To go back a step, you stroke across the display from the edge. While this helps save some space on a screens where the back button would have been displayed, it could prove complicated if the manufacturer or app has other gestures that clash with Google's controls.

However, Google has also come up with several new features that may well make iPhone users jealous.

Android Q will help able-bodied users benefit from features that were intended for people with disabilities. This includes an automatic transcription feature, which can recognise real-time speech, analyse the content and generate subtitles immediately – these can appear when watching videos, or listening to podcasts or even while listening to a voice message.

This feature was initially designed for deaf users, but it soon became apparent that it could be useful for everyone – for instance if you're in a public place where don't want to play a video with the sound on.

Google has also significantly improved its data security: Android Q's settings now has a special privacy area, in which users can find all the important elements relevant for controlling private data.

Users will find it easier to check what location information is being used by apps and tell when an app is accessing your location data while inactive. Again, Google is drawing inspiration from Apple on this matter.

It was not clear which devices would receive the new operating system. At Google I/O, the company said that 21 devices from 13 manufacturers would support Android Q – that includes the Pixel phones, Huawei's Mate 20 Pro, Sony's Xperia XZ3, the Oneplus 6T and the Nokia 8.1.

Users of these devices can already download the beta version, but Google has warned that Android Q is not yet completely faultless. – dpa
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