Android Q: Smart replies and live subtitling – what’s in the new update | Science & Tech News

The newest version of the Android operating system is being rolled out today, with 21 devices from three brands in the beta release.

A full release with tried and tested features isn’t expected for a few months when Q will be given its full name, but those willing to try out Google’s experimental offering can expect:

:: Support for foldable phones
:: Live caption subtitling
:: Smart replies and suggestions
:: Dedicated privacy setting
:: More digital well being tools

Android versions have historically been named in alphabetical order after various forms of confectionery, with the most recent being called Marshmallow, Nougat, Oreo, and Pie.

Onlookers have noted that the options for words beginning with Q are very slim (quince has been suggested) and some suspect Google might drop the convention as a result.

Richard Yu, the CEO of Huawei's consumer products division presents the new HUAWEI Mate X foldable smartphone at the Mobile World Congress (MWC), on the eve of the world's biggest mobile fair, on February 24, 2019 in Barcelona. - Phone makers will focus on foldable screens and the introduction of blazing fast 5G wireless networks at the world's biggest mobile fair starting tomorrow in Spain as they try to reverse a decline in sales of smartphones. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP) (Photo credit should
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Support for foldable phones is included in Android Q

:: Support for foldable phones

Android Q is being designed to support everything these foldable devices could achieve, from multi-tasking on a single screen through to adapting what’s on the screen while users unfold their phones.

A number of foldable phones have been announced this year, although Samsung has delayed its launch after the device was criticised for being too easy to break by reviewers.

Huawei and LG also announced foldable phones earlier this year, with LG’s V50 appearing to be optimised for gaming according to publicity images.

A video released by Google shows a seamless transition into the Samsung Galaxy Fold’s open state while playing a driving game.



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What gaming will look like on foldable Android devices

:: Live caption subtitling

Google has also touted its on-device machine learning software, which is powering a live subtitling feature.

There are 466 million deaf and hard of hearing people around the world, for whom Google says “captions are more than a convenience – they make content more accessible”.

The aim is that with a single tap the feature will automatically caption any media that’s playing on users’ phones, whether videos, podcasts or audio messages, even if WiFi or data isn’t enabled.



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Live subtitles in new Android phone update

This on-device machine learning software also means that Android Q can provide smart suggestions when users receive messages, including prompts to open Google Maps when users are sent an address.

:: Dedicated privacy setting

Google claims there are almost 50 new features and changes which focus on security and privacy.

A new dedicated privacy section in the settings app will provide users with all of their controls in one place.

A new location section will also provide users with the ability to control which apps they can share location data with, and when.

Notably this feature already exists in Apple’s iOS, which has for a long time been seen as the more security and privacy-focused operating system.

Android Q aims to gain back some ground in this area though with an additional update to provide security in the background without users having to reboot their phone.

Family Link features in Android Q
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Family Link features in Android Q

:: More digital wellbeing tools

Across the world there has been a push-back against the time that people are spending on their mobile devices.

Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook recently declared that the company doesn’t want its customers to spend all of their time on phones.

Android Q is introducing a new featured called focus mode in which users can select the apps they find distracting – such as email or the news – and silence them until they come out of the setting.

A new dark mode will be included for people who dislike seeing the bright white light of the background.

It will also help families control their children’s use of their phones more using the Family Link parental control setting, which can add time limits to apps and even lock the device at night.

Android Q wellbeing
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Android Q wellbeing

Android is the most widely used mobile OS in the world, installed on roughly 76% of all smartphones, including those manufactured by Samsung, Sony and Huawei.

Features in the Q release are heavily configured towards promoting Google’s own services – something for which the Android maker has been recently criticised.

Last year Google was fined €4.34bn (£3.8bn) by the EU for abusing its control of the operating system by forcing vendors to pre-install its apps.

It is unclear how competitors will respond to the features included in Q.

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