Last week saw the release of Android Q, and a lot of new features to go with it. The week of March 16th through 21st brought even more of that, along with a few Pie updates, Google’s new gaming announcement, and more.
More Android Q Features
We had a massive list of Android Q features in last week’s Android news roundup, and of course more of that sort of thing continued to trickle out this week. While the list isn’t quite as long, there’s still a lot of interesting stuff here.
- Android Q may get chat head-like notification bubbles for other apps. This sounds interesting, useful, and potentially annoying all at the same time. [XDA Developers]
- Along that same line (but opposite), Google is cracking down on full window overlays like chat heads. This permission will be heavily restricted on sideloaded apps, but a little open with things installed from the Play Store. [Android Police]
- There’s a hidden setting in the Pixel Launcher on Android Q that brings more iOS-like gesture navigation. Please, Google, for the love of all that is holy, steal this feature. The iPhone gesture navigation is so good. [XDA Developers]
- Do Not Disturb settings are customizable in Android Q. Cool. [Android Police]
- The squircles are coming! While not directly tied to Android Q, Google is changing Play Store requirements to make every icon a squircle. Okay then! [XDA Developers]
Android Q has been out for more than a week now. I’ve been running it on my Pixel 1 XL for testing, and it’s honestly…just fine. It’s this weird blend of “this feels just like Pie,” but is also loaded down with a bunch of new, subtle features. Improved permissions are a real highlight for me, with iOS-like options of being able to permit apps location (and other) permissions only while in the foreground. That’s a boon for privacy. I’ll be interested to see what else comes with Q as it progresses towards a stable build.
Google News: Google Stadia, the Future of Gaming (maybe)
Google announced Stadia this week, its new game streaming platform. Honestly, it’s a lot cooler than I think anyone was expecting. Here’s the skinny, followed by some thoughts.
- If you want to know what Stadia is all about, Review Geek has you covered. [Review Geek]
- If you want the CliffsNotes version, Google released a four-minute version of the live announcement. Thanks, Google! [YouTube]
- Since Stadia is going to need content, there’s a partner program that offers free development hardware. That should make for a good start. [9to5Google]
- We covered (at our sister site, Review Geek) three things Stadia needs to succeed. [Review Geek]
- Kotaku asked the Stadia Boss Phil Harrison some stuff about the service. He even answered some of it. [Kotaku]
So, here’s the thing: Stadia looks amazing. The promise of 4K 60fps gaming—something my PS4 Pro can’t do, mind you—streamed over the internet is a mind-blowing concept. But that’s the thing: it’s still basically a concept. There’s a lot we don’t know, like pricing, required internet speeds, game catalog, and model. Is it going to be a flat monthly rate where you can stream all you want, or will you have to buy games one-by-one? That’s the first question that has to be answered, and I’ve seen several differing opinions on how different journalists think this will work.
Similarly, if it is an all-you-can-eat model, it needs to be priced aggressively. If it’s over $14.99 a month out of the gate, it’ll likely be dead in the water. $9.99 (or less!) would be a great starting point; then prices can rise as it gets more features and games.
But the biggest question on my mind? Will Google actually support Stadia? I’ve been covering Google services and Android for nearly a decade, and if I’ve learned anything in that time, it’s that Google is bad for announcing products or services with grandiose plans, only to never deliver on any of it and let the service die two or three years later. I sincerely hope that this isn’t the case with Stadia, because this is a service that not only makes a lot of sense but could potentially have an incredibly bright future.
Android Updates: Pie for Nokia, ASUS Falls Short, OnePlus Starts Testing
While Android Q is being tested on Pixel phones, several other manufacturers are either just now pushing or testing Pie on their devices. It’s easily the most significant pain point for most Android users: if you don’t buy Pixel, you have no choice but to wait for updates.
- Nokia is pushing Pie to the 3.1. [Android Central]
- It also released Pie for the 5.1. [Android Police]
- ASUS, on the other hand, backslides on its Pie update, pushing it back to mid-April for many Zenfone models. Ouch. [Android Police]
- OnePlus started testing the Pie update for the 3/3T in China, which means a global rollout is probably also coming soon. [9to5Google]
- In non-Pie news, The Razr Phone 2’s unique Chroma feature got a nice little update with Wave lighting. [XDA Developers]
I know I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but timely updates have always been an issue. It’s the manufacturers’ fault, plain and simple. If they didn’t feel the need to load the OS down with tons of different options, then updates would come faster. On the flipside of that coin, however, choice is what makes Android so great—having all phones run the same version of the OS would dramatically decrease its value. There has to be a happy medium here somewhere…we just haven’t found it yet.
Samsung News: A New Galaxy A Devices Incoming, S10+ Root, and More
When it comes to Android, Samsung is almost as dominant of a force as Google—perhaps more in certain situations. As such, there’s always a lot happening with Galaxy handsets.
- Samsung sent event invitations out for new Galaxy A devices this week. All will be revealed on April 10th. [Samsung]
- There’s a new Substratum project in the works to fix all of Samsung’s One UI annoyances. Good luck. [XDA Developers]
- Speaking of One UI, if you use its dark them and Android Auto, it automatically forces Auto into night mode. The same thing happens if you use Message’s dark theme, so I’m not surprised. Such a weird quirk. [Android Police]
- The Exynos version of the S10+ got rooted with Magisk this week. Big news for tinkerers. [XDA Developers]
- There’s a new video showing off the Galaxy Fold, and by God, that thing has a crease right down the dang center. You can see it! [Android Police]
Samsung is honestly one of the more exciting companies in Android because as much as people love to criticize them, this is a company that is always making moves and changes. It’s pushing boundaries that other Android manufacturers can only try to replicate. Whether you love things like the Fold or not, you absolutely can’t deny how innovative Samsung is.
Everything Else: Apps Updates, Security Risks, Google’s Android Gaming Push, and More
This week saw quite a few smaller tidbits—everything from a few decent apps updates from Opera and PowerAmp to devices leaks. Also, an Android vulnerability that went unpatched for half a decade. Oh, and your antivirus probably sucks.
- A Chromium-based Android vulnerability dating back to KitKat was recently found, and it was present in every version up until, well, now. The good news is that it’s finally fixed. [Wired]
- In other news that is somehow slightly shocking but also unsurprising, 170 of 250 antivirus apps on Android are absolute trash. Fantastic. [AV-Comparatives]
- In lighter news, Google is not only pushing streaming games, but also Android games. The company made a dedicated site for Android game development. [Android Police]
- Similarly, it added a dedicated tab in the Play Store for gaming events. [Android Police]
- In less happy news, Inbox is officially shutting down on April 2nd. Sorry, Inboxers. [Engadget]
- But Poweramp got Chromecast support! And voice assistant integration! Finally! [Android Police]
- Opera for Android now has a built-in VPN. Fo free, yo. [9to5Google]
- The Google Doodle started showing up in the Discover Feed and on Pixel Launcher’s home screen search box. How cute. [Android Police]
- If you’re a rooter and a rommer, you’ll be sad to know that the Dirty Unicorns ROM is going the way of the dodo after Pie. In a world where we’re not talking about Android, that sentence makes no sense at all. [XDA Developers]
Man, Android vulnerabilities bum me out. But you know what arguably bums me out even more? Shoddy antivirus apps. The research and testing done by AV-Comparatives were both unsurprising and disheartening—I’ve been saying for ages that you don’t need an antivirus on Android, but seeing that 68 percent of all a/v apps are crap is just disgusting. People install these with the idea that they’re being protected, when in fact most of these apps aren’t doing anything to increase security. What a crock.