Android 10

What you need to know

  • Android 10 has exited beta and is ready for everyone.
  • Big changes include dark theme, navigation gestures, and privacy controls.
  • Updates are rolling out to Pixels starting today.

Android 10 (formerly known as Android Q) exits beta today, and Google is sending out updates to Pixels right away. This may not be too exciting to the enthusiasts who have been using near-final software for weeks, but the vast majority of people didn't participate in the beta program and now they can experience everything Android 10 has to offer.

Dark theme, navigation gestures, privacy controls and Google Play system updates are all big changes.

The biggest visual changes come with a system-wide dark theme, which you can toggle on for your entire phone or a specific app — and Google's working with developers to make sure more and more apps are properly designed to use it. The controversial new gesture navigation mode is also here, bringing edge gestures to replace the back button and new options for multitasking. (You can stick to the traditional three-button navigation instead, if you wish.)

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New changes to notification controls let you more simply silence and change the priority of notifications, which has become increasingly important as we're all constantly bombarded with notifications. Smart Reply is adding actions, saving you time from having to copy and paste text for things like addresses and links. Smart Reply for actual text replies is also going to be available across all of your messaging apps. The impressively demoed "Live Caption" feature that automatically captions videos, podcasts and any other audio across any app isn't available just yet, though. Google says it'll arrive "later this fall" starting with Pixel devices.

Pixel owners get Android 10 first, of course, but a few other companies won't be far behind.

Just as important are the backend security and privacy features. Android 10 brings more granular controls for location access, letting you choose to only share location information while you're actively using an app. And you'll get reminders when apps are using your location in the background. There are also deeper general privacy controls to manage your personal data and activity across your Google account and phone. Google Play system updates (aka Project Mainline) will let Google push out security updates directly to phones going forward, which is stealthily one of the most important changes to Android security.

As is always the case, the update rollout will be slow and meandering. Though every Pixel will get the update, you can't count on it arriving particularly quickly on any given device. Those of you who are in a hurry can manually update your Pixel by sideloading the software from your computer. If you're already in the beta program, your phone will get the update to the stable version automatically when it's your turn, same as if you were running Android 9 Pie. Doing so will remove you from the beta program — but you can sign back up next year for Android 11.

As for non-Google phones, the official release should mean that now we're going to start hearing where each company's update plans stand. Nokia already announced its roadmap, and we know Samsung is working on its Android 10 updates — others should come into focus by the end of the year.

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