Google has released the latest version of Android, simply titled Android 10. While modern smartphone OS releases don’t bring as many drastic changes as they used to, there are still some new features to play around with in Android’s latest offering.
Let’s take a look at the most notable new features and changes in Android 10. A lot of tweaks are at the system level, but it’s not all boring technical adjustments.
Note: These descriptions and menu locations are based on a Pixel 3 running Android 10. Once you get the update, your phone may behave slightly differently.
1. No More Desserts
— Dave Burke (@davey_burke) September 3, 2019
If you’ve used Android for some time, you might be disappointed to learn that Google will no longer use desserts for each version name. Starting with Android Cupcake, each version has gone down the alphabet with a corresponding dessert name like Froyo, Jelly Bean, and Nougat.
With Android 10, Google has decided to ditch this. It cites language differences and confusion among users as the reason. This makes Android 9 Pie the last release to use a sweet treat as its name.
2. Universal Dark Theme
Many people prefer dark themes to save device battery and shield their eyes from bright light at night. While many individual apps support dark mode, Android 10 allows you to toggle it on for the whole OS.
Head to Settings > Display and toggle Dark theme on. Once you’ve done this, system elements and Google apps will switch to dark mode. To completely darken your device, check out the best Android apps with a dark theme.
3. New Gesture Navigation
One of Android Pie’s most notable features was using new gestures for navigation. However, these weren’t particularly intuitive, so Google has revised the gestures in Android 10. To change what you use, head to Settings > System > Gestures and tap System navigation.
On this menu, you can pick between three options:
- Gesture navigation is the new setup for Android 10. See below for details.
- 2-button navigation uses the same gestures as Android Pie. We have a quick guide on Android Pie’s gestures if you want to learn more.
- 3-button navigation is the classic Android navigation bar used in Oreo and earlier.
Note that if you use a third-party launcher, you can’t select the new gesture navigation option. You’ll need to have the stock Pixel Launcher selected to use them.
How to Use Android 10’s New Gestures
The gestures in the new setup are similar to those on the iPhone X and newer. Here’s how to use them:
- Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to go to the home screen.
- Swipe up and hold briefly to access your recent apps switcher.
- Slide left or right on the bottom of the screen to easily jump between recent apps.
- To open your app drawer, use a long swipe up from the bottom.
- Instead of a back button, simply swipe in from either side of the screen to go back.
- You can summon Google Assistant by swiping diagonally towards the middle of the screen from either of the bottom corners.
These revised gestures are smoother than what Android Pie used. In addition, they’re an improvement because they don’t need a bottom bar taking up valuable screen real estate all the time.
4. Improved Permission and Privacy Options
Android’s permission system is better than it once was, but it’s still not perfect. Once you grant an app access to your camera, location, or other sensitive information, it can access those anytime it wants.
In Android 10, Google has taken steps to start fixing this. When an app asks for permission to use your location, you can now choose to only give it access while you’re using the app. This lets you take advantage of location features without giving the app free reign.
You’ll see the new option when granting an app location permissions for the first time. To change this after the fact, head to Settings > Location. Here you can see apps that have recently accessed your location. Tap the App permission entry, choose an app to adjust, and you can select Allow only while using the app on the resulting page.
Speaking of privacy, Android 10 groups all privacy-focused options in one place at Settings > Privacy. Here you’ll find the Permission manager to see which apps have access to sensitive permissions, along with privacy options for your Google account.
5. Google Play System Updates
Since Android system updates have been a pain point for some time, Google has made improvements in the past few years. In Android 10, you can now receive security patches through Google Play without waiting for an entire system update.
To check for security patches, open Settings > Security. You’ll see the Google Play system update entry, which lists how up-to-date your device is. Tap it to view details and check for updates manually.
6. Smart Reply
Another helpful tweak in Android 10 provides suggested actions for messages. For example, if a friend texts you to invite you for dinner, your phone will suggest a thumbs-up emoji in the notification.
Even better, the feature allows you to pull open Google Maps and YouTube links with a tap. So when someone includes an address in their message, you can tap Open Maps to go right to it.
This feature works across messaging apps. Developers can customize the smart responses or turn them off, if they prefer.
7. Improved Sharing
Android’s sharing menu allows you to send links, images, and other content using the apps on your phone. For a long time, it’s been an annoying experience to use.
It took forever to load, and often the apps didn’t appear in any particular order. Plus, the items on the list would randomly jump around, making it easy to share with the wrong person by mistake. Thankfully, the share sheet has seen improvements in Android 10.
Now the share dialog loads much faster and shows suggested sharing methods at the top. If you don’t want to use any of those, you can scroll down to the full list of apps that finally appear in alphabetical order. This is a small tweak, but a welcome one for anyone who uses this feature often.
8. Coming Later: Live Caption
Another cool Android 10 tool isn’t available just yet; Google says it’s coming this fall to Pixel devices first. It’s called Live Caption, and automatically adds captions to videos, podcasts, and audio messages across your device. It even works on videos you’ve recorded.
This is a great accessibility option, as well as a handy tool for anyone who wants to watch videos without sound. It will work without any network connection.
Smaller Improvements in Android 10
We’ve looked at the biggest new Android 10 features above. As you’d expect, Google has made many other little adjustments around the OS in addition to these. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
8. Foldable and 5G Support
Android 10 includes built-in support for two upcoming technologies: foldable devices and 5G. While 5G is rolling out in some regions, it will be some time before it becomes mainstream. Check out our overview of 5G to get acquainted with it.
Foldable phones are in a similar spot. Samsung’s Galaxy Fold was canceled earlier in 2019, so foldable devices are off the table for now. But it’s good to see that Android will be ready when they become readily available.
9. Notification Changes
Android 8 Oreo made significant changes to notifications, allowing you to adjust individual types of notifications for every app. In Android 10, this is a little bit simpler. Select an app at Settings > Apps & notifications > See all X apps and choose Notifications to have a look.
After selecting a notification type, you can pick Alerting or Silent to easily decide if you want this kind of notification to grab your attention or not. The options below will change depending on your choice.
10. Focus Mode
Google’s Digital Wellbeing tool, introduced in Android Pie, gives you a suite of tools to control how much you use your device. Android 10 adds a Focus mode to it, which lets you turn off distracting apps for a while.
Simply choose the apps to include in Focus mode, then when you turn it on, you won’t be able to access them. Android will also block notifications from those apps while you’re focusing.
11. Share Your Wi-Fi Password via QR Code
When you have guests over, they probably want to join your Wi-Fi network. But typing a strong password can be difficult, plus sharing the password introduces the risk of them giving it to others.
Android 10 includes a handy little tool to make this easier. Next time someone wants to join your Wi-Fi network, go to Settings > Network & internet > Wi-Fi and tap the name of the network you want to share. On the resulting page, tap Share and your phone will generate a QR code.
Send this to the people who want to connect, and they can scan it with their device camera to easily join. To join a network using this shortcut, tap the QR icon next to the Add network option on this page.
12. Change Your Device’s Accent Color
Android keeps some handy tweaks tucked away in the hidden Developer Options menu. In Android 10, you can use a new setting to change the accent color on your device.
To unlock Developer Options, first head to Settings > About phone and tap on Build number several times until you see a message that you’re a developer. Next, go to System > Advanced > Developer options.
Scroll all the way down to the Theming header and you’ll see an Accent color option. Use this to select from a few color options. You’ll see your color applied in menu toggles, the Quick Settings panel, and other UI elements.
13. Android Q Easter Egg
Every version of Android includes a new Easter egg you can find by going to Settings > About phone and tapping on Android version several times. Android 10’s Easter egg lets you drag the logo around.
However, you can use the “1” and “0” to form a “Q” (double-tap on the “1” to make it rotate). After this, tap on the screen several times, and you can play a Picross puzzle. It’s a fun little distraction.
Try the Best of Android 10 Now!
These and more features are waiting for you in Android 10. While nothing here is revolutionary, these tweaks all add up to a more polished phone experience.
To update your phone, head to Settings > System > Advanced > System update to see if your device is eligible yet. If not, sit tight until it arrives for your phone.
And to hold you over until Android 10, have a look at some missing Android features you can get right now.