We are quickly approaching launch day for Android Q, Google’s 29th release of Android. At some point in the near future we should see a statue-unveiling, official confirmation that this is “Android 10,” and the highly anticipated “Q” snack name [Editor’s suggestion]. First though, we have to see the sixth-and-final beta release out the door, which is happening today. Android Q Beta 6 is rolling out to Pixel phones now and participating third-party devices in the coming weeks.
Final APIs for developers were locked down in Beta 4, so Beta 5 and 6 are mostly about squishing bugs and polishing up the final interface. Fully gestural navigation is a major feature of Android Q, and with the Beta 5 launch came the announcement that gesture navigation would not work with third-party home apps at launch, presumably due to a lack of time to work out the pile of bugs that have been reported.
Even with third-party home screen compatibility off the table, it seems like Google will be working on gesture navigation down to the wire. Beta 5 came with a new gesture for the Google Assistant and new rules for developers. In Beta 6, Google says it has “made further refinements to Gesture Navigation in Beta 6 based on user feedback” and now has a sensitivity setting for the back gesture. The back gesture involves swiping in from the edge of the screen, which can interfere with apps that require horizontal scrolling. Newly updated apps are supposed to design around the new back gesture; the sensitivity setting should help find a balance for older apps with conflicting swipe areas.
Across the Android ecosystem, there are currently a million gesture systems out there thanks to OEM skins, but Google announced at I/O that it will standardize Android navigation around Google’s Android Q implementation. Every third-party device will have to exclusively use Google’s version of gesture navigation as part of Android compatibility (though there will be an option for the old three-button navigation system). With no other options for gesture navigation allowed, Google really needs to get this right.
Google promises “more information on the official Android Q release coming soon.” The official schedule puts the final release sometime in Q3, and beta releases have been coming every month. Last year, for Android P, the final version came out 12 days after the last beta.