Android Q beta 4: Notifications, Live Caption, gestures, privacy settings and other exciting features

Google on Wednesday released the fourth beta of Android Q. The update finalizes the APIs that developers use to build apps, and sticks to the schedule that Google has laid out for the beta program and the official launch of Android Q later this summer. Google first launched the Android Q beta program for Pixel ($235 at Amazon) phonesin March. Since then, we’ve seen three beta updates, each one with fixes and new features.

For example, the second beta introduced us to a new feature, Bubbles, that will change the way you interact with notifications on your Android device. And now we’re finally starting to see examples of just how Bubbles will work. There’s also now an option to go full-on gesture navigation, ditching the tired nav buttons Android has always had.

If you’re interested in helping Google test Android Q, you can sign up right now. Just keep in mind that this is still a beta release, and there are issues. Some apps simply won’t work, and battery life has taken a hit during the beta process.

Because this is a beta, it’s entirely possible that features will change or be removed altogether. We will update this post as needed throughout the beta program.

Bubbles

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Bubbles now works with the Google Phone app.

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Do you still use Facebook Messenger’s Chat Heads feature? If so, then you’re going to love Android Q’s new Bubbles feature. Bubbles work just like Chat Heads, with a circular notification floating above whatever is on your screen. Google wants developers to be mindful of what types of apps use Bubbles simply because a stream of notifications that show up on your screen, regardless of what you’re doing, would get real annoying real fast.

As you can see in the screenshots above, Bubbles is working with the Google Phone app. I triggered Bubbles by leaving an active call, after which a small circle showed up with the contact’s picture. While dragging the Bubble around, two options showed up at the bottom of the screen — Hide or End Call. Dragging the icon to either option would do just as their name described. A single tap on the Bubble revealed a few more options, such as enabling the speaker or muting the call.

Wi-Fi and QR Codes

Android Q makes it a breeze to share Wi-Fi networks with a QR code.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Sharing your Wi-Fi network password with friends or asking for theirs can be awkward. Android Q has a new feature that lets you create a QR code for your Wi-Fi network, or scan a QR code to join a Wi-Fi network, directly in the device’s Wi-Fi settings. To use this new feature, go to Wi-Fi settings and then select your home network, followed by the Share button with a small QR code just above it.

Undo app removal

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Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Ever accidentally remove an app from your home screen, and then realize you can’t remember which app was there? I have.

With Android Q, you have a few seconds after an app has been removed to undo the change. You’ll find the undo button along the bottom of the screen. Press it and bam, the app is back where it belongs.

Location control

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Android is finally getting more granular control over how an app can use location information. Currently, you can give an app access to your location either all the time or not all. With Android Q, you will gain the option of letting an app access your location information only while you’re actively using the app. Not only is this a privacymatter, but it surely helps save on battery life.

Privacy settings

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The new privacy settings in Android Q are long overdue.

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

With Android Q, there’s now a dedicated Privacy section in the settings app. Opening it will reveal the various permissions apps can request for things like calendar, location, camera, contacts and microphone.

Android has lacked a clear-cut way to view what apps have access to what data on your device. The new section makes it easy to discover and revoke permissions for specific apps. Take a few minutes to learn exactly what can be done in the new Privacy settings page. Trust us, it’s worth it.

Better notification controls

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Android Q’s new notification settings will help you limit the dings and beeps coming from your phone.

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

When you long-press an alert, you’re now given two different options: Prioritized and Gentle. Selecting Prioritized will allow the app to make sound with each new alert, as well as place an icon in the status bar. Gentle will not make a sound, and it;s up to you if you want to see an icon in the status bar. (You can tailor how it behaves by going intoSettings > Apps & notifications > Notifications.)

This is a small but important feature because you no longer have to dig into the Settings app to figure out how to tailor an app’s alerts. You simply long-press, pick an option and you’re done.

Live Caption

One way to make Android more accessible, Google developed Live Caption. The feature will live caption any video that’s being played, without a data connection. It’s not quite ready for beta 3, but it’s too good not to get excited about already.

Originally published March 14.
Update, June 6: Adds new information about the current beta release.

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