Machine learning-powered action suggestions, better security and universal gesture controls are some of the new features mobile users are getting with the long-expected Android 10 update, which Google LLC officially launched today.
The new operating system is initially downloadable only on the search giant’s Pixel smartphones. Availability will expand to devices from external manufacturers before the year is out.
Android 10 brings some features that are entirely new and others that continue work Google started with earlier versions of the platform. Falling into that latter category is the platform’s most controversial change: the new gesture control system.
In Android Pie, the previous iteration of the operating system, Google shifted some emphasis away from the navigation bar at the bottom of the interface. Users gained the ability to perform certain app actions using gestures if they so chose. Android 10 includes an expanded version of the system that introduces the ability to interact with a device using only swipes and taps.
Google plans to take the concept even further with its upcoming Pixel 4 phone. The hotly anticipated device includes a miniature radar that will enable users to control the interface remotely by making hand gestures in the air, without touching the display.
Android 10’s new gesture controls are opt-in, which means consumers who prefer the old interface can stick with the navigation bar. They’ll still benefit from the numerous other new features that Google has packed into the release.
Among the main highlights is an upgraded version of Smart Reply, an Android feature that generates automated responses for emails. It now works in popular messaging apps too and the underlying machine learning algorithms have been enhanced to provide action suggestions. If a user receives a notification with a physical address, for instance, Smart Reply can generate a link for viewing it in Google Maps.
Also new is the Dark Theme option. Device owners can turn on the mode at night for their entire device or specific apps to reduce eye strain.
The changes to the core user experience are joined by major security improvements that will make Android devices a tougher target for hackers. Headlining the enhancements is Project Mainline, a mechanism that downloads security patches directly from the Play Store.
Normally, it’s the responsibility of device makers and carriers to distribute updates issued by Google to their users’ devices. That leads to often significant release delays that can expose users to hacking when the update being held up happens to contain a fix to a security issue. By downloading patches directly from the source, Project Mainline will enable Google to insulate the Android ecosystem against emerging threats faster.
Android 10 pairs Project Mainline and the other flagship feature additions with numerous other more localized enhancements. There are new privacy controls, a Focus Mode for silencing notifications from apps and something called Live Caption. That last capability uses machine learning to automatically generate captions for videos and audios.
Availability is currently limited with some of the features. Focus Mode is in beta and Live Caption will only release later this year, while Project Mainline won’t be supported on devices upgraded to Android 10 from an earlier version.
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Credit: Google News