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IGHLIGHTS

  • Google has officially launched Android 10 mobile OS.
  • Android 10 is available on all Google Pixel smartphones.
  • OnePlus has released the first beta build of Android 10 for OnePlus 7 series smartphones.

Android 10 is here. Google has finally launched the next iteration of its mobile operating system, albeit it comes around a week after it missed its August deadline. Android 10, or Android Q as it was formerly called before Google abandoned the dessert names to opt for a simpler (and much boring) nomenclature, is the mobile OS that will be powering the next wave of smartphones. This means that Android 10 will not only power the first generation of 5G smartphones but also the first generation of foldable phones. We can hope, right?
What makes Android 10 special and I believe better than Android 9, which created a similar buzz when it launched in August last year, is that it, besides bringing fluidity to the Android ecosystem, re-focuses on privacy. Google had introduced app permissions, which enabled users to pick and choose the permission that they wanted to give to individual apps, with the launch of Android 6.0 Marshmallow back in 2016 and since then it has made little progress in this regard.
However, Android 10 changes that. It focuses on privacy. It focuses on fluidity. It focuses on digital well being. And it focuses on transparency. When combined together these values make Android 10 a bit different. It kind of gives Android a direction, in the right way.
Android 10 is available for download on Google Pixel and Essential smartphones. OnePlus has introduced the first beta build of Android 10 for OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro smartphones and Redmi has started offering it as MIUI 10 on the Redmi K20 Pro. Besides these device makers, HMD Global, which takes care of the brand Nokia, is the only company that has outlined an exact plan as to when it would offer Android 9.0 Pie successor on its various smartphone models. Companies like Samsung, LG, Motorola, Oppo and Vivo are yet to make any formal announcement in this regard.
To try out Android 10 I installed it on a Pixel 3A phone. Surely, going forward different phone companies will customise the Android 10 experience according to their own needs - the MIUI 10 using Android 10 has no apparent differences compared to MIUI using Android 9 - but if you are looking to understand what you should get with the new Android OS in your existing or new phone, read on.

Dark Mode or should we call it Dark Theme

Dark seems to be the theme for 2019. We already know that Apple will introduce a dark mode with iOS 13. Before Apple gives us a glimpse of what dark mode would look like on iPhones, Google has demoed its very own Dark Theme. In case you are wondering, Android 10 doesn't offer any other 'theme' options apart from the Dark Theme and the regular light theme.
You can switch to the Dark Theme simply by toggling the dark theme button in the Display Setting. Doing so turns inverts the colours of the screen and Google's app and quite frankly it looks splendid. I am not a fan of the dark mode or dark theme but I couldn't help but admire how the OLED screen of my Pixel 3a XL lit up on switching to it.
Google says that all its apps are available in dark theme, however, during my time with Android 10 I noticed that a number of apps such as Google Lens and Google Play are yet to take the leap. May be Google will make the necessary changes to its apps in the coming days. As far as other third party apps are concerned, they should release an update for their platforms soon. We already know WhatsApp is planning on making such a move.

Fluid Gestures

Fluid and easy to use gestures is another way in which Android 10 differs from Android Pie (yeah, I still cannot get over the deserted dessert names). In Android 10, gestures and screen movements feel a lot more natural unlike Android 9.0 Pie, which sometimes missed out on the ease and comfort aspect of these movement.
So what all can you do?
- Swiping up from the bottom of the home screen opens up the app drawer.
- Swiping across the home screen helps you switch between apps.
- While switching between apps, you can drag an app up to close it and down to open it.
- Swiping down from top opens up quick settings and notifications.
- Long pressing the home screen button flares up the Google Assistant.
While all of this might seem as if you have too much to cram on, especially now that your exam days are over, but quite frankly it's not.
The gestures and screen movements feel a lot natural compared to Android Pie. And it doesn't take ages even for an iPhone user like me to get a hang of things. But then again, it all depends on when you get the Android 10 update on your smartphone.

Privacy stuff

Google is betting big on privacy in Android 10 and has made it difficult for people from outside or the third party apps to access you device data, particularly you location data.
First of all, Google has brought iOS-like location controls to Android 10 giving users the option to allow apps to use their location data only when it is needed, that when they are using the app. Earlier users could either permit apps to use users' location data, which often lead to misuse, or deny it, in which case they had to give permit the app to access the mentioned information at some point while using the app. The option to access location data changes that. It also prevents misuse.
So how does this change things on ground? Well, every time you install a new app Android 10 now ask you if you want to give the app access to your location data. You can pick between -- 'Allow all the time', 'Deny' and 'Allow only while the app is in use'. You can also go back to your settings and change your existing settings to restrict the app to using your location data only while you are using the app. This (making decision about you location data) might seem a bit annoying at first, but eventually you get used to it. You also find comfort in the knowledge that the apps aren't snooping on you all the time.
In addition to that, users also get greater control over what data is collected and for how long it is stored. Besides this Google has made it simple for users to opt out of personalisation and ad retargeting. One click in the Privacy Setting and you are good to go.

Clean and transparent

Perhaps the biggest and the most important change that Google has brought to the Android ecosystem with the launch of Android 10 is reorganising controls in a way that it makes it easier for users to find them.
Usually finding privacy controls and settings pertaining to ad personalisation and web activity tracking has been a challenging task in Google's platform. These controls have always been there but finding them has always been a mystery that few have dared to solve. But with Android 10 Google has made some much-needed changes in this regard. The company has also reorganised a bunch of other controls.
For instance Google has brought all the privacy related settings under one roof. Now when you go to the Privacy Setting of your smartphone, you will find everything from settings regarding ads to your activity controls to you Permission Manager where the controls are now segregated on the basis on individual controls allowing users to easily remove access from where it is not required.
Similar to Privacy, the Location setting now includes a separate App Permission section that classifies apps based the location permission - always, never or only while using the app -- that they have. You can move an app from one category to another simply by tapping on it and selecting an alternative option.
Last but not the least, Google has clubbed apps that let you control your digital time and the digital time of your family under one category. This means that user will now find Digital Wellbeing features and parental controls under one category in the Settings app.

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