After years of cries from lovers of all things black and dark all across the globe, Google finally caved. Android Q has a fully baked, fully functional, manually selectable dark theme. No more need to pick a dark wallpaper to invoke it, just go to Settings > Display > Theme and enable it.
Although this will probably end up being the most celebrated new feature in Android Q (which tells you something about how many exciting consumer-facing things this release is coming with), there isn't a lot to say about it. It exists. It's truly black, not dark gray or dark blue, so on AMOLED screens, it should aid, at least a little bit, in battery life. Everything system-related turns dark - the Settings, the Quick Settings, the Notifications, the Google Discover feed that you reach by swiping right when you're on the leftmost home screen, it's a color inversion bonanza, this. What's more, in the future, expect the built-in apps to all turn black once you enable the theme, and third-party developers can support this too. So it seems like we can look forward to a truly 'dark' future for stock Android (but in a good way, of course).
If you're impatient, Google has helpfully built in a trick to force apps to dark mode, even if they don't yet support it. You'll need to first enable the hidden Developer options menu for this, which you do by going to Settings > About phone and by tapping the Build number line a few times quickly, then confirming your PIN or password. Then head over to Settings > System > Advanced > Developer options, scroll way down, and toggle Override force-dark to be on. While you're there, please do not play with Developer options you don't understand, doing that might result in a need to reset your device.
The forcing of dark mode seems to work reasonably well from what we've experienced, although in most apps doesn't give you real black, just dark grey. And it's not all smooth sailing - for example, in a lot of apps (Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Keep among them) the interface does turn dark, but while you're in the app, the status bar shows black icons on a dark grey background. Such issues are probably why forcing the dark theme is a setting hidden in Developer options.
There's no joke about this one (or maybe there is, and we just haven't heard it?), but every year, with every new Android version, Google changes something about Settings. It's just compulsive like that.
With Android Q we get a new top-level Settings entry for Privacy because Google keeps being accused it's not focusing on that enough. So now it made it a separate item in Settings, what more could you want?
Kidding aside, this menu item incorporates the new Permission manager, which groups apps by the permissions they are granted.
Other privacy-related things that used to be housed elsewhere in Settings have thankfully been added here too, such as everything about Google's Autofill service, links to your location history, and Activity controls - where you choose the activities and info that Google can save. The Google Ads settings have moved here too, and the toggle for sending usage and diagnostic data from your phone to its servers is the last in the list.
Location and Security are once again individual top-level entries in Settings, and there has been a change in the way you grant apps permission to access your location. Previously, this was a simple yes/no switch, but now you get another option - letting an app know your whereabouts only while you're actively using it. Additionally, when apps use your location in the background, you'll get a system notification (this was already a feature in many OEM skins).
Speaking of permissions, if you make an app the default for something (browser, email client, messaging app, the likes), it will automatically be granted permissions based on what it is the default for. This happens through a new system of the OS giving specific apps "roles", and the list of those, for now, comprises browser, dialer, SMS app, launcher, music app, gallery app, and your emergency information handler.
So, when you set something as your default phone dialer, it will automatically be granted permissions to handle calls as well as send SMS messages - no more of those pesky permission request pop-ups. Similarly, the default SMS app can read and send SMS messages and access your contacts. The default music app has control over files in the Music folder, while the default Gallery is granted permission to oversee the Photos & Videos media folder. You get the idea. It's a neat little user experience improvement, this, since it's rather apparent that if you want an app to be your default dialer you trust it enough to grant it permission to make and receive phone calls.
Probably the most painfully slow part of Android so far has been the Share menu. And that's a huge shame given how useful it is - nevermind the fact that it introduced the world to the concept of sharing things from one app into another way before Apple ever had something similar in iOS. For years it used to be a key usability differentiator between Android and iOS, but all this time it's been slow and inconsistent.
In Android Q, Google is finally working on fixing the Share menu, by switching from a pull to push methodology - so the app shortcuts are ready when you engage the menu, and don't all have to load after you tap the Share icon, as before.
If you're wondering whether Google has pulled it off - yes, the new menu is significantly faster than the old one in Pie. We still feel like there's room for improvement, speed-wise, but a few more Q betas are coming so there's still time for that to happen. There's also a functional difference between the new Share menu and the old one: you now get 8 Direct share targets at the top instead of 4 as it was before.
To give you an example of what these are, they should show up and allow you to share something not just with an app, but a specific recipient. So if you want to send an image to Sally on WhatsApp, the Direct share part of the menu will (hopefully) surface her name (and this should happen if you message each other a lot) and then you're saving a tap by not first choosing WhatsApp as a share target.
Direct share was limited to 4 targets before because of how slow it was to load, but now when you swipe up the Share menu, you'll see 8 targets. When it first comes up, it will still only show you 4, but the main problem with the Direct share idea has always been the fact that it selected which recipients to show you seemingly at random. Or, in our case seen in the screenshots above, not displaying any targets at all. Hopefully, it will stop doing both of these things by the time Android Q comes out of beta.
Finally, in Share menu news, you can no longer pin apps to the top. This used to be a workaround a lot of people employed in older Android versions because every time you'd want to share something the menu would pick a different placement for the same app - and this lead to a lot of hunting, especially if you usually share things to only a few apps. For whatever reason, pinning is no longer possible. Does the faster speed of the new Share menu alleviate that issue somewhat? Sure, but it is odd to see this feature cut out anyway. Perhaps it just wasn't working well with the new push system, and Google will re-add it in a future beta.
Note that all of this (rather obviously) only applies to the native Android Share menu. A lot of apps, even some made by Google (YouTube, Maps, News, Photos), have their own custom share sheets, and maybe those need to go away now that the default one is finally reaching a usable speed?
You can now easily share the Wi-Fi password to a network from Settings. You get a barcode to show other people, which they can scan to connect, and below it, you even have the Wi-Fi password in good 'ol plain text if the barcode isn't working for some reason. Because of how sensitive this information is, accessing the Wi-Fi network sharing menu requires authentication with your fingerprint or password.
You can customize vibration strength separately for calls, notifications, and screen touches if you go to Settings > Accessibility > Vibration. Some Android OEMs have been offering something similar for ages; and it's good to see this finally added by Google too. Still no control over how your phone vibrates, though. Maybe that will be a feature for Android R.
If you use Battery Saver, note that you can now choose whether it will automatically turn itself off when the phone reaches 90% charge, or stay on until you turn it off manually. You can also set up a routine, having it turn on automatically based on how you use your phone (if the battery is likely to be depleted before your next typical charge), or based on a percentage value (which you can adjust from 5% to 75%).
When you aren't connected to anything, and Wi-Fi networks are available around you, you may see a card with three suggestions at the top of the Settings UI. In previous Android versions, you'd sometimes see tips here, and this is an expansion upon that feature set. If you have Wi-Fi off for a while, you could see a reminder to turn it back on, and there's also a card with info about connected Bluetooth devices which may show up in the same place. The latter only appears when you are connected to a device. Unlike with Wi-Fi, there's no toggle to turn on or off Bluetooth.
Your Google account photo now shows up in Settings, in the top right inside the search bar (with the search icon being symmetrically on its other side).
A new Audio balance slider is found in the Accessibility settings letting you adjust the left/right audio channel balance when you have stereo audio source.
If you use a PIN to lock your screen, the previous check mark icon in the bottom right of the keypad is now an Enter key.
There's an Emergency button in the power menu (that shows up when you long press the power button), which, when engaged, shows you a huge keypad (supposedly to quickly call emergency services) as well as a link to the Emergency information you saved in Settings - this should be useful for emergency responders.
The uptime of your handset since the last shutdown/reboot is now proudly displayed in Settings > About phone.
Also the last three Bluetooth devices you connected to now show up directly in the Connected devices Settings section, you no longer have to tap on "Previously connected devices" unless you want to see more than three. Search results in Settings can have toggles and sliders, so you can quickly adjust things like the brightness level or whether adaptive brightness is on.
Android Q blocks clipboard access to apps that aren't in the foreground or aren't the default input method. The privacy advantage here is clear since a lot of people copy and paste sensitive information like passwords and credit card numbers, but this unfortunately also means that clipboard manager apps no longer work.
If you enable showing the battery percentage in the status bar, when you pull down the Quick Settings shade you'll see an estimate of how much longer your device will last based on your current usage.
Media notifications gain a seekable progress bar which lets you seek around without having to open the corresponding app.