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Android Q Beta 5 hands-on: Top 10 new features [Video]

We are inching ever closer to a full release of Android Q, which is why Beta 5 feels more like fine-tuning than a brand new OS. Sure there are some solid additions — which is why we’re here!

As we say, the vast majority of inclusions in this Android Q Beta build and the final beta build will be relatively minor. Expect small refinements that fill out the experience in time for the full release in the next couple of months rather than sweeping changes. You might notice that a couple of “additions” are or were present in older builds but were removed but are now re-added — I’m guessing that complaining has helped bring certain features back.

That doesn’t mean that many of these tweaks are unimportant, that couldn’t be further from the truth. If you have even a passing interest in Android or use an Android phone, it’s highly likely that the changes made here will affect you at some point in the future. Especially if your phone is expecting an update to Android Q.

So with that in mind, here are our top 10 new features in Android Q Beta 5!

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Dark theme Pixel boot animation

The dark theme added in a previous Q Beta was easily one of the best and most requested new modes to be included. There is a still a lot of work to do, but it’s a really nice step forward for AMOLED displays — especially at night. While I personally didn’t encounter a problem with the boot animation too much — as I don’t restart my Pixel 3 XL all too often — the blazingly bright white boot animation has now been altered once you set the dark theme.

Unfortunately, it only currently appears to work on Pixel 3 and 3 XL. So if you have any other Pixel phone, you’re out of luck for now. We’re sure it will come to other Pixels in the full Q release, but we can’t be certain if it will come in Q Beta 6.

Silent notifications now better organized

When you silence a notification in Q Beta 5, they happen to be much more organized. For starters, they are now separated to give a clear split within the notification shade for an infinitely neater look.

This segmentation also provides the bonus of allowing you to quickly and easily unmute or dismiss these notifications. The new method bundles them together, much like you would see for a series of app notifications for even better overall organization.

Assistant gesture hints

If you activate the fully gestural navigation on the latest Q Beta, you might have been wondering how Google is planning on getting us to activate the Assistant without a button to long press — or physical button for that matter.

Well, the Assistant gestures hints are one step to aid that transition to gesture navigation. If you activate the gesture navigation method, there are now two small curves on either side of your display that you can drag in to your display to quickly access the Assistant. This removes the need for a dedicated button.

It’s worth noting that these disappear over time, only appearing within certain applications or shortly after unlocking your Pixel.

Active Edge feedback

Q Beta features - active edge feedback

When setting up the Active Edge on your Pixel, there is a new animation that will show you when you’re squeezing, and it responds to how hard you press to activate. It corresponds with how the Assistant will appear based upon your grip strength.

It makes it much easier to set just the right pressure to get the Assistant to pop up and appear on-screen rather than guessing at what sensitivity will be the most comfortable.

Squeeze to talk

Q Beta features - squeeze to talk

The active edge feature now works in tandem with the gesture navigation method to show you how to activate your Google Assistant. When slowly squeezing the edges of your phone, it will display a small “Squeeze to talk” message under the gesture home bar, which quickly disappears when the multi-colored Assistant icons zoom in from the sides of your display.

Notification snoozing can now be disabled

We’re sure some of you used the notification snooze feature even before the Q Beta program, but there are a few of our team that have genuinely never used the option, and there are probably a ton of you out there that are the same. Swiping left or right on any notification has given you the ability to snooze a notification temporarily for some time.

By default, the option is turned off, so swiping left or right on a notification with the notification shade will bring up a “gear” icon rather than the little clock. If you want to turn notification snoozing back on, there’s a new option for it in the Settings app. Under Apps & notifications, tap Notifications. In this menu, under Advanced, there’s a new setting called Allow notification snoozing.

Mobile data accents

Not a huge new feature by any stretch, but the Mobile data icon has been updated to mimic the “fill” style you see on the new Wi-Fi signal strength indicator. It should really help you work out just how strong your data connection is at a glance.

Screen pinning with gestures

Q Beta features - app pinning

Screen pinning has now been updated to actually work with the new Gesture navigation method. If you cast your mind back, you might remember that it was previously temporarily removed. Q Beta 5 introduces a fix, which now gives you the ability to lock an app in view until you unpin it while using the gesture navigation method.

To pin, just tap the app icon in the app switcher, and then tap the pin icon to have it held on your display. To unpin, you just swipe up and hold to disable — this takes you to your lock screen.

Pixel launcher suggestions

The Pixel launcher has now regained the ability to disable the “suggested apps” section that appears when you enter the app switcher. Instead, it will just show you whatever you happen to have assigned to your app dock.

It’s a smart move, as often you will have your most used apps pinned to your dock anyway. This will most definitely be a sleeper hit feature with the Android Q Beta 5 release.

App peeking

Q Beta features - app peeking

We saw that the gesture feature has caused havoc with left-sided hamburger menus in the previous couple of Q Beta releases. The new solution is to add a “peek” feature that allows you to grab these side menus without activating the “back” gesture. It’s not perfect, as you simply hold the left portion of your display to have a sliver of the menu pop in — which you can subsequently open, but it’s much better than constantly closing apps.

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Avatar for Damien Wilde Damien Wilde

Damien is a UK-based video producer for 9to5Google. Find him on Twitter @iamdamienwilde. Email

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