Google's next Android OS update, Android Q, has now officially entered its beta period and revealed its initial timeline for subsequent releases moving through the expected final release of the firmware in Q3 2019. As always, new SDKs and other updates, emulators, and APIs will be added or altered throughout, beginning with Beta 1 — which kicks off testing today.
Based on the timeline graphic included with the launch of the beta, there will be at least one other update to the program via Beta 2 in early April, leading up to Beta 3. The latter of those appears to be slated for release during or just after Google's annual I/O Developers Conference, taking place from May 7 through May 9.
Beta 4 is slated to follow just behind that in early June. That is expected to be among the most impactful updates to the program, bringing final APIs and official SDK as well as Google Play publishing.
Finalizing Android Q
After Beta 4, the timeline provided by Google begins to break down and the stretch of time between that beta update and Beta 5 increases substantially. That's mostly because the later phases will involve much deeper fine-tuning and represent the portion of development where things are finalized for consumer-readiness. Betas 5 and 6 are noted as being set aside as release candidates for testing.
Beta 5 will land sometime in the third quarter in the lead-up to launch followed within relatively short-order by Beta 6. The final release to the Android Open Source Project and Android ecosystem, in general, will happen later in the year, in the third quarter. That will mark the point at which Android OEMs can begin finalizing their own take on the OS for release to various third-party devices.
Google's annual hardware event typically takes place late in the year, with last year's gathering taking place in early October. So, if Google's timeline holds up, the update to Android Q should be ready just in time for the next generation of Google handsets.
What's arriving in Beta 1
As mentioned above, the first of the Android Q beta software iterations has already begun rolling out to testers, bringing a significant level of change across the board. That is available for all Google Pixel-branded handsets, including 2016's original Pixel device.
Among bigger changes included with Beta 1 is the implementation of faster sharing, camera app improvements, folding gadget support, and adjustments in favor of privacy. Of those, privacy will probably be the most important for the majority of users, given controversies in data collection, storage, and breaches witnessed across the tech industry beginning in 2017.
The improvements in privacy start with more granular control over location tracking. Rather than only being able to grant an app permission to gather the information in a binary way, users will be able to assign permission in three stages — including never, only when the app is running in the foreground — or all of the time.
Runtime permissions will enable control over file sharing too and apps will be required to use the system-level file picker to ensure that access is only granted to exactly the files users want to share.