Google is making Wi-Fi usage more versatile, secure, and convenient with Android Q as the first experimental build of the new operating system version debuts a number of changes concerning this connectivity option.
Minor visual differences aside, Android Q allows for sharing Wi-Fi settings via QR codes which should forever rid you of the annoyance of once again reading your WPA2 key from the back of the router once friends come over. Turning Wi-Fi settings into a QR code means many more devices than just those running Google’s latest OS build can quickly connect to a particular network. Naturally, sharing such sensitive information equates accessing it, so you’ll still need to authenticate with a password, passcode, or a fingerprint before being able to do so. Once Android Q comes to third-party handsets, this feature will likely also be able to use iris and face recognition, depending on the host’s hardware configuration.
In case your intended recipient of the QR code claims they don’t have a suitable reader on their device, just have them launch Google Assistant and ask it to read the image; they’ll be surprised. The convenience enabled by this feature extends beyond Android as Apple’s Siri is just as capable at deciphering QR codes on iOS devices, i.e. iPhones and iPads. Refer to the gallery below to see how the new feature works in practice.
Users wary of public Wi-Fi may also appreciate the fact that Android Q allows for easy switching between a device MAC address and a randomized one, though that likely won’t even be necessary since the latter is the default option. While detailing the Beta 1 build of the OS earlier today, Google did mention that more robust privacy functionalities will be part of the package and that MAC randomization is now a default setting. The feature itself was technically introduced last year in one of early Android 9 P builds before that OS iteration was even officially named as “Pie” but it was an optional affair hidden deep down the software’s connectivity settings, so even users who know what a MAC address is probably missed it.
By turning randomization into a default option, Google is essentially making Android devices significantly harder to identify by parties inspecting them from the prism of a shared Wi-Fi connection. While surely a niche capability, this can be extremely useful in places like shopping malls where public Wi-Fi is a frequently encountered option, yet usually comes with a long string of conditions. Among other things, malls are growing more interested in tracking their visitors, which a simple MAC filter can allow for if they’re connected to a public Wi-Fi hotspot. Randomizing one’s MAC address confuses that technology and while it doesn’t make tracking impossible, it sure adds a lot of complexity to the equation and can at the very least heavily impact its accuracy.
Google will be following up on today’s premier build of Android Q with more complete and consistent versions of the OS. Non-Pixel devices should receive access to the newly launched Android Q Beta no later than early May, which is when the Google I/O2019 conference is taking place, whereas the firmware is expected to hit the stable channel in the second half of summer.