The next big release of Android (version 10 or Q) should be out in beta soon. If you like experimenting, you’ll be able to download it to your phone too. Wouldn’t it be great if Android 10 could include all the best parts of all the various different software customisations that Android has, says Hitesh Raj Bhagat.
RCS (Rich Communications System) Standard
Think of this like standard SMS, but supercharged. The regular old SMS has been around on phones since 1992. RCS bolsters the stock functionality with things like a PC mirror mode (mirror your SMS inbox on any browser, WhatsApp style), video calling, the abilty to send large files, videos, GIFs, group chats, live location sharing, digital payment integration (which could happen with local players in each market), AR and MR integration and fun collaboration features (like live screen sharing). The two biggest benefits of this would be no need for third-party apps/services anymore and a big reduction in costs. This is because RCS could also use data to send messages if both sides are on the RCS platform. If not, it just defaults to the standard SMS functionality which is charged by your telecom provider.
Android On Tap
Previously known as Project Treble, this feature was designed to allow developers to easily (and therefore quickly) offer system upgrades to end users. Millions of Android devices on older Android versions and slow upgrades for others remains one of the biggest disadvantages of Android when you compare against iOS. Even today, the largest chunk of Android devices (28.2%) run Android Nougat (7.0/7.1) - according to an Android Developer tool called platform distribution dashboard. If this gets implemented, it means developers (and users) can easily test newer versions of Android on devices by downloading only a small file, without affecting user data and without unlocking the bootloader. In case of issues, you will be able to report bugs and rollback to the previous version.
All The Rest
Google Pay is already around as a separate app. Why not have it built into Android? In the same vein, why leave it to different manufacturers to include Google Lens and Google Duo in their software? Some of the other features we really appreciate in different versions of Android include scrolling screenshots, smarter settings, native IR Blaster support, windowed apps that you can resize and move around (LG calls it Q slide) and built in tools for digital well-being (being able to limit access to apps).
Native Call Recording
A lot of phones have this now (Xiaomi, OnePlus, Huawei, Realme, Oppo etc) and it has to be built into the software ROM for it to work properly. Adding this type of functionality with an app rarely works. There are all sorts of workarounds, including taking a call on speakerphone mode — but none are as elegant as a simple call recording app. Ideally, it should also offer the ability to auto-record calls, choose which ones to record, start recording in the middle of the conversation and a choice of different recording formats/quality.
Overhauled App Permissions
Everyone thinks iOS when it comes to security of user data — it’s just how Apple works! Android apps, on the other hand, can have unlimited access to a whole lot of your data if you allow it while installing. And most people just blindly agree to all permissions without thinking whether it’s justified. For instance, if an app has access to your microphone, it can listen in at any time. With Android Q, we expect greater control over permissions. This means you should be able to allow an app access only while using it or for a pre-set period. And your phone will notify you if an app is trying to access sensitive information (microphone, precise location) when the app is not open.
Multiple Navigation Options
All full screen phones have some form of gesture navigation hidden away in the settings. It’s where you do away with the typical Android buttons altogether and use a system of swipes from the bottom of the screen. We’re hoping for a lot more customisation by default. For instance, to have zero buttons (gestures), standard three buttons, two buttons (just back + home), single button (Meizu style) and a floating button that you can move around anywhere on the screen. Android is all about offering customisation, so this just makes a lot of sense.
Today’s flagships are already powerful enough to drive an entire separate interface and multiple monitors — why not put that to good use? Huawei/Honor and Samsung phones have had this for a while now. Samsung DEX and Huawei Desktop Mode let you connect an external monitor/TV using a USB to HDMI cable. (Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro can do this wirelessly too, with something called Easy Projection). You can then use a wireless keyboard + mouse and enjoy desktop-like features while continuing to operate the phone independently. If this feature gets built into Android, it means all phones above a certain spec will have it — doing away with the need for a separate PC if all you need is web, multimedia and documents.
Native Screen Recording
Not a lot people use this feature but it can be useful in certain scenarios. For instance when you want to show someone how to do something on a phone, to share video game gameplay footage and record a video call. There are some ad-supported apps that offer this functionality if it’s not built in but there’s typically a watermark on the resulting video.
System-Wide Dark Mode
Once you use a ‘dark’ app, you’ll realize why it’s so soothing. It won’t jolt your eyes at night or in a dark theatre. On devices with amoled screens, dark mode can also help prolong battery life. Phones with amoled screens (from Samsung and OnePlus) have included this dark mode/theme for some time now but including it as part of Android means the inconsistencies vanish. It will be uniformly dark everywhere, including all the built in apps.
Improved Caller ID & SMS/ call Blocking
It’s time Google challenged Truecaller’s monopoly in this space. With an increasing number of spam calls and SMS, many folks have to resort to using apps like Truecaller. For SMS blocking to work, you also have to set a blocking app as the default messaging app. If this feature goes live, we can hopefully look forward to an ad-free and pop-up free way to block annoying callers.