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Android Q Engineering AMA Tidbits: Time-based Dark Theme, Screen Recording, more



With the release of Android Q Beta 5, Google announced that they would be hosting a Reddit AMA, to answer our burning questions about Android Q and almost everything else Android related. That AMA took place this afternoon, with the Android engineering team providing fun and interesting tidbits about, among other things, Android Q and what may be coming with Android R.

Screen recording

In the early releases of the Android Q beta, it was possible, with only a minor Settings change, to enable a handy, built-in screen recording UI. Unfortunately, this screen recorder was short-lived, disappearing in the third beta, outside of a change via ADB.

One redditor asked when we should expect built-in screen recording to return, outside of “super sketchy apps.” To this, the product manager for Android UI, Allen Huang, shared that screen recording is just one part of what we should expect for Android R.

Given Dave’s signed us up for scrollable screenshots AND how often users are taking screenshots – we’re taking a close look at how we can improve the whole screen-[X] experience for R. We certainly think that these types of functions are things that should be core to the operating system.

Dark theme improvements

One of the hottest topics of Android Q has been native dark mode support. Naturally, it came up multiple times throughout today’s Android Q AMA. More specifically, a few redditors asked about Dark Mode being able to be triggered automatically.

One model Google had previously considered for switching to and from dark mode was based on sunset and sunrise time, but this was scrapped due to it requiring fairly accurate location data. Allowing users to set dark mode based on time of day is being considered, but will apparently not be possible in stock Android Q.

Privacy improvements

Having been asked a question about Play Store policy enforcement, product manager for privacy on Android, Charmaine D’Silva, shared an interesting statistic. You may recall last year that Google made a significant change, restricting permission to Android call and text logs almost exclusively to the primary phone call or texting app on your device. While that change was controversial at the time, D’Silva has shared the upside to that privacy change:

For example, last fall, we introduced the SMS and Call Log policies that limited the types of apps that could request for these permissions. As a result, today, the number of apps with access to this sensitive information has decreased by more than 98%. The vast majority of developers were able to switch to an alternative or eliminate minor functionality.

Open Source Wear OS?

As you may know, Google’s Wear OS, having once been called Android Wear, is based heavily on Android. However, unlike Android, Wear OS is not open source, meaning OEMs and developers are not able to read through the code to gain a deeper understanding of the system or even make changes.

When asked whether Wear OS would ever be open sourced, tech lead manager of the Android Open Source Project, Jeff Bailey, had “nothing new to share at this time.”

Changes to Android’s future development

As you may know, Google has a public bug/issue tracker where users and developers can share issues with Android — and certain other Google products — more or less directly with Google. However, while some issues posted may catch traction with some public attention, many go ignored for months at a time or are rejected in a confusing manner — this was the case for the original request for scrolling screenshots earlier this year.

A concerned redditor brought up the possibility of Google taking issues raised by developers and the public more seriously in the future. Jeff Bailey tackled this question first by pointing out that the issue tracker has high potential to be overwhelmed, as more tech-savvy people become aware of it. But he didn’t close the door on the idea, stating that it’s possible that some teams may work directly with “external” bugs in the future.

Our developers currently work only on internal bugs. There are a few teams that’ve expressed interest in working directly externally, and we’re trying to figure out how to do this.


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LineageOS 16 Pie arrives on the Zenfone 6, Razer Phone, and other devices




The LineageOS project just keeps on trucking. Since the last time we covered the most popular custom ROM around, it has added six more phones to the device roster, including the original Razer Phone and the Asus Zenfone 6.

Without further ado, here are all the newly-supported phones, all of which have LineageOS 16 builds (based on Android 9 Pie):

  • Samsung Galaxy S4 Value Edition (GT-I9515/L) (jfvelte)
  • Samsung Galaxy A3 (2016) (a3xelte)
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) (a5xelte)
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 Neo (s5neolte)
  • Razer Phone (cheryl)
  • Asus Zenfone 6 (ZS630KL) (I01WD)

The Razer Phone and Zenfone 6 were just added yesterday, so builds aren’t available yet for those phones. It’s also nice to see more older phones get LineageOS 16 — the Galaxy S4 ‘Value Edition’ is over five years old.

As a side note, it’s not often that I see code commits that make me genuinely laugh, but a Lineage developer left the caption “Epic gamer moment” for the commit that enabled Razer Phone builds. Let’s hope the Razer Phone doesn’t have thermal issues, or we could have a heated gaming moment on our hands.


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Android fans reveal all the iOS 13 features they like




Apple released iOS 13 beta 5 for developers on Monday, and it’ll likely follow that today with iOS 13 public beta 4. This latest release focuses mainly on bug fixes, obviously, though beta 5 in particular seems to have added more bugs than it squashed. Still, the stars of the show in Apple’s iOS 13 betas are the new features like Dark Mode and all the big changes in Apple’s official apps.

Something Apple fans don’t often consider when they start using a new version of iOS like iOS 13 is that the new features Apple adds to its mobile software don’t just shape the future of devices like the iPhone and iPad, they also help shape the future of Android devices. When building new versions of Android each year, Google often looks to Apple’s iPhone and iPad software and pulls in features for its own mobile platform. This isn’t a bad thing — Apple takes features from Android all the time, too. When cool and useful new features arrive on one platform, why wouldn’t the other one want them as well?

After last year’s iOS 12 release was focused mainly on fixing the many, many problems in iOS 11, this year’s iOS 13 release is all about adding new features. And now, hardcore Android fans have gotten together and shared all the cool new iOS 13 features they wish Google would copy and add to Android.

About a week after Apple unveiled iOS 13 in June, an Android blog called Android Police penned a post covering all the new iOS 13 features that they wished would come to Android. The blog said that some of the new iOS 13 features Apple unveiled during its big WWDC 2019 keynote presentation left it “doe-eyed and jealous,” and it went on to list a whopping 25 different features it wants Google to copy.

There are indeed some terrific new features that Apple introduced in iOS 13, and the ones noted in this post were all pretty good ones. Among them are Sign in with Apple, which is a far more secure way to handle universal sign-ins; automatic Dark Mode, which allows the user to configure a schedule that enables and disables Dark Mode automatically; optimized battery charging, which uses AI to learn the user’s charging habits and adjusts the phone’s charging schedule to extend battery longevity; the new offline Find My device location support; full-page screenshots; more powerful reminders; and more.

It’s a solid list of features that Android would undoubtedly benefit from if Google incorporated them at the OS level. But we wondered what other Android fans might think of the list.

For whatever reason, hardcore fans of Android or iOS often have trouble acknowledging nifty features in the other mobile OS. And they almost always refuse to admit when their platform of choice copies something from the other one. That’s why we were so surprised when we came across this thread on Reddit, which links to the aforementioned Android Police post. The Android subreddit is full of hardcore Android fans and we figured they would take issue with the mere suggestion that Google should copy features from Apple. Instead, most of the comments in the thread cover the best new features in iOS 13 that they think Apple did a terrific job on.

Some of the highest praise was heaped on iOS 13 features like Sign in with Apple, offline Find My support, and optimized battery charging. Some Android fans even noted some older iOS features that they wish would come to Android, such as AirDrop and the ability to give an app permission to access certain APIs (location, camera, etc.) only while the app is open. All in all, it’s a great thread that could help other Android users appreciate the iPhone. It also could help Google figure out which new Android features its users want most, so let’s hope the company is paying attention.


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Microsoft is starting to force-update Windows 10 machines from version 1803 to 1903




Microsoft has been known to force its Windows 10 users to update their machines; much to the chagrin of many customers. Though Microsoft’s Windows 10 updates are usually fine and relatively stable, they do sometimes bring sweeping changes that can frustrate users or even cause performance issues and outright data loss.

With this volatility and unpredictability in mind, it’s perhaps understandable that many users would try to avoid updating their machines for as long as possible. For several individuals, that means sticking to Windows 10’s 1803 update, which came out around mid-2018.

Unfortunately for those folks, Microsoft has had enough of their reluctance to update and has opted to take matters into its own hands. Starting now, the tech giant will be force-updating computers running Windows 10 version 1803 to the latest version of the OS, which is the Windows 10 May 2019 update (version 1903). Microsoft says its reasoning primarily stems from a desire to keep user systems secure.

“Keeping these devices both supported and receiving monthly updates is critical to device security and ecosystem health,” the tech giant wrote in a support article announcement. “Based on the large number of devices running the April 2018 Update, that will reach the end of 18 months of service on November 12, 2019, we are starting the update process now for Home and Pro editions to help ensure adequate time for a smooth update process.”

Though some users will undoubtedly feel they know their machines and their potential security risks better than Microsoft does, there is no clear way to opt-out of this update — short of using software like ShutUp10 to disable the functionality entirely (which can carry its own risks).

The good news is, Windows 10 version 1903 seems to be relatively stable so far and perhaps a bit ironically, it even includes some helpful new update control features. For example, the ability to “defer” updates was once a Pro-exclusive option, but all May 2019 update users will be able to utilize a similar functionality now. Specifically, Windows 10 version 1903 lets you push updates back up to 5 times, for 5 days each (up to 35 days in total).


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