10 Cool Features to Try in Android 10

The latest Android OS is now available to download for Pixel devices. Here’s how to get it, and the best new features and updates to take for a spin.
PCMag reviews products independently, but we may earn affiliate commissions from buying links on this page. Terms of use.
10 Cool Features to Try in Android 10

The newest version of Android is here, and for the first time ever it’s not named after a dessert.

Android 10, formerly codenamed Android Q, is now available on Google’s lineup of Pixel phones, as well as a handful of other Android devices included in Google’s beta and early release schedule. If you’ve got a OnePlus 7 or 7 Pro, there’s an open beta for you to get early access.

For everyone else, it’ll take weeks and months for Android 10 to roll out to the entire fragmented landscape of Android devices, but if you’d rather not wait, you can see if your device is eligible to download the beta version.

Not all of Android 10’s marquee features are available at launch, but there are plenty of shiny new additions to play around with for now. Here’s how to download the update on Pixel devices, and the coolest features you can take for a spin right away. We’ve also noted a couple big features to keep an eye out for in the coming months.

  • Before You Continue: Back Up Your Device

    Before you upgrade to Android 10, make sure you back up all the data on your phone to Google Drive first. There are always bugs in the transition from the developer beta to a wide release, so it’s best to be safe in case things go very wrong during the installation process. Furthermore, if you want to return to using a previous version of Android, you’ll wipe all your data in the process.
    Back everything up now to avoid a later disaster.

    We used a Pixel device, but it may work a little differently depending on your phone. Navigate to Settings > System > Advanced > Backup and make sure the Back up to Google Drive feature is switched to the on position.

    Determine which items you wish to back up—app data, call history, contacts, device settings, and text messages—then tap Back up now to save your data in the cloud. Now if Android 10 acts up and you need to reset your phone, all the important data will be preserved.

  • Download the Update

    To download the update on your Pixel or another Android phone, go to Settings > System > Advanced > System updates to manually check if you have any updates available. When the update arrives, tap the message and initiate the download. It will take several minutes for the beta to fully download, so be patient.

  • Dark Mode

    Android 10 introduces a UI-wide dark mode that adds a dark theme to the phone’s menus and several built-in apps. To turn it on, navigate to Settings > Display > Dark Theme. Once engaged, you will notice that apps like Photos, Files, Contacts, and Clock will have a black background. That includes Chrome, Google confirmed this week; dark mode support for Gmail, Google Maps, and other apps are in the works.

    Once Dark Mode has been engaged, you can add a quick settings tile to the pull-down menu, which makes it easy to switch dark mode on and off. Just pull down from the top of the screen and tap the pencil icon in the bottom-left corner. Then drag the Dark Theme icon into the menu.

    Using dark mode can also save your phone’s battery life, so it is now part of Battery Saver Mode. Turn this on by going to Settings > Battery > Battery Saver and tapping the Turn on now button. If the dark theme has not already been chosen, it will automatically turn on.

  • New Gesture Controls

    Android 10 introduces gesture controls, which eliminate the traditional three-button navigational system present in most instances of Android and are very similar to those found on iPhone X.

    First, turn them on in Settings > System > Gestures > System Navigation > Gestural Navigation. While the Google Pixel already uses several gestures to begin with, Android 10 introduces a few new ones as well:

    • Swipe up on the navigation bar to go home.
    • Swipe in from either side of the screen to go back.
    • Swipe up and pause in the middle of the screen to launch the app switcher.
    • Swipe up from the bottom of the home screen to open the app drawer.
    • Swipe left or right at the very bottom of the screen to switch between apps.
  • Smart Reply & Suggested Actions

    Android 10 expands Google’s Smart Reply feature to cover any messaging app on your phone. Now Facebook Messenger, Signal, WhatsApp, and a number of other services will be able to offer quick responses and predict what you’re trying to say next. Suggested Actions, meanwhile, will suggest relevant apps to use depending on your current activities. This means you will receive a prompt to open Google Maps if someone sends you an address, or Contacts if it’s a phone number.

  • New Emoji

    Of course, the new version of Android comes with a trove of new emojis. Android 10’s cupboard comes stocked with more non-specific representations of various professions with the option to specify gender and race, plus a selection of new animals, foods, and miscellaneous emoji like a banjo, a razor, and a yo-yo.
  • Sound Amplifier

    Sound Amplifier, which is also now available as a standalone Google app, lets your Android device filter out background noise, boost sound, and fine-tune audio while you’re listening to music or a podcast, watching a video, or doing any other audio-intensive activity on your phone. It’s a great accessibility improvement for hard-of-hearing users, but everyone could stand to hear things a bit more clearly.
  • Family Link

    Housed within Digital Wellbeing, the new suite of Family Link features gives parents a set of controls and safeguards for monitoring and limiting their kids’ tech use. For any devices connected to the family plan, parents can see real-time device location, manage apps and on-device content, and set screen time limits for specific apps or the phone as a whole.
  • Manage Privacy and Location Permissions

    Under Settings > Privacy you’ll find a new menu centralizing all privacy and permissions settings in one place. The Permissions Manager lets you control exactly what apps have access to specific personal data like contacts, camera, call logs, location, microphone, and more. If you manage location permissions, for instance, you’ll see a list of the apps with always-on location access, location access only when using the app, and denied access. Tap into any app to toggle permissions.

    You can also go deeper into Settings > Privacy > Advanced > Location History to open the Location History settings of your entire Google account and manage your settings to choose what you do and don’t want to share with Google.

  • Opt Out of Ad Targeting

    Another new privacy tool is the ability to opt out of ad targeting, which means Google won’t use your data to personalize the ads you see on your device and through Google apps and services. Go to Settings > Privacy > Advanced > Ads and toggle the “Opt out of Ads Personalization” to ensure that apps won’t use your data to build advertising profiles and target specific ads at you. You’ll still get ads; they just won’t be “personalized.”
  • Focus Mode (Beta)

    Google will also be adding a new feature to its Digital Wellbeing app that allows you to shut down distracting apps. When activated, Focus Mode will make it so that social media and mobile games can’t be used until you turn it off. Right now this feature is only available in the Android 10 beta, but when rolled out publicly it’ll be accessible in Settings > Digital Wellbeing to pause distracting apps temporarily simply by checking a box.

  • Coming Soon: Live Captions

    Another major feature coming to Android 10 is Live Captions, which are a huge step for accessibility. The feature will add captions to videos, songs, podcasts, and even video calls in real time, with or without an internet connection. Basically, if you don’t have the sound on but want to watch a YouTube video, Live Captions will allow you to read what is being said. Live Captions won’t be available until sometime later this year, and it may take even longer to get it on non-Pixel devices.

Let’s block ads! (Why?) Latest Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *