Gears & Gadgets

Google’s second Android Q Beta brings us “Bubbles” multitasking

Google is releasing the second Android Q Beta today. As we learned with the first release, Android Q is bringing support for foldable smartphones, better privacy and permissions controls, and a grab bag of other features. We’ve yet to install the second beta on one of our own devices, but Google’s release blog post promises “bug fixes, optimizations, and API updates,” as well as a crazy new multitasking feature and an emulator for foldables.

Android loves multitasking. So far we’ve had split screens and floating windows, and Android Q Beta 1 even had a hidden desktop mode. Beta 2 brings us a new multitasking feature called “Bubbles.” Bubbles let you minimize an app into a little circle, which floats around on the screen above all your other apps. Tapping on a bubble will open a small UI. The only demo Google shows is one for a messaging app. Each bubble is a contact, and tapping on the bubble shows a small chat UI. If you remember Facebook’s “Chat Head” UI for Messenger, Bubbles is that, but built into the OS.

Google offers a few suggested use cases for Bubbles, saying, “Bubbles are great for messaging because they let users keep important conversations within easy reach. They also provide a convenient view over ongoing tasks and updates, like phone calls or arrival times. They can provide quick access to portable UI, like notes or translations, and can be visual reminders of tasks too.”

Bubbles is “built on top of Android’s notification system,” and developers can “send a bubble through a notification.” Does that mean apps can just spawn a new bubble when you get a message? Apps need to specifically support Bubbles in order for the feature to work, which will certainly make consistently using it or even testing it out pretty difficult. Start petitioning your favorite developers.

In other Android Q news, Google is preparing for the coming flood of foldable devices like the Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X. When foldables fold and unfold, there are big display state changes that Google needs to support. Multi-screen devices like the Galaxy Fold need to be able to switch screens when the devices open and close. For single-screen devices like the Mate X, Android needs to be able to grow and shrink the active area of the screen when a user unfolds or folds the device. Foundational Android changes to make all this work are going into Android Q, and with the second beta, Google is also releasing Android Studio 3.5, which comes with foldable support in the emulator. Nobody has a foldable smartphone yet, but developers can at least do some testing on the new emulator, which supports dual-screen devices and can grow and shrink in size.

Google is also rolling out more of its “scoped storage” changes, which stop apps from having free-for-all access to your internal storage. Google warns that this is going to break a lot of stuff, saying, “You might experience problems with apps that access photos, videos, media, or other files stored on your device.” Android Betas normally come with a list of known issues, but Google is laying on the warnings very strongly for this version.

We’re still going to flash it, though. We’ll test it out and report back.

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Tech – Ars Technica

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