Android Q Beta 2 Arrives: Bubbles Multitasking Feature, iOS-Like Gesture, More!

Google has brought the second Android Q developer preview just in a month after announcing the new iteration. The Android Q Beta 2 update has been rolled out for all Pixel devices with an all-new multitasking experience called "Bubbles" and an iOS-like navigation system. Google has also brought a foldable emulator dedicated for developers looking to build apps for foldable devices. The latest Android Q beta build is also found to have a new seekable progress bar for media notifications and a faster share menu. Additionally, the Android Q Beta 2 update includes an API to let developers choose between the multiple microphones.

How to download Android Q Beta 2

The Android Q Beta 2 update can be downloaded on Google Pixel 3 XL, Pixel, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel 2, Pixel XL, or the Pixel. Users need to participate in the Android Beta Program to avail the update.

For the users who are already a part of the Android Beta Program, the Android Q Beta 2 update will be available as an over-the-air (OTA) package. Google has alternatively provided downloadable factory images for all the eligible Pixel phones. Sideloadable OTA files can also be used to download the latest Android Q version.

Android Q Beta 2 is now available for all Pixel phones

If you don't have a Pixel device but are keen to experience the features of the latest Android Q developer preview, you can download the latest emulator system images via the SDK Manager in Android Studio.

Android Q Beta 2 features

In the list of changes that come through the Android Q Beta 2 is the addition of Bubbles that enable a new multitasking experience. The feature works similar to how Facebook brought its Chat Heads a long time ago. However, Bubbles, unlike Facebook's Chat Heads, are capable of working with a large number of Android apps -- not just with some Facebook-exclusive offerings such as the Messenger app and the native Facebookapp.

Android Q Beta 2 brings 'Bubbles' for an enhanced multitasking experience

"Various apps have already built similar interactions from the ground up, and we're excited to bring the best from those into the platform, while helping to make interactions consistent, safeguard user privacy, reduce development time, and drive innovation," says Dave Burke, VP of Engineering for Android, in a blog post.

The Bubbles feature essentially brings floating icons on the screen that help users easily take action on another app, without leaving the currently active one. The prime purpose of Bubbles is to make conversations on Android simpler and faster than before by enabling users to receive bubble icons on the screen upon the receipt of a new message. However, other apps would also extend the use case of the new feature by using an API.

Google says that the Bubbles feature has been built on top of Android's notification system. Thus, it works just like a pop-up notification. The new feature also comes with a portable interface that can work for your notes, translations or some visual reminders of tasks. Moreover, an option to disable the Bubbles feature is available once you go to Settings > Apps & notifications > Notifications > Advanced.

Android Q Beta 2 provides you with the settings disable Bubbles

It is worth pointing out that at the time of filing this story, the Bubbles feature wasn't being used by any system apps -- not even Google Hangouts and Messages that both were showcased in a screenshot. However, since the implementation has been provided to developers alongside its API, the feature is likely to soon be adopted by some major apps.

In addition to the Bubbles feature, the Android Q Beta 2 update includes Scoped Storage. The feature takes user privacy to a new level by creating isolated, private sandboxes for individual apps. These sandboxes will be used by apps for storing their own files without any user permission. But at the same time, the apps will require special permissions to access shared collections for photos, videos, and audio.

Google has also added an exception for apps using files in shared collections, such as photos and video galleries and pickers, media browsing, and document storage. Furthermore, there are new permissions to begin with Scoped Storage, including READ_MEDIA_AUDIO, READ_MEDIA_IMAGES, and READ_MEDIA_VIDEO.

On the interface front, the Android Q Beta 2 upgrades the existing navigation system with improvements that are apparently in line with the gesture-based navigations on iOS. The pill that enables navigation on Android devices can now be used to move from screen to another with a swiping gesture to any direction -- left or right. This removes the floating window that had debuted through Android Pie

The Android Q Beta 2 update also allows users to completely ditch the back button and switch to the iPhone X-like navigation bar. As noted by XDA Developers, users need to use ADB shell command adb shell settings put global quickstepcontroller_showhandle 1 to enable the new gesture bar that doesn't have a back button.o

At the time of launching Android Q last month, Google announced its extensive support for foldable devices. But now, the company has finally brought a new foldable device emulator that is available through Android Studio 3.5 available in the canary release channel. The emulator appears to support two hardware configurations at the present stage -- with a 7.3-inch screen that folds to 4.6 inches and an 8-inch screen that can be folded to 6.6 inches. These dimensions remind us of the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X, which both are so far the two leading foldable smartphones in the market.

Google has brought a Foldable emulator

The Android Q Beta 2 update is also touted to include improvements in onResume and onPause to support multi-resume and notify the apps when they're in focus on the screen. Additionally, Google has changed the way how the resizeableActivity manifest attribute works to help developers manage how their apps will be displayed on foldable and large screen devices.

To enhance audio experiences, the Android Q Beta 2 comes with a MicrophoneDirection API that allows developers to pick a suitable direction of the microphone while capturing an audio recording. Google underlines that the API brings a standardised way of controlling zoomable microphones. In simple terms, the new API would enable developers to use the front-facing microphone of your device when an app is offering a video chat feature, while the primary, microphone from the bottom side would be used for recording typical videos.

As spotted by Android Police, the Android Q Beta 2 comes with a seekable progress bar for media notifications. The bar is visible when you play a music file or a YouTube video on your device.

The new Android Q version is also found to enable a new volume pop-up control to let you easily adjust different volume levels without entering the settings screen.

Android Q includes a new volume pop-up control screen

Google has also apparently fixed a screenshot bug with the Android Q Beta 2 that was showing rounded corners and notches to users on the previous Android Q version.

Android Q Beta 2 screenshot without rounded corners (right) and Android Q Beta 1 screenshot with rounded corners (left)

The new Android Beta version has also made the share menu faster. The new experience was notably promised last year.