Android 10 features: new gestures, sound amplifier, silent notification, live caption & more

As tradition dictates every year, Google has refreshed its Android OS with a new version dubbed Android 10. This time the big G dropped the dessert names we’ve seen in previous Android versions and they won’t be coming back either.

An update that installs Google’s latest Android flavor started rolling out to the company’s Pixels on September 3. Google has already published the system images and Android 10 source code to AOSP, meaning other vendors can pick up the code and start working on their own OS updates.

As usual, the new OS comes with a plethora of new software features that include and are not limited to redesigned gesture navigations, a system-wide dark theme, sound amplifier, improved notification controls, live caption, and privacy enhancements, among many other changes.

In this post, we give you a quick look at all the major Android 10 features and changes we think you need to know about even as you wait for your favorite device maker to start rolling out the new OS.

New gestures

Android-10-gesture-navigation

With Android Pie came a new 2-button navigation system replacing the old layout of three buttons (Home, Back, and Recents) in Android Oreo and before. With Android 10, Google went full-blown with gesture navigation by eliminating the two-button style from Pie.

The Back button to the left of the “pill” in Pie has been replaced with a side-swipe gesture. The home gesture is basically unchanged from Pie, where you swipe up from the bottom of the screen, but this time from any point of the bottom screen.

To open the recent page, swipe up and then hold for a moment. While at it, slide your finger either left or right to switch between recent apps. To launch Google Assistant now that the Home button is no more, swipe down on either the left or right bottom corner of the screen.

If all of these sounds like sci-fi, don’t freak out. Android 10 still lets you use the old 3-button navigation style. To enable it, go to Settings > System > Gestures > System Navigation.

System-wide dark theme

Android-10-dark-theme

Finally, we have a system-wide dark theme in Android 10. This is unlike the dark mode that came with Android Pie, where it applied only to certain UI elements like the settings panel and some menus.

Enabling the system-wide dark theme in Android 10 applies to both the system UI and specific apps. Also, activating battery-saver mode on Google Pixels running the new OS enables dark mode by default.

To enable system-wide dark theme, open Settings > Display > Theme and select Dark.

Sound amplifier

Android-10-sound-amplifier

The first mention of Sound Amplifier came at the I/O 2018 and just recently the app’s support expanded beyond Android Pie to include Android Nougat and Marshmallow users. As expected, Sound Amplifier is also part of Android 10.

According to Google:

With Sound Amplifier, your phone can boost sound, filter background noise, and fine-tune to how you hear best. Listening to podcasts, watching videos, or talking in a busy room — just plug in your headphones and hear everything more clearly.

Direct Bluetooth streaming to hearing aids

Android 10 will turn your hearing aids into Bluetooth headsets thanks to the support for direct Bluetooth low-energy streaming to hearing aids from GN Hearing and Cochlear, at least for now. Google follows in the footsteps of Apple in offering this feature on its mobile OS.

This feature allows those who wear hearing aids to use them as regular Bluetooth headphones. That is, making calls, listening to music, watching videos/movies, and so on. Thanks to the low-energy Bluetooth standard, the hearing aids’ battery life shouldn’t be greatly impacted.

Silent notifications

Android has always been great with the way it handles notifications. In Android 10, things are getting even better with what Google calls “Alerting” and “Silent” options for snoozing notifications in the notification shade.

The default setting marks notifications as “Alerting” and these appear at the top of incoming notifications. These notifications will trigger the sound, appear in your list of notifications, status bar, as well as the lock screen.

When set to “Silent” the notifications appear in a labeled section below the default notifications. They won’t trigger any sound or appear on the lock screen, but they still appear in the notification list.

Smart replies in notifications

Android-10-Smart-Reply

Android 10 notification management has also added the option for smart replies directly from the shade. Apps will provide suggestions for quick replies, but you can always disable them.

Android 10 uses on-device ML to suggest contextual actions in notifications, such as smart replies for messages or opening a map for an address in the notification.

Live captioning

Android-10-Live-Caption

Another interesting Android 10 feature is Live Captioning. An accessibility addition, Live Captioning lets you add text to pre-recorded videos, just like what you already see in TV shows, movies, and even YouTube videos.

The beauty of Live Captioning is that its available system-wide, but the unfortunate bit, as usual, is that only Google Pixels can enjoy it, at least for now.

Focus Mode

Android-10-Focus-Mode

Digital Wellbeing debuted with Android Pie, arriving as a feature meant to watch over your digital lifestyle. With Android 10, as expected, Google has expanded Digital Wellbeing functions with a new feature called Focus Mode.

Focus Mode lets users pause notifications from apps they find most distracting via the settings menu. The best part is that the feature may still let you receive potentially important notifications. If you try accessing an app that is in Focus Mode, you’ll be notified.

You can activate Focus Mode in Android 10’s quick settings menu.

Family Link

Android-10-Family-Link

Like Focus Mode, Family Link is another addition to Digital Wellbeing. With this feature, parents can keep an eye on activities kids engage in on their phones without leaving the Digital Wellbeing app or even installing a separate app.

Privacy and Security

As pointed out, every Android OS version comes with privacy and security improvements. With Android 10, there are two major additions I’d like to highlight, but my personal favorite is how security updates will be applied going forward.

Android-10-security-updates

Rather than wait for a system update just so as to get the latest privacy security updates, Google will now distribute these updates via the Play Store, the company’s app store.

Another privacy tweak introduced in Android 10 has to do with location. Going forward, users can limit apps to access their location settings only when in use. This means only when the app in question, for instance, Google Maps, is actively open on the screen and not in the background.

Android-10-location-privacy

Of course, this article is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other minute Android 10 features and changes that it doesn’t highlight, but we know you’ll come across them as you get acquainted with the new OS.

You can explore this page and this page to check out more Android 10 features, but do keep in mind that some of them are still limited to Google Pixels, although others will eventually find their way to other non-Google phones.

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Hillary Keverenge

A techy. Besides phones, I also enjoy the farm, music, football, and, of course, food.