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Android 10 Has Been Released. These Are Its 7 Most Anticipated New Features

Google’s newest mobile operating system, Android 10, was released Wednesday afternoon. There are dozens of small tweaks in the update, and a quite a few major ones.

Here are the most important things to know about the operating system heading (eventually) to more than three quarters of the world’s smartphone users.

When and how can I update my phone to Android 10?

Android 10 is now available for Google’s own Pixel flagship phones, as well as on phones from a few other companies. If your Pixel doesn’t receive an update prompt automatically, run System Update under the System menu (the gear icon), to download Android 10's roughly 1GB update file.

The Essential Phone (a project of Android co-creator Andy Rubin) and the non-U.S. Xiaomi Redmi K20 also reportedly started receiving the update as early as yesterday.

Owners of other phone models will probably have to wait to download the Android 10 update, since most manufacturers take some time to prepare new Android releases for their devices. That often takes weeks or even months. Samsung Galaxy users, for instance, might not get Android 10 until 2020.

What’s in the Android 10 update?

There are dozens of changes in Android 10, from small tweaks to menu designs and back-end changes that users are unlikely to notice, to large changes to the way you’ll interact with your phone. The full details can be found in the Android 10 release notes, but these features are the most anticipated changes:

Dark Mode

Turn this on, and your phone will display white text against a black background, across most apps and menus. Dark mode improves battery life, and is more comfortable for some users. In previous Android versions, the operating system’s own menus and screens could be set to a dark theme, but there was no option for a system-wide dark mode that also affected apps. That will change with the Android 10's release.

Smart Reply

Previous flavors of Android had already suggested some automatically-generated replies to messages such as texts. But with Android 10's Smart Reply feature, the Google's operating system will also suggest contextual actions, like opening Maps when someone texts you an address.  

Improved gesture controls

A new bar at the bottom of the screen on phones that have downloaded Android 10 will allow users to ‘swipe’ between recently-used apps, or to return to the home screen. But this is not to be confused with hands-free swiping, reportedly coming to Google’s Pixel 4.

Better privacy controls

In what might be the single biggest change to Google's mobile operating system, Android 10 places all app permissions in one place, making it immensely easier to control which applications can use your location data, read your calendar, or otherwise access data about you.

Given recent heightened attention to tech and privacy, this Android 10 feature is a badly-needed one.

New emoji

Everyone loves emoji; they might make our communication more efficient and precise. Google earlier this year announced 65 new emoji are coming with Android 10, including a stethoscope, an array of gender- and racially-inclusive couples, and, well, an otter.

Focus Mode

Android 10’s new Focus Mode will let users stop notifications for selected apps over a set amount of time. And if you do find yourself compulsively opening apps as a time-wasting distraction, the setting will even reportedly remind you that you’ve got better things to do.

Focus Mode arrives in Android 10 along with a few other ‘digital wellbeing’ tools, like ‘app timers’ that help you control the amount of time you to spend in an app each day.

Family Controls

Parents are increasingly concerned with keeping kids from overindulging in screen time.  Android 10’s new “Family Link” allows parents to use their own phone to control screen time on their kids’ devices, monitor what apps are being used, and even see the location of their children’s phones.

In addition to the above features, Android 10's other updates include faster delivery of security fixes, support for more photo file types, and a Live Caption tool that lets users translate any audio into text. For more, check out Google’s own detailed rundown of all the new features in Android 10.

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