Android Q AMA Reveals Interesting Details Of Next Google Mobile OS With Desktop Mode

Google continues to test and tweak the next major version of its mobile operating system, currently called Android Q, for which the Beta 5 release began rolling out to developers and testers nearly a month ago. The final release looms around the corner. In the meantime, the Android team hosted an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on Reddit and revealed some interesting details, including a clarification on Android Q's new Desktop Mode.

Initially discovered as a hidden mode in the first public beta of Android Q, the Desktop Mode has been a point of intrigue and speculation. And up until now, it was not entirely clear what the purpose was or what the implications were for Android as a whole. Now we know.

"In [Android] Q AOSP ‘desktop mode’ is a developer option targeted for application developers. It allows them to test their apps in multi-display and freeform windowing mode environments. Previously there was no convenient way to test app behavior on a secondary display and with freely resizable windows on stock Android. This feature is not productized on its own and is not meant for regular users at the moment. Nevertheless, it is the baseline of Android platform for OEMs to innovate and make great products," the Android team said.

So at least for now, the upcoming Desktop Mode is primarily a handy testing ground for developers, and not intended for Android users at large. It will be interesting to see if that changes at some point, though, as Google left the door open for this mode to be a bigger part of Android.

What is also interesting is how Android Q will deal with manufacturers breaking apps running in the background for the sake of extending battery life. The user who brought up the topic in the AMA session noted that this practice "is an absolute support nightmare for both developers and users," and Google seems to agree.

"We acknowledge the issue and take it very seriously. We have been actively working with device manufacturers to fix their implementations and seen some positive outcomes... To help with the situation, we’ve added a CTS test in Android Q to ensure that an app is not killed upon being swiped from Recents," the Android team said.

One thing that is still not clear is if Android Q will make use of the Vulkan API for the UI.

"The team has been working on a Vulkan backend for Skia, the 2D renderer used by Android, but it is not enabled by default currently. The UI and Canvas still go through OpenGL ES," the Android team said.

Given the late state that Android Q finds itself in at this point, it is probably unlikely that this will change between now and the final release. However, it could materialize in a future update, assuming the Android team does not change course on this particular aspect of Android.

One of the concerns that has been raised with Android Q is the use of new dynamic logical partitions, and how that might affect custom ROMs. Part of the appeal of Android (among enthusiasts) is the level of customization it affords end users. That includes a thriving ROM community. Well, good news—they are not intended to block users from installing custom ROMs.

"Dynamic partitions are not meant to constrain what you can do with custom ROMs. They are simply a solution to the problem of fixed partition sizes and lack of a safe way to repartition devices on OTA. Prior to dynamic partitions, if an OEM made a mistake in sizing e.g. the system partition, then they would be constrained by that choice, making it practically impossible to upgrade a device after a certain point. Some OEMs do repartition their devices on OTA as a matter of practice, but this is a) not officially supported in Android, and b) changing the partition table is considered quite risky," the Android team explained.

"Dynamic partitions aim to alleviate the problem by introducing a level of indirection between the physical partition table and the OS sees. This in turn allows us to safely adjust partition sizes on OTA. As for custom ROMs, you should not be at all constrained any more than you are today with what you can do. Supporting custom ROMs is and continues to be something each individual OEM decides to enable," the Android team continued.

There is quite a bit more to digest from the AMA, from memory management improvements in Android Q to the anticipated system-wide dark mode that is coming. Hit the link the Via field below to read the AMA in its entirety.

As for Android Q's release to the public, no firm date has been set, but it is likely it will debut sometime this month.