Android 10 (formerly named Q) begins rolling out now to Google’s Pixel phones. Non-Pixel Android devices are supposed to get the update later this year. Announced at Google I/O, it boasts a range of new features including:

  • New privacy and security features (including around location).
  • A number of “digital well-being” controls to limit screen time and prevent distraction.
  • Gesture navigation (swiping, pulling, similar to the iPhone).
  • Smart reply (combining suggested responses with recommended actions/apps).
  • Dark theme (saves battery).
  • Live captions for video, podcasts and audio messages.
  • Faster bug fixes and security updates.

More privacy and security. Consistent with broader industry trends, Google is placing more emphasis on privacy and security in Android 10. As we wrote previously, users will now have more control over location and can grant apps location access in the background (always), while in use or never.

Google is also going to periodically remind users when an app is accessing location in the background so that it can be turned off. This is a feature that Apple used to have on the iPhone but discontinued because of developer objections.

Privacy settings will be easier to find, in a single location. Web activity and Ad Settings will also be housed there.

Users will be able to determine how long Google stores data. For example, there’s an auto-delete capability for location history. You’ll be able to direct Google to save your data for three months or 18 months, after which it will be wiped. Users can also opt out of retargeting and ads personalization.

Features like Family Link and Focus Mode help users control screen time and mute distracting apps. Users will also be able exercise more control over notifications.

Why we should care. The enhanced controls over privacy, location tracking and advertising should, in theory, promote user confidence and trust. It remains to be seen, however, how many people discover and actively engage with these settings.

If more people, for example, control access to their location — together with the forthcoming CCPA — there could be a meaningful impact on the availability of location data for advertisers and the broader data ecosystem.

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