Android 10: Ten essential tips for overlooked features

The latest version of Android is packed with new features, but some are quite subtle, so let's point them out.

Credit: Ryan Whitwam/IDG

Android 10, previously known as Android Q, has finally started rolling out after months of beta testing. The Android of today is much more feature-rich than it was in the past, and that means some genuinely useful features could escape your notice. No one wants that, so here are 10 tips to get the most out of the latest version of Android.

Use the new gesture navigation like a pro

Google has a new gesture navigation system in Android 10, and it can be much better than the 2-button gesture setup from Android Pie, as long as you know how to use it. As this is a full gesture setup similar to the iPhone, some of the intricacies are unclear.

In addition to swiping on the gesture area up to go home, you can swipe left and right to quickly cycle between recent apps. The back gesture has gotten a lot of attention because of the way it interferes with opening navigation drawers on the edge of the screen, but there's a simple way to avoid accidentally triggering the back gesture. Just drag in and down toward the opposite corner of the screen. As long as you're far enough away from a horizontal swipe, the back gesture won't fire, and you can open the drawer every time.

Save your eyes with Dark Theme

Google has teased us with dark mode options in previous beta versions of Android, but Android Q is the first one that stuck. The final version of Android 10 includes a Dark Theme system UI, and there are already some apps that will respect your dark mode setting.

android 10 dark mode Google

To turn on dark mode, open the quick settings and just tap the Dark Theme icon. You can also find it under Settings > Display > Dark Mode. Sadly, there's no way to automatically schedule the Dark Theme like there is on Samsung's phones, but the quick setting is easy enough.

Share your Wi-Fi via QR codes

Sharing your Wi-Fi password with guests is the polite thing to do, but you should be using a strong password that's probably annoying to read off. Android 10 makes it easier with QR code sharing. To get someone on your network, go to the Wi-Fi settings, and tap on the settings gear next to your network. Tap the "Share" button, verify your fingerprint, and your phone generates a QR code.

wifi qr Google

To join via a QR code on another Android 10 phone, tap the QR icon next to "Add network" on the main Wi-Fi network list. Point your camera at the QR code, and you're connected.

Smarter smart reply

Google's Smart Reply system is getting even smarter in Android 10. Instead of simply suggesting text replies, Smart Reply can offer to send emoji. If the message contained an address or web link, Smart Reply can offer to open those instantly, too. Be on the lookout for these new bubbles when you get a message.

smart reply Google

Change the hidden theming options

Google is working toward proper theme support in Android little by little, but there's already some basic them control if you know where to look. First, you'll need to activate developer options. Go to Settings > About Phone and tap on Build Number seven times. Then open the developer options menu under System > Advanced. Scroll all the way down to the bottom, and you'll find the Theming section where you can choose between several different accent colors and icon shapes.

theming Google

Get more done with Focus Mode

Smartphones are made to be engaging, but sometimes you just need to get some work done. Google added Digital Wellbeing in Android Pie, and Android 10 takes it a step further with Focus Mode. This feature lets you disable apps you use too much, helping you focus.

focus mode Google

You can find Focus Mode under Settings > Digital Wellbeing > Focus Mode. Simply select the apps you find distracting, and turn on Focus Mode. Make sure you add the quick settings so you can quickly turn Focus Mode on and off.

Use the new Files app

Google's Files app in Android Pie was not really worth using, but it beefed up the experience considerably in Android 10. You can access the app via Settings > Storage > Files, and there's also a Files icon in the app list.

files app Google

The new Google Files app shows the full folder hierarchy on your internal storage with multiple view options. There are also shortcuts to find all images, audio, videos, and more. You can even have more than one copy of the Files app open at a time by using the "New window" command in the overflow menu.

Silent and alerting notifications

Google has struggled with how to make notifications more configurable without making the process hopelessly confusing. The process is now much simpler in Android 10. You can long-press on any notification to get options for "Alerting" and "Silent." Just flip an app over to silent if it's bothering you too much. You can tap the gear in the notification long-press menu to access more features like disabling the pop-over alert and setting silent or alerting for different notification channels within an app.

silent and alerting Google

Restrict location permissions

Android 10 has a whole new menu for monitoring how apps use your location under Settings > Location. There, you can see the apps that most recently grabbed your location, allowing you to block anything you don't trust.

Under the App Permission submenu, you can change the way apps access your location as well. You now have the option of allowing location access all the time or only when the app is open.

location Google

Opt out of ad targeting

Google has long offered a way to opt out of ad-targeting on Android, but the feature was buried deep in your account settings. Android 10 puts it in a much more accessible location. Check Settings > Privacy > Advanced > Ads to find the Opt out toggle. If you flip the switch, your activity won't feed into Google's ad algorithms. That's good for your peace of mind, but the ads you see won't be as relevant to your interests.

ad targeting Google

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Ryan Whitwam

PC World (US online)
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