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Android 10 best features, from focus mode to new privacy controls

The latest version of Android arrived yesterday and it brings some significant changes. First and foremost, Google has finally dropped the letter-based naming convention for its mobile operating system, moving away from the Android Q name given to it in beta in favor of its new name, Android 10. But beyond that, the update also brings a slew of new features that you should be able to put to good use right away. Here are some of Android 10's best features that you'll want to check out right away.

Gesture controls

Google has been not-so-quietly revamping the navigation of Android over the last few iterations, making a move to gesture-heavy controls with the previous major update. Android 10 represents the company finally going all-in on the way to get around the phone, doing away with the need for buttons that still occasionally appear on Android devices. That means where you may have used to have a back button to return to a previous menu, you'll now make the move with a swiping gesture.

This is going to take some getting used to, and people were very upset about the implementation when it was first introduced in beta, as it has a habit of breaking apps that aren't fully optimized to support this style of navigation. It's going to be a change that both users and developers will have to adjust to, though in the end, it will likely be for the best. After all, it's worked out quite well for Apple with iOS, which did away with the physical home button completely with the introduction of its iPhone X lineup.

Focus mode

Let's be real, we all let our phones become a distraction to us. App notifications that we know aren't important become pressing when they make our phones ring or vibrate in our pockets. Android 10 has a feature that should finally help drown out those interruptions: Focus Mode. The new feature is available in your phone's settings and will let you pause notifications from certain apps that you find distracting. You'll be able to tell your device which notifications are important enough that you still want to receive updates from, but everything else will fade into the background so as to not disturb you. You'll be able to activate Focus Mode at will so any time you need to put your blinders on, you can.

New privacy controls

Google has lagged behind Apple when it comes to user privacy, but it's looking to make up ground with Android 10. One of the main focuses of the update is on expanding security and privacy options for users, with Google touting more than 50 new features in this sector. Some of them will likely go unnoticed, but there are other changes that you'll interact with regularly and are major improvements for protecting your privacy.

For one, Android 10 will now give you the option to only allow an app access to your specific location if you are using the app. If the app isn't open on your device, it won't be able to track your every move the way that it used to be able to. Another improvement on the permissions front is the ability to only grant an app access to your information once. This will let the app get the information it needs to operate but won't allow it to continually access your data, potentially scooping up details about your activity that you didn't know it was collecting. Google has also introduced a new feature, available in the Android Settings, that will show how much information is being collected by apps — giving users more motivation to take action to protect their information.

Android

Dark theme

Android Pie introduced a system-wide dark mode feature that made some parts of the app go dark when you didn't want the glaring bright light of white backgrounds burning your eyes at night. With Android 10, that feature has been expanded. Dark mode now applies to the operating system's user interface elements like menu bars as well as full apps. Dark Mode will go into effect by default when you turn on the battery saver feature, and you'll be able to use the mode in most Google apps including YouTube, Google Fit, Google Keep and Google Calendar right away. Other Dark Mode compatible apps should be on the way soon.

Gender-inclusive emoji

While it may seem like a small thing in the scheme of the update, Google is also introducing new gender-inclusive emoji to Android 10, which will serve as a major change for the way that people are able to communicate. Emoji that were previously gender-specific based on outdated or misguided stereotypes (i.e., the police officer emoji was male while the "person getting haircut" emoji was female) will now have more gender-inclusive designs by default. Users will still be able to select gendered emoji options if they so choose, and can even choose among 71 different couple emojis of various genders and skin tones.