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A few weeks ago, my colleague Adam Borzecki wrote a fantastic piece about some of the great new features that launched with iOS 13 and gave some advice on what people should be thinking about as they incorporate those features into their apps.

However, iOS 13 is not the only new mobile operating system on the block. In fact, two weeks before the new iOS hit Apple devices, Google released Android 10, and it came with some pretty great and unique features of its own. So, for the sake of showing that we at Intersect have no bias towards any operating systems, I thought it only fair if I wrote a similar piece about three exciting and new features for Android 10 and what we believe will be important to think about when developing for the OS.

Dark Theme

Having a dark theme seems to be popular no matter what phone or operating system people are using these days. It makes sense given that it can be more accessible for people to read on, especially at night, and that for phones with newer screen technology, it helps to save battery life because they don’t use nearly as much power to display black as other colours.

While some apps have been giving users a dark theme option for years already, the new Android OS can make everything across a user’s entire device show dark. In Android 10, Google has now given users the option to use a dark theme across the OS and any app that supports a dark theme with a single setting, rather than having to enable it on an app by app basis. Google has also made a change that by adding a single line of code into your product, any application can be automatically forced into a dark theme where the OS will automatically convert the application colours to dark variants. According to Q42 Engineering, “It actually does this quite well by dimming bright colours and keeping dark backgrounds intact.” While forcing dark mode into your app may seem like an easy option, we definitely suggest that you add a custom dark theme to your product so that the look and feel is exactly the way you and/or your clients want it to be.

Image via Q42 Engineering

What you should be thinking about:

  • Designers need to think about how your app will look in both light and dark themes. This may mean needing to create two versions of every screen so that your app will always look amazing, no matter which mode a user chooses.
  • Be sure to account for multiple colour themes.
  • Be sure to scope in extra time for a project if developing for both light and dark themes, as every screen will need to be created twice.

Gestures

As phone makers continue to try and give consumers more screen room while still making devices that can fit in our hands and pockets, we are seeing fewer physical buttons being incorporated into the front of these devices. Now, we’re even starting to see virtual buttons that supplemented the loss of physical ones also starting to disappear. While it might take some time for people to get used to this, it actually brings us the ability to use new and exciting ways of interacting with the phone. This latest version of Android makes navigating with no buttons no problem, thanks to all-new gesture navigation features.

Now, Android 10 users can select between three different system navigation options; three system software buttons, two system software buttons, or gestures (although this is pretty commonly overridden by manufacturers, but certain devices will give you all three options). The gesture option will allow users to do all the things they used to use buttons for by swiping in different ways across their screens. Not only will these new gestures give a more fluid feel to using the phone actually as a full touch screen, but more importantly, as The Official Android Developers Publication says, “By moving to a gesture model for system navigation, we can provide more of the screen to your app. This helps enable apps to create more immersive experiences for your users.”

Image via The Official Android Developers Publication

What you should be thinking about:

  • Since some apps may have previously used gesture features on their own, you will need to consider now how system-wide gesture navigation will affect your application’s design.
  • You will now need to account for gestures and system software button navigation (both two and three button versions) when creating designing navigation flows.
  • Make sure you QA all three options to ensure your app moves smoothly no matter which option is selected by the user.

Smart Reply

Every year our smartphones are getting exponentially smarter. Soon, they may not even need us to operate them manually, and they might just anticipate what we need it to do. While we’re not there yet, we’re getting closer as Android 10 will provide users with suggested ways to reply to notifications. While we were able to do something like this previously, Android 10 makes notification replies even smarter. Here’s how the Android Developer site explains it:

“Android 9 introduced the ability to display suggested replies within a notification. Android 10 expands on this with the ability to include suggested intent-based actions. Furthermore, the platform is able to generate these suggestions automatically.”

So, while Android 9 would allow for pre-determined replies to be used, Android 10 will look for intent and context in the content of a notification and automatically come up with a reply that fits the situation. However, if you believe that your app will require specific custom replies supplied by you or that it would make sense for users to only provide their own, you can use Notification Builder flags within your code to achieve either of these things.

Image via the Android Developer site

What you should be thinking about:

  • This feature won’t change much in terms of how you code your app, unless you want to opt-out completely of smart replies or add your own custom replies. If you do;
  • Think about what kind of replies will make the most sense for your app.
  • Have a professional writer look over or write all of your custom responses.
  • Test all notification scenarios to ensure that your custom smart replies appear instead of automatic system generated replies.

Of course, these are not the only big changes that came with Android 10, these are just a few of the ones we think are cool and are going to make a really big difference in the way we think about developing apps. Hopefully, this advice will help you start to think about how you can use each of these features to give your users even greater mobile experiences.

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