Google has released Android 13 Beta 3, which brings the OS to a key milestone known as Platform Stability. This means that new APIs used by developers are now finalized and won't change, so devs can move full speed ahead with Android 13 versions of their apps.
Google is merging its two video-calling platforms into one new service called Google Meet. On phones, the Google Duo app will be renamed Google Meet later this year, and will gain a variety of new features from the existing Meet platform. The existing Google Meet app will be renamed Meet Original, and eventually phased out. On the web, Meet will remain a Zoom competitor, but be interoperable with the new Meet app (formerly Duo), allowing people to be easily reached for a video or voice call by either email address or phone number.
Google is adding full support for most braille displays directly to Android 13. Phones with Android 13 will support this important accessibility hardware without needing any extra software like BrailleBack. Google is also improving the braille experience on Android with new shortcuts. "Now there are shortcuts for navigating so it's easier to scroll and move to the next character, word or line. There are also shortcuts for settings and for editing, like jumping to the end of documents or selecting, copying and pasting." The braille features are part of Talkback, the accessibility suite that assists blind and low-vision users. The new braille support will roll out first as part of the next beta version of Android 13.
Google is revamping the user interface of Android Auto, again. Split-screen mode will now be standard on all screen types and sizes, giving users immediate access to functions such as audio, messages, and maps, all on one screen. The interface will also flow to fill different screen shapes better, including ultra-wide and portrait displays. The new version of Android Auto will also update Google Assistant with new "contextual suggestions" for actions such as suggested replies, sharing arrival times with a friend, and playing recommended music. The new Android Auto will roll out "in the coming months".
Google has announced that it will bring end-to-end encryption to group conversations in its RCS-based Messages app, starting with an open beta "later this year". End-to-end encryption is already available for one-on-one conversations.
Google has introduced a new feature in Android that will let health and fitness apps securely access and share one unified set of health and fitness data across Android devices. The new Health Connect platform and API provides a central place on the device to store data such as activity, sleep, nutrition, body measurements, and vitals like heart rate and blood pressure. It also includes security, privacy, and permission features that give users "granular controls". Users must give permission for each app to have access, and users "will have the ability to shut off access or delete data they don't want on their device, and the option to prioritize one data source over another when using multiple apps." Google has developed Health Connect in partnership with Samsung. MyFitnessPal, Leap Fitness, and Withings have already started working with the platform, and it is now available to all developers.
At its I/O developer event today, Google gave the world a teasing glimpse of its forthcoming Pixel 7 phones and all-new Pixel Watch, both coming this fall. The new Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro will feature an evolution of the Pixel 6 design that includes a 100% recycled aluminum frame that wraps uninterrupted around the sides and across the camera bar. It will be powered by a "next-generation" Google Tensor SoC chip. The 7 Pro will have three rear cameras, while the non-Pro version appears to have two. Various slides showed three different colors: white, grey, and a very light green. The Pixel Watch matches recent leaks, sporting a completely round design with a rotating crown (dial) on the side. The body will be made from recycled stainless steel and support interchangeable bands. It will run an "improved" WearOS with integrated Fitbit features, including continuous heart-rate tracking as well as sleep tracking. It will integrate smart-home controls, and features like Maps and Wallet will work even when you leave your phone at home. It will be available around the same time as the Pixel 7 series phones, some time "this fall".
Google today announced the Pixel Buds Pro, the company's first wireless earbuds with ANC (active noise cancellation). Like most competing buds, they offer a Transparency Mode that lets you hear your surroundings if you wish. A custom six-core processor chip designed by Google powers a custom ANC algorithm that includes Silent Seal, a feature that detects and compensates for poorly-sealed tips. The beam-forming microphones are aided by a noise suppression algorithm that insures you can be heard clearly on a call. The buds also support multi-point, for smooth transitions across multiple source devices. Each bud also has independent Find My Device support in case one or both buds are lost. A future update will add support for Spatial Audio. The buds will last for up to 11 hours of listening time, or 7 with ANC on. They ship July 28th for $199 and will be available in four colors. Pre-orders start July 21, the same date as the new Pixel 6a.
Google has taken the wraps off its newest more-affordable Pixel, the Pixel 6a. In contrast to the growing size of other recent Pixel models, the 6a has a relatively compact 6.1-inch display. It shares the same distinctive design as the pricier Pixel 6 series models, the same Google Tensor processor chip, and same Titan M2 security chip as the higher-end Pixel 6 series. It has two rear cameras: standard and wide, both 12 megapixel. It also has a recycled aluminum frame and under-display fingerprint reader. It will receive five years of security updates. The Google Pixel 6a will be available in black, white, and green for $449 unlocked. Pre-orders start July 21st and it ships on the 28th. AT&T and T-Mobile will sell the standard Pixel 6a. Verizon will also carry it — with support for Verizon's mmWave and C-Band 5G networks — although this version will sell for $500.
In the coming weeks, Google will roll out a new app called Google Wallet that replaces the G Pay / Google Pay feature of Android. It will continue to support digital credit and debit cards, boarding passes, tickets, transit cards, vaccine cards, and student IDs. But Google is finally adding official support for state and government ID cards, including Digital Driver's Licenses in the US. You will be able to present your Digital Driver's License to authorities via NFC or QR code. Google is also working to add office and hotel keys. The name change reflects the ambition that it could completely replace a physical wallet.
Google will update Android and Chrome this summer to automatically use a one-time virtual credit card number when entering credit card info using auto-fill. The feature reduces the chances that you will be the victim of credit card fraud due to a data breach.
Apple, Google, and Microsoft today announced new enhancements to the FIDO standard, as well as a renewed commitment to encouraging the use of the FIDO standard on their respective platforms. FIDO allows easy login to devices, platforms, and apps using methods like a phone's fingerprint reader, for logins that are easier, faster, as well as more secure. The enhanced standard will allow users to automatically access their FIDO credentials "on many of their devices, even new ones, without having to reenroll every account." It will also "Enable users to use FIDO authentication on their mobile device to sign in to an app or website on a nearby device, regardless of the OS platform or browser they are running."
Android 13 has reached the public beta phase on the road toward a final release some time after July. Android 13 Beta 1 is available now for eligible Pixel phones. The first preview release was made available to developers in February. It introduced a new photo picker, themed app icons, and better quick settings tiles for third-party apps. The new Beta 1 introduces more granular permissions for media file access. This means that apps requesting access to your audio files will not also be granted access to your photos and videos, for example. Google promises they will have "more to share" about Android 13 at next month's Google I/O event starting May 11th.
Google has changed the way it handles emoji in Android to eliminate the entire concept of new emoji being unsupported in older software and devices. Starting with Android 12, new emoji can easily be added with a minor update. Previously, new emoji only came with a major OS update. But Google is also bringing this emoji-update capability to older versions of Android via its AppCompat API for developers. AppCompat generally brings modern features to older versions of Android for apps that use it. Now apps using AppCompat will automatically have access to newer emoji as they are released. Apple still ties emoji updates to major new versions of iOS, but iPhones enjoy a much higher rate of adoption for new OS versions.
Google Fi — Google's own MVNO offering cellular service — has adjusted its two unlimited plans to offer more data and features for less money. Google's cheaper Simply Unlimited plan now runs $50/month for one line, down from $60 previously. Multi-line discounts now bring that as low as $20/month/line for four or more lines (was $30). The high-speed data bucket for that plan has been bumped up from 22 to 35 GB, and Google is also adding 5 GB of hotspot tethering data. Similar changes are coming to the premium Unlimited Plus plan, which is now $5/month cheaper: $65/month for one line or as low as $40/line for four or more lines. That plan sees a bump from 22 to 50 GB of high-speed data. Both plans also now include unlimited calling within Canada and Mexico (text and data in those countries was already included.)
Owners of Google Pixel phones will soon be able to perform common repairs themselves using genuine parts from Google. The move comes hot on the heels of a similar announcement from Samsung just last week. Similar to Samsung, Google is partnering with iFixit, which will sell the repair kits (including necessary tools) as well as individual parts. The program includes all Pixel phones starting with the Pixel 2, and "things like batteries, replacement displays, cameras and more". The program launches "later this year". Apple launched a similar program in November.
Google has updated its Lens camera-based search tool with an experimental feature that lets you type in extra search terms to refine your visual search. Google calls this new image+text type of search "multisearch". For example, you can take a photo of a mug and add the word "pink" to find pink mugs. Other examples Google gives are: "Snap a photo of your dining set and add the query 'coffee table' to find a matching table" and "Take a picture of your rosemary plant and add the query 'care instructions'". The new multi search feature is available within the Lens feature of many Android phones, or from within the main Google search app. To use it, look for the new "Add to your search" button at the top of the full "Visual matches" results screen.
Google is tightening its Play Store policies to require that apps be updated to newer APIs in order to remain listed for discovery and download. Newer Android APIs have "privacy, security, and user experience improvements". Google is making the change because users with newer and/or updated devices "expect to realize the full potential of all the privacy and security protections Android has to offer. [This change] will protect users from installing older apps that may not have these protections in place." While newly-submitted apps are already required to use the APIs of an Android version released within the past year, existing apps will now need to use the APIs of an Android version released within the past two years to remain in the Play Store.
Google is using the modular nature of Google Play Services to add new features to Android in-between major OS updates. In addition to major updates to the Messages app, Google is also adding grammar correction to the Gboard, Google's smart onscreen keyboard. Live Transcribe will now have the ability to work offline. Nearby Share is being updated to let you quickly share media or files with multiple people nearby at once, instead of just one person at a time. Finally, Google Assistant now understands a "pay for parking" command, which automatically pays for car parking if you are parked in a street spot enabled with ParkMobile, available in over 400 US cities. This feature also includes new commands "parking status" and "extend parking".
Google today started rolling out a major update to its Messages app, the default SMS and RCS messaging app on most new Android phones. It includes several major new features, but the biggest for most people may be automatic conversion and tidier display of emoji reactions from iPhone users. When an iPhone user "likes" or "loves" (etc.) a message in a conversation, it will now be displayed as a simple emoji attached to the original message, instead of a whole separate message with the original text repeated. Emoji reactions work between iPhones using Apple's protocol originally known as iMessage. They also work between Android phones using the open, industry-standard RCS protocol. But because iPhones do not support RCS and iMessage is a closed and proprietary, communication between iPhone and Android devices defaults to the outdated SMS/MMS protocols, which do not support newer features like reactions. So reactions are sent in plain text. This is still the case, but Messages will now intercept and "translate" these messages to present them properly. Another new feature is Organized inbox, which automatically sorts your messages into Personal and Business tabs. Messages can now also automatically delete one-time password messages after 24 hours, reducing inbox clutter. It can also help remind you to reply with "gentle nudges" when it detects that you may have stopped in the middle of a conversation for a period of time. Finally, when sharing a video, there will now be an option to share a link to that video on Google Photos instead of sending the video itself. That will enable users to share high-quality videos with iPhone users, instead of sending a very low-quality video via the outdated MMS protocol as before. (RCS allows sharing high-quality videos directly with other Android users.) Google says it will bring the link-sharing feature to photos as well in the future. Most of these features are available first for the English language only, with other languages to follow. The new version of Messages will "roll out over the coming weeks".
Google has started rolling out a new update for most of its Pixel phones that adds new features. One standout new feature is an enhanced Live Caption function for voice calls. Now it will not only display captions for what the other person is saying, but also let you respond by typing, or by tapping a suggested response. The phone will then speak the response so the other person can hear it. The button to activate Live Caption mode appears after pressing the volume button during a voice call. The update also brings existing features to additional Pixel models. Direct My Call and Wait Times will now be available on the Pixel 3a and newer. This month's update is rolling out now for Pixel 3a and newer, except for the Pixel 6 series, which will roll out later this month.
Google today released Android 13 Developer Preview 1, with several new features that consumers can expect to see in Android 13 in the second half of this year. First, a new "photo picker" will let the system sit between apps and the user's content library, enhancing privacy. Users will now be able to quickly choose just one or more photos to share with an app, instead of granting the app access to their whole photo library. The feature will work with photos and videos, and with both local and cloud content. Similarly, a new API option will let apps manage connections to nearby Wi-Fi networks without needing access to the device's full location info. Google will also enhance Material You with themed app icons. Apps will now have a simplified, monochrome icon available that can be used with themed icons customized with the user's preferred color scheme (shown). Finally, a new API will make it faster and easier to place an app's custom Quick Settings tile in the user's notification shade. Google plans at least one more developer preview, followed by several beta releases April – July. The final release of Android 13 is planned for some time after July.
Google announced that its "Material You" interface design — introduced with Android 12 and launched first on Pixel phones — will soon launch on phones from Samsung, OnePlus, and more. Specifically, these phones will all get the "dynamic color" feature, which automatically matches the user interface color scheme to your chosen wallpaper. This personalized color scheme applies not only to the system interface and Google apps, but also within third-party apps that have been fully updated for Android 12. The new Samsung Galaxy S22 series will ship with this feature, and a forthcoming software update will bring it to OnePlus phones such as the OnePlus 9 Pro.
Google will soon launch a new feature of its platforms that will enable a Wear OS smartwatch to automatically unlock a paired Android phone, tablet, or Chromebook when close by. This mirrors a feature Apple has offered for some time. Google would only promise "in the coming months" as a timeframe for launching the feature. The company is also bringing its Fast Pair technology to more devices, enabling you to use your Android phone to instantly set up a new Chromebook, or more quickly add new smart-home devices to your home network.
Google has launched a beta version of its Sound Amplifier accessibility app that includes a new "conversation mode" feature. The feature lets you visually select a person speaking near you, after which the on-device machine learning algorithm will "[tune] out competing noise". Google is accepting applications from Pixel phone owners who wish to participate in the beta program.
Google has updated its Maps app to expand current and predicted crowded-ness data from individual businesses to whole neighborhoods. The update also expands the Directory feature to help navigate large indoor venues such as malls and airports.
Google has revealed Project Relate, "a new Android app that aims to help people with speech impairments communicate more easily with others and interact with the Google Assistant." The company is seeking early testers to help refine the app. After personalizing the app by speaking a set of phrases to train it, users can access three key functions. Ther first is "Listen", which transcribes speech into text. Others can read the text from the screen, or it can be cop-and-pasted into other apps. A Repeat mode takes the user's unique speech patterns and restates what they have said using a synthesized voice that is easier for other people (and devices) to understand. Finally, the app provides direct access to Google Assistant, so that Assistant can understand someone with a speech impairment as clearly as anyone else. If you have a condition that makes your speech difficult to understand, you can apply to help provide feedback on the Project Relate Android app as a trusted tester. Google has a long history of developing new accessibility solutions, and eventually folding them into its products, including Android.
Google has worked with WhatsApp to let people move their WhatsApp chat history from an iPhone to a new Android phone. The feature builds on the existing transfer feature of Android 12 that can import apps, SMS, iMessage history, photos, videos, contacts, calendars, and more from an existing iPhone. The transfer features work over a wired connection, requiring a Lightning-to-USB-C cable. The new WhatsApp transfer feature ensures thread integrity by blocking new messages on the old device while the transfer is in progress.
Google has announced a forthcoming update to Android called Android 12L. The "L" stands for large screens. The new features are exclusively for tablets and foldable phones that unfold to tablet-like size. The update brings a new two-column layout to the notification shade and lockscreen, and similar layout optimizations for quick settings, overview, home screen, system apps, and more. A new taskbar provides quick access to favorite apps, and makes it easier to invoke split-screen mode. The company is also making new large-screen APIs and design guidelines available to developers. The APIs include a way for apps to be "fold aware", so the app's layout can account for the location of a display fold. Developers can access a preview version of Android 12L today. Google plans to release 12L "early next year, in time for the next wave of Android 12 tablets and foldables."
Google is lowering the fees it charges app developers for specific categories of transactions made via Google Play, the company's app store. For apps that offer a paid subscription, (such as dating, fitness, and education apps,) Google's cut of the subscription fees will now be a simple 15% at all times. Previously, it was 30% for the first year of a subscription, then 15% in following years. Google is also tweaking its Play Media Experience program to make many music and e-book providers eligible for rates as low as 10%. Previously, the program's lowest rate was 15%. The Play Media Experience program requires that content providers make their content available beyond Android, across all relevant Google platforms, such as WearOS, Android Auto, Android TV, and Google Cast.
Google has made the final version of Android 12 available for Pixel 3 and newer Pixel phones. The new OS includes many new privacy features as well as scrolling screenshots and easy Wi-Fi login sharing.
The newest version of Google's Phone app includes two major new features that make it easier to call businesses that make you navigate a menu tree and/or wait on hold before reaching a representative. The first feature, Wait Times, automatically displays a graph showing current and projected wait times for any specific toll-free number you're about to dial. If wait times are unusually long, you can quickly see when in the day or week they are likely to be shorter. The second feature, Direct My Call, automatically listens to and transcribes automated menus, turning them into a visual menu with simple on-screen buttons. The two features are available initially only on the new Pixel 6 series phones. Google often rolls out these types of features to new Pixels first, then to older Pixel models. Some such Pixel features are eventually made available to non-Pixel phones.
Google released details of the new Pixel 6 series phones that the company has been teasing for months. The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are both high-end phones with a striking new two-tone design and the company's own Tensor chip instead of a Qualcomm Snapdragon chip. Google describes the higher-end Pixel 6 Pro as the company's first true "flagship" model. The Pro has a 6.7-inch QHD-resolution display with 10–120 Hz adaptive refresh. It has three rear cameras, including a 4x periscope telephoto lens with 48 megapixel resolution, and its front camera can record 4K video. It has 12 GB of RAM and the largest battery ever in a Pixel. It also has UWB. The smaller Pixel 6 has a 6.4-inch display with 90 Hz refresh and 8 GB of RAM. Both models have an always-on display with Gorilla Glass Victus and an under-display fingerprint reader. Both models are available 128 or 256 of storage, while the Pixel 6 pro is also available with 512 GB. The distinctive "camera bar" houses upgraded cameras with larger sensors and laser auto-focus. The main camera in both is 50 megapixel. Google claims its new Tensor chip is considerably faster than the Snapdragon 765G chip in the Pixel 5, plus dramatically faster on-device AI. That on-device AI powers several new camera features, including Magic Eraser, Face Unblur, and Motion Mode. It also powers a new, upgraded Voice Typing feature with support for automatic punctuation, intelligent people names, and emoji. Google has also improved the camera software with Real Tone, to better capture skin tone of people of color. Real Tone works in the camera app, third-party software, and the auto-enhance feature in Google Photos. Google promises five years of security updates for the Pixel 6 series. Both phones are available for pre-order starting today, and on store shelves October 28th. Each comes in three unique color options. The Pixel 6 starts at $599; the Pixel 6 Pro starts at $899. The standard unlocked version supports sub-6 GHz 5G. Each model will also come in a distinct Verizon variant that adds support for mmWave 5G. For the Pixel 6, the Verizon version costs and extra $100, while the Pixel 6 Pro for Verizon starts at the same $899 price.
Google has updated how its displays Google search results on phones. Users can now simply continue scrolling down to see beyond the first "page" of results, instead of needing to tap a "See more" button. The change is rolling out starting today, and applies to both Google searches in a web browser and via the Google app.
Google has added a new feature to the mobile version of its Chrome web browser that lets users subscribe to the RSS feeds of their favorite web sites. The browser's main menu now includes a "+ Follow" button when on a web page that provides an RSS feed. Entries from "followed" RSS feeds will appear in a new "Following" tab on the bottom half of Chrome's New Tab page. The feature is now available in the current version of Chrome for Android, although it may require enabling by going to "chrome://flags" in the browser and searching for "web feed". The feature is coming to the iOS version of Chrome "soon".
Google is adding to Android a number of features that started out exclusive to the company's Pixel phones. An update to the Gboard keyboard adds Smart Compose, which uses machine learning to suggest complete sentences. Gboard is also gaining Smart Clipboard, the ability to intelligently extract phone numbers, email addresses, and URLs from copy-and-pasted text. Finally, "when you open a messaging app right after taking a screenshot, Gboard will now show that screenshot as a suggestion to share." Google is also bringing Locked Folder to general Android. The feature lets you keep sensitive photos and videos in a separate "passcode-protected space" "so they won’t show up as you scroll through Google Photos or any other apps on your device."
Google today announced a new version of Android Auto with several new features, as well as a revamp of how Driving Mode works in Android. The new version of Android Auto adds the voice command "Hey Google, pay for gas", which will make it faster and easier to pay for gas "at over 32,500 gas stations across the U.S. starting with Exxon and Mobil, Conoco, Phillips 66 and 76 stations." The feature will also work in Google Assistant on Android, without Android Auto. Android Auto is also gaining better support for dual-SIM phones and phones with a Work Profile set up. The home screen for Android Auto will also now feature "music, news and podcast recommendations from Google Assistant." When using Android in your car without Android Auto, Google is pulling its Driving Mode feature out of Maps and into Google Assistant, to make it useful even when not using Maps' navigation features. Now users will "be able to say 'Hey Google, let’s drive' (or connect your phone to your car’s Bluetooth) to open the new driving mode dashboard". The dashboard (shown) supports Maps navigation, but also provides easy, safe access to calls, messaging, music, and podcasts whether using navigation or not, via voice commands or oversize buttons.
Older versions of Android will soon gain the Permissions Auto-Reset feature that Google introduced in Android 11. The feature will automatically revoke permissions from apps that haven't been used in "a few months". If the app is launched again, it will need to request permissions from the user again. The feature "helps protect user privacy", because "it can be tough to keep up with the permissions you’ve previously granted – especially if you haven’t used an app for an extended period of time." The feature will roll out to devices with Android 6.0 and newer over a four-month period starting in December.
The newest beta version of Google's Chrome web browser for Android includes two major new features. After executing a Google search and choosing a result, a new bar below the address bar lets you quickly navigate to a different search result. The other new feature automatically creates stylized images of text when you want to share a quote from a web page. To use it, you select a bit of text on a web page, choose "Share" and then "Create card". You can then choose from several visual styles. The resulting image includes the quote and web page address, and makes it easier to share quotes and web pages on social media, especially visual platforms such as Instagram. Both features are only available in the beta version of Chrome for new, and must be manually enabled by entering chrome://flags in the address bar.