At its Virtual I/O 2022 developer conference, Google outlined notable improvements to the company’s many technological approaches, from map rendering to new and upcoming devices and, of course, operating system (OS) improvements.
The big news on this front is that Android 13 is now available as a public beta. It offers users and developers a new suite of advanced features introduced with last year’s Android 12, along with quality of life improvements and new tools to experiment.
With privacy on everyone’s lips, one of the most interesting changes is the inclusion of encrypted 1-1 message conversations. With Photo Picker, a feature similar to Apple’s Photo Picker on iOS, you can now choose which app has access to which photos, rather than giving each app your full album. But aside from privacy tweaks, there’s a lot more announced, including a handy wallet feature, expanded Material You features, emergency SOS enhancements, and awesome new per-app language settings.
Early adopters and developers can register and test the new Android 13 OS(Opens in a new window) on any eligible device, including Pixel and a range of third-party manufacturers such as Asus, Lenovo, OnePlus, Sharp, Vivo and ZTE. Remember that Android 13 is beta software. Bugs, errors, and missing features are bound to crop up, so be aware before you dive in. Here are our favorite features in Google’s latest operating system so far.
1. More material for you
Material You is a unique way to personalize your user interface (UI) based on your wallpaper, which affects the color palette of Android. Simply put, Android adopts a color scheme to match your wallpaper. New pre-made color variants introduced in Android 13 give you more expressive options to choose from. This feature also expands to include third-party app icons, where previously it was only limited to system apps.
Google also expanded Material You to cover media controls. When you’re listening to music, the player window changes color to the album art of the one you’re jamming to, and the progress bar turns into an audio wave that moves along with the music.
2. Personalization of language per app
For the stylish, multilingual Android users out there, you can now set your preferred language per app. This is also a fantastic addition for Android users abroad who may not feel as confident navigating their phones in a single language. After all, some people use different languages in different situations: my father speaks English but writes in Spanish, for example. Now he can find and use his messaging apps in his preferred language and still enjoy silly meme videos in English. Likewise, if you’re someone who prefers to use your device in English but would like some apps in another language that you’re learning or are fluent in, Android 13 now has the goods.
3. RCS messaging improvements
As mentioned, Google has been working with carriers to upgrade its Short Message Service (SMS) to Rich Communication Services (RCS), which offers much better privacy features, including end-to-end encryption for 1-1 calls. Group chats in messages will also be encrypted later this year. Beyond just data protection, RCS also offers support for higher quality photo sharing and larger file sharing.
4. Android photo picker
Android 13 adopts similar photo selection options as iOS. This new feature lets you choose which photos and videos an app has access to, rather than giving that app access to your entire photo library.
5. Google Wallet gets an update
Google Wallet has expanded beyond pure service-oriented payment methods. Wallet includes a new generic card tab that allows you to store anything not covered by previous pass types, such as: B. Membership Cards and Reservations. Alongside Google Wallet’s already robust filing system for payment cards, gift cards, driver’s passes, and vaccination cards, Android 13 makes this feature an excellent digital alternative to physical cards.
Another major improvement comes from the inclusion of digital IDs. Google has worked with US states and foreign governments to support digital IDs for Google Wallet, and this feature is expected to roll out later this year.
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Most importantly, Google Wallet stores everything on your phone and doesn’t share any data with Google Services.
6. Emergency SOS extension
Phones and technology are crucial during an emergency. We hope you never find yourself in a situation where you need to call for help, but your phone is a vital lifeline should it ever happen. To that end, Google introduced Emergency SOS with Android 12, which allows you to contact a trusted person and share emergency information without having to unlock your phone. This feature will be expanded with Android 13 to work on Wear OS watches.
Google is also expanding earthquake early warnings to high-risk regions around the world. The tool allows Android to collect earthquake warning signs from phones, allowing Google to analyze the data and send alerts to people nearby. Combined with Android’s emergency location feature, which helps first responders find you when you call for help, you can rest at night much more safely, knowing you’re connected to a network that’s actively working to keep you safe.
For a handy breakdown of all the Android 13 beta changes and improvements, check out Google’s own handy blog(Opens in a new window). And check in on PCMag for all the latest news from Google, including previews and reviews.
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