Google took over the platform At this year’s I/O event for about two hours, to announce exciting new products like the Pixel 6a, Pixel 7, and Pixel Watch. While devices tend to steal the show at these events, the team certainly didn’t cover up Android: Between new Android 13 features and general Android updates, Google had a lot to talk about on the software front.
During the Android segment, Google revealed that it thinks of the operating system in terms of “three big themes”: “the phone is at the center,” “expanding beyond the phone,” and “better together.” You’ll see these three topics below, and what specifically was announced in each category.
Google implements RCS and digital ID
Google has repeated itself a bit when launching “Phone at the Center” here, to get a feel of some of the new Android 13 features We have already seen from the first beta. We have shown features such as app icons that are able to change their colors to match your wallpaper with Material You; New media control panel featuring a ‘cool’ playback bar; The ability to customize different languages for each application.
The company also announced that Android 13 has a lot of new security and privacy features, but it didn’t go into too much detail about the details. They also highlighted their efforts to work with carriers to implement them RCS, the next-generation text messaging protocol that provides rich messaging features — such as end-to-end encryption, wifi messaging, and read receipts — to replace SMS. The company took a moment to strongly hint that it hoped Apple would adopt the Remote Control System (RCS) for its iPhones, which sticks to SMS only for all messages other than iMessage.
However, the first big new feature introduced at this year’s Google I/O conference was a good one: The company is revamping Google Wallet to include a digital ID, specifically digital driver’s licenses. This feature mirrors Apple’s digital ID program for its Wallet app, which will be rolling out soon. When the features of both platforms are active, you will be able to use your phone to “show” your ID in participating countries. It’s not just a picture of your ID, either: you can authenticate the ID through NFC or a QR code, to prove that the ID is active and your identity.
Google also announced that Emergency SOS is coming to Wear OS, allowing you to easily connect emergency services from your Android smartwatch in an emergency. The company is also expanding the earthquake warning system for Android, using the accelerometer from your phone to warn you of an earthquake before it happens.
Android apps will be optimized for tablet-sized screens
Moving on from smartphones, Google has “Extended Beyond the Phone” as promised, and has turned its attention to Android on tablets. The company has announced that it wants to optimize Android apps for tablet-sized screens, and will be launching with more than 20 popular apps to be updated soon. These apps include big players like TikTok, Facebook, Canva, and Google Messages. You’ll notice changes to the user interface of these apps to better accommodate the larger screen size: TikTok, for example, will use one part of the screen for videos and another for comments, so you can comfortably view both at once.
Google also offered an iPadOS-like window management system: you can drag and drop apps from the bottom dock or the app list for an instant split screen.
Android devices should work together more smoothly now
Finally, Google took some time to talk about how it wants different Android devices to work together seamlessly – or be “better together”. It announced that the transmission would expand to new devices, such as Chromebooks and cars. The Phone Hub will also be expanded, so you can stream your phone’s messaging app to your Chromebook.
My favorite new feature is the ability to copy something from your phone and paste it directly to your tablet. This works great across the Apple ecosystem, whether you’re using an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, so I’m excited to see this option finally come to Android.
Google also highlighted the Fair Pair expansion that will allow other devices like TVs to pair with your headphones and smart devices as seamlessly as you’d expect from Fast Pair. Speaking of pairing, Google has announced “Matter,” a solution that connects Google Nest to multiple brands and products for easy pairing, arriving this fall.
To end Android ads, Google dropped a new beta version of Android 13 for Pixel devices today. This will be the second beta for Android 13, and it will likely include the new features discussed today. Whether you’re looking to install the new update from beta 1, or you’re interested in trying the beta version for the first time, check out our instructions on Install Android 13 on your Pixel phone here.
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