Google took the stage at this year’s I/O event for nearly two hours, announcing new and exciting products like the Pixel 6a, Pixel 7 and Pixel Watch. While the hardware stole the show at these events, the team certainly didn’t shine on Android: Between the fresh Android 13 features and the usual Android updates, Google had plenty to talk about on the software front.
During their Android segment, Google revealed that they think of the OS in terms of “three big themes”: “the phone at the center,” “the phone extends beyond,” and “better together.” You’ll see those three themes below, and what was specifically announced in each category.
Google is implementing RCS and Digital ID
Google reiterates itself a bit in “Phone at the Center,” going over some of the new Android 13 features we’ve already seen from the first beta here. We were shown features like app icons, being able to change their colors to match your wallpaper using your app; new media control panel featuring a fun “groovy” playback bar; And the ability to personalize different languages per app.
The company also announced that Android 13 sports several new security and privacy features, but did not go into much detail on the specifications. They also highlighted their efforts to work with carriers to implement RCS, the next-gen text-messaging protocol that brings rich messaging features – such as end-to-end encryption, WiFi messaging and read receipts – to SMS. to change. The company hinted heavily for a moment that they expect Apple to adopt RCS for its iPhones, which is tied to SMS-only for all non-iMessage messaging.
The first major new feature dropped at Google I/O this year, though, was a good one: The company is improving Google Wallet to include digital IDs, specifically digital driver’s licenses. The feature reflects the Digital ID program for Apple’s Wallet app, which is due out soon. When the features of both platforms are live, you will be able to use your phone to “show” your ID in participating states. It’s not just a picture of your ID, either: You authenticate the ID via NFC or a QR code, to prove that the ID is active and yours.
Google also announced that Emergency SOS is coming to Wear OS, which lets you easily connect emergency services to your Android-powered smartwatch in case of an emergency. The company is also expanding Android’s earthquake warning system, which uses the accelerometer from your phone to warn you of an impending earthquake.
Android apps will be optimized for tablet-sized displays
Moving beyond smartphones, Google promised to “expand beyond phones”, and focused its attention on Android on tablets. The company announced that it wants to optimize Android apps for tablet-sized displays, and will begin updating soon with more than 20 popular apps. These apps include big players like TikTok, Facebook, Canva and Google Messages. You’ll notice changes in the UI of these apps to better accommodate larger screen sizes: for example, TikTok will use part of the screen for videos, and another for comments, so you can comfortably watch both at once. Can you
Google also introduced an iPadOS-like window management system: You can drag and drop apps from the bottom dock or app list for instant split-screen.
Android devices should now work together more seamlessly
Finally, it took Google some time to talk about how it wants your various Android devices to work together seamlessly — or be “better together.” It announced that the casting would expand to new devices such as Chromebooks and cars. Phone Hub will also be expanded, allowing you to stream your phone’s messaging app to your Chromebook.
My personal favorite new feature is the ability to copy something from your phone and paste it directly onto your tablet. It works great across Apple’s ecosystem, whether you’re using an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, so I’m excited to see this option finally coming to Android.
Google also highlighted a Fair Pair extension that will allow other devices like TVs to pair with your headphones and smart devices, as you’d expect from Fast Pair. Speaking of pairing, Google announced “Matter,” a solution that connects Google Nest to multiple brands and products for easier pairing, which will arrive this fall.
To complement Android announcements, Google released a new Android 13 beta today for Pixel devices. This beta will be the second for Android 13, and will likely include the new features discussed today. Whether you’re looking to install the new update from beta 1, or you’re just interested in trying out the beta for the first time, check out our instructions for installing Android 13 on your Pixel here.