All the new Android features announced at Google I/O

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Google took the stage at this year’s I/O event for about two hours, announcing exciting new products like the Pixel 6a, Pixel 7, and Pixel Watch. While hardware tends to steal the show at these events, the team certainly didn’t gloss over Android: between new features in Android 13 and general Android updates, Google had quite a bit things to say on the software front.

During its Android segment, Google revealed that it views the operating system in terms of “three big themes”: “The Phone at the Center”, “Extending Beyond the Phone” and “Better Together”. You’ll see these three themes below, and what was specifically announced in each category.

Google implements RCS and digital ID

Google rehearsed a bit at the start of “Phone in the center” here, going over some of the new features in Android 13 we have already seen from the first beta. We were shown features like app icons being able to change their colors to match your desktop wallpaper using Material You; the new media control panel with a fun “groovy” playback bar; and the ability to customize different languages ​​per app.

The company also announced that Android 13 comes with a ton of new security and privacy features, but didn’t go into details. They also highlighted their efforts to work with carriers to implement RCS, the next-generation text messaging protocol that brings rich messaging features, such as end-to-end encryption, Wi-Fi messaging, and read receipts, to replace SMS. The company took a moment to hint that it hopes Apple will adopt RCS for its iPhones, which sticks to SMS-only for all non-iMessage messaging.

However, the first big new feature dropped at Google I/O this year was a good one: the company is revamping Google Wallet to include digital ID, specifically digital driver’s licenses. This feature mirrors Apple’s digital ID program for its soon-to-be-rolling Wallet app. 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 photo of your ID: 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, allowing you to easily connect emergency services from your Android smartwatch in the event of an emergency. The company is also extending Android’s earthquake alert system, using your phone’s accelerometer to alert you to a progressing earthquake before it happens.

Android apps will be optimized for tablet-sized screens

Moving on from smartphones, Google “Extended Beyond the Phone”, as promised, and turned its attention to Android on tablets. The company has announced that it wants to optimize Android apps for tablet-sized screens and will start with more than 20 popular apps to update shortly. These apps include big players like TikTok, Facebook, Canva, and Google Messages. You will notice changes in the user interface of these applications to better adapt to the larger screen size: TikTok, for example, will use part of the screen for videos and another for comments, so that you can comfortably see both at the same time.

Google also showed off 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, Google took the time to talk about how it wants your different Android devices to work together seamlessly, or be “better together”. He announced that the casting would expand to new devices, such as Chromebooks and cars. Phone Hub will also be expanded, so you can cast 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. It works great in Apple’s ecosystem whether you’re using an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, so I’m glad to see this option finally coming to Android.

Google has also highlighted a Fair Pair extension that will allow other devices such as TVs to pair with your headphones and smart devices as seamlessly as you’d expect from Fast Pair. Speaking of pairing, Google announced “Matter,” a solution that connects Google Nest to tons of brands and products for easy pairing, coming this fall.

To wrap up the Android announcements, Google today launched a new Android 13 beta 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 Beta 1 update or want to try the beta for the first time, check out our instructions for install Android 13 on your Pixel here.

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