Google came on stage at this year’s I/O event for about two hours, announcing new and exciting products such as the Pixel 6a, Pixel 7 and the Pixel Watch. While hardware tends to steal the show at these events, the team certainly hasn’t glossed over Android: Between new Android 13 features and general Android updates, Google had quite a bit to talk about in terms of software.
During the Android segment, Google revealed that they think of the OS in terms of “three big themes”: “Phone at the Center”, “Extending Beyond the Phone” and “Better Together”. You can see those three themes below and what was specifically announced in each category.
Google implements RCS and Digital ID
Google kind of repeated itself at the start of “Phone at the Center” and discusses some of the new Android 13 features we have already seen the first beta† We were shown features such as app icons that can change their colors to match your wallpaper using Material You; the new media control panel with a fun “groovy” playback bar; and the ability to personalize different languages per app.
The company also announced that Android 13 will bring 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-gen SMS protocol that provides comprehensive messaging features, such as end-to-end encryption, Wi-Fi messaging, and read receipts, to replace SMS. The company took a moment to clarify that they hope Apple will use RCS for its iPhones, which only uses SMS for all non-iMessage messages.
However, the first big new feature to land at Google I/O this year was a good one: The company is revamping Google Wallet to include digital ID, especially digital driver’s licenses. This feature mirrors Apple’s digital ID program for its Wallet app, which is rolling out soon. When both platforms’ features are live, you’ll be able to use your phone to “show” your ID in participating states. It’s not just a photo 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, so you can easily connect emergency services from your Android smartwatch in the event of an emergency. The company is also expanding Android’s earthquake warning system, which uses your phone’s accelerometer to warn you of an advancing earthquake before it happens.
Android apps are optimized for tablet-sized screens
Google moved on from smartphones, “Extended Beyond the Phone,” as promised, and turned its attention to Android over tablets. The company announced that it wants to optimize Android apps for tablet-sized screens and will start with more than 20 popular apps that will be updated soon. These apps include major players such as TikTok, Facebook, Canva, and Google Messages. You’ll notice changes in the UI of these apps to better suit the larger screen size: TikTok, for example, will use one part of the screen for videos and another for comments, so you can comfortably watch both at the same time.
Google also showed off an iPadOS-esque 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 seamlessly
Finally, Google took some time to talk about how it wants your various Android devices to work together seamlessly — or be “Better Together.” It announced that casting is expanding to new devices, such as Chromebooks and cars. Phone Hub will also be expanded to allow you to stream your phone’s messaging app to your Chromebook.
My personal favorite new feature is the ability to copy anything from your phone and paste it directly onto your tablet. This works great across Apple’s ecosystem whether you’re using an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, so I’m excited that this option is 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 seamlessly as you’d expect from Fast Pair. Speaking of pairing, Google has announced “Matter,” a solution connecting Google Nest with numerous brands and products for easy pairing, due out this fall.
To round out the Android announcements, Google today released a new beta version of Android 13 for Pixel devices. This beta is the second for Android 13 and will likely include the new features discussed today. Whether you want to install the new beta 1 update or are interested in trying the beta for the first time, check out our instructions for Install Android 13 on your Pixel here†