Beeon Wednesday we got a fresh and detailed look at Android 13. The new OS , but will debut this fall. It builds on the changes that came with Android 12 and offers more Material You personalizations, more privacy and security tools, more , a revamped Google Wallet, and better integrations with Chromebooks, watches, TVs, cars, and smart home devices. The new software makes Android and Google’s vast software ecosystem more competitive with Apple’s broad portfolio of software and services. The proof is in the numbers.
For the first time, Google shared the number of Android phone activations, which exceeded 1 billion devices in 2021. And there are more than 3 billion active Android devices every month, according to Sameer Samat, vice president of product management for Android and Google Play.
Those stats, combined with things like:, puts Google in a unique position. It should support a wide range of old and new phones, as well as tablets and foldable phones. Thankfully, Android 13 is proof that Google is ready and eager to keep its crown jewel OS customizable and up-to-date, while giving Android phone owners a more seamless experience across multiple devices. Some of the features that Google has highlighted are improvements to existing features or support for features in more countries.
Android 13 is currently in beta. For more information check out Google’s Android Beta website†
End-to-end encryption for RCS group chats in Messages
Google has worked with carriers and phone manufacturers in recent years to† This includes support for high-quality photos, Wi-Fi messaging, a better group messaging experience, and typing indicators that let you know when someone is typing. The app already supports automatic end-to-end encryption for one-to-one conversations, with support for encrypted group chats rolling out later this year.
Google notes that its RCS-powered Messages app — the default texting app on many Android phones — already has half a billion monthly active users on Android phones. While the RCS standard could eventually become universal, it’s not supported on iOS and other phone operating systems for now.
Google Wallet and Wear operating system
Google Wallet, which originally debuted in 2011, is getting some updates and new functionality. Google Wallet can store digital versions of your essential documents, including payment cards, transit cards, office badges, vaccination records, car keys, boarding passes, and student IDs. The idea is to provide a faster and more secure alternative to physical cards. Google is partnering with US states and international governments to support digital IDs, something like that Apple Wallet began support in several US states in March†
Google Wallet also lets you share a digital card via NFC or a QR code, which could be a faster way to share a card’s information rather than physically handing your phone over to the person checking it.
Google Wallet also supports integrations with other apps that you can sign up for. For example, if you have a transit map in Google Wallet, your card and balance will automatically appear in Google Maps when you search for directions. That way, if your balance is low, you can add more money for the fare before you arrive at your station or stop.
As for managing your privacy, Google Wallet stores everything securely on your phone and does not share any data with Google services.
More than 40 countries currently using Google Pay will be upgraded to Google Wallet later this summer. The exceptions are India, which will still use Google Pay, and the US and Singapore, which will have both Google Wallet and Google Pay. Any device with Android 5 (Lollipop) or Wear OS supports this.
Emergency SOS is coming to Wear OS
When there is an emergency, our phones become even more important. As part of Android 12, Google has rolled out Emergency SOS, which allows you to get help, contact a trusted person, and share emergency information without unlocking your phone. Google is working on bringing Emergency SOS to Wear OS.
Emergency Location Services, already built into Android, help first responders find you when you call for help. ELS is now available to more than 1 billion people worldwide.
Early earthquake warnings via Android are already in effect in 25 countries, and this year Google will launch them in more high-risk regions around the world. In places where there are no official warning systems, Android can crowdsource earthquake indications from phones† When devices first detect waves generated by earthquakes, Google will analyze the data from phones and send an early warning to people in that area.
Android 12L and the future of tablets and foldable tablets
Google says there are 275 million active users on large screen devices such as tablets and foldable phones. In March,to help developers design apps for these larger screens. Android 13 picks up where 12L left off, introducing better multitasking from the split screen app toolbar, as well as support and optimizations for over 20 Google apps, including YouTube Music, Google Maps and Google Messages.
More material you
One of the most obvious changes in Android 12 was Material You. Android essentially modifies the way your home screen and app icons look based on the colors in your background image. For Android 13, Google is introducing ready-made color sets for those who want something different. You choose the color scheme and it is applied to the entire operating system.
Theme icons are no longer limited to system apps. There is now a switch in Settings that allows you to enable theme icons for all apps on your home screen.
Media controls also get a boost from Material You. When you listen to music, the playback window takes on the color of the album art. There’s also a new waveform progress bar that moves with the audio.
Better privacy and security features
The app language settings now allow you to set different default languages for different apps. For example, your banking app can be set to English while your messaging app is in Hindi. Like thethis is another example of how google is more inclusive and fair with its software and design.
The Android Photo Picker adds a great privacy feature that originated in iOS: you can limit which photos and videos an app can access. Instead of giving an app access to your entire photo library, you can choose specific images for that particular app.
Android already warns you when an app opens your copy and paste clipboard. But Android 13 goes even further and automatically deletes your phone’s clipboard history after a short while.
Later this year, Google will add a unified security and privacy settings page that puts all of your phone’s data privacy and security at the center. There will be a color-coded indicator showing your security status and providing guidance to make your phone more secure.
Android 13 works better with your other devices
Google says the average American household has 20 connected devices. Earlier this yearwith your TV, cars, speakers and laptops. Android 13 supports quick pairing for setting up new devices with your phone, automatic device switching for your headphones, and copy and paste between devices. It also allows you to stream messages and other apps from your phone to your computer.
The Chromecast will support more devices from companies such as Bose, TCL, Sony, Vizio and LG. It also extends casting capabilities to new products, such as Chromebooks and even your car.
Wear OS has new apps from Spotify and Adidas. It supports turn-by-turn directions for cycling and walking using haptic feedback, like the Apple Watch does.
The Google Play Store is getting a visual overhaul. The app looks cleaner. The store is easier to navigate and apps are easier to find.
A major annual Android update versus smaller regular updates
Android 13 brings more functionality, security and privacy to your phone. And while annual major Android updates aren’t going anywhere, Google has made it clear that features like Google Wallet and RCS messaging will likely be updated as needed across devices. This could be especially beneficial for phones that may not receive Android 13 but still get the improvements from updates to the Wallet and Messages apps. I’m excited to try out Android 13 and see what the final version looks like later this year.