Google took the stage at this year’s I/O event for about two hours announcing new and exciting products like the Pixel 6a, Pixel 7 and the Pixel Watch. While hardware tends to steal the show at these events, the team certainly haven’t glossed over Android: between fresh Android 13 features and general Android updates, Google had quite a bit to talk about on the software front.
During its Android segment, Google announced that they are looking at the operating system in terms of “three big themes”: “phone first”, “extending beyond the phone” and “better together”. You can see these three themes below and what was specifically announced in each category.
Google implements RCS and Digital ID
Google repeated themselves a bit here at the launch of Phone at the Center, detailing some of the new features of Android 13 we already saw that from the first beta. We were shown features like app icons that can change color to match your wallpaper with Material You; the new media panel with a fun “groovy” playbar; 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 too much detail on specifics. They also highlighted their efforts to work with carriers to implement them RCS, the next-generation SMS protocol that offers rich messaging features like end-to-end encryption, WiFi messaging, and read receipts to replace SMS. The company took a moment to clearly indicate that it hopes Apple rolls out RCS for its iPhones, which sticks to SMS for all non-iMessage messages only.
However, the first major new feature released at Google I/O this year was good: the company is revamping Google Wallet to accommodate digital IDs, specifically digital driver’s licenses. This feature mirrors Apple’s digital ID program for its Wallet app, which will be launched shortly. When both platforms’ features are live, you can use your phone to “show” your ID in participating states. It’s not just an image of your ID either: you authenticate the ID via either NFC or a QR code to prove the ID is active and belongs to you.
Google also announced Emergency SOS is coming to Wear OS, so you can easily connect emergency services from your Android smartwatch in an emergency. The company is also expanding Android’s earthquake warning system, using your phone’s accelerometer to warn you of an approaching earthquake before it happens.
Android apps are optimized for tablet-sized displays
Moving away from smartphones, Google has “extended beyond the phone” as promised, turning its attention to Android on tablets. The company announced plans to optimize Android apps for tablet-sized displays and will start 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 UI of these apps to better accommodate the larger screen size: TikTok, for example, uses part of the screen for videos and another for comments, making it convenient for you to view 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 the app list for instant split screen.
Android devices should now work together more seamlessly
Finally, Google took some time to talk about how it wants your different Android devices to work seamlessly together — or be “better together.” It announced that the casting will be extended to new devices such as Chromebooks and cars. Phone Hub is also expanded, allowing you to stream your phone’s messaging app to your Chromebook.
My personal favorite feature is the ability to copy and paste something from your phone directly onto your tablet. This works great across the Apple ecosystem, whether you’re using an iPhone, iPad, or a Mac. So I am happy that this option is finally available for Android.
Google has also highlighted a Fair Pair extension that allows other devices like TVs to pair with your headphones and smart devices as seamlessly as you would expect from Fast Pair. Speaking of pairing, Google announced Matter, a solution that connects Google Nest to countless brands and products for easy pairing, coming this fall.
To conclude the Android announcements, Google today released 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 want to install the new update from Beta 1 or are interested in trying the Beta for the first time, check out our instructions for Install Android 13 on your Pixel here.