5 Updates in Android 13 You Should Know
Google has the ability to easily roll out updates to billions of phones using Google Play Services and the underlying framework. As a result, it’s not surprising that Google chose to play it safe this year, and while Android 13 lacks new features, it does offer refinements in other areas. The notification shade has also undergone subtle changes, as well as much-needed security updates and Material You tweaks.
For Google, these past two years have been busy ones. Android 11 saw the introduction of a new notification management system that prioritized conversations, and Android 12 saw the introduction of Material You and a slew of privacy-focused features. Let’s examine the updates in Android 13 now.
1. “Material You” Gets Added Refinement
Material You design aesthetic is much more flamboyant than Material Design, with bright colors and aggressive styling. Although some people don’t like the changes Google made to the interface, I think Material You gives Android a new, fun feel.
The main addition to Material You in Android 13 is more color palettes for the dynamic color picker, but Google isn’t making many other significant changes. It is a simple way to update the interface’s appearance because the feature essentially generates a list of color palettes based on the background of your phone.
Instead of four color palettes, Android 13 gives you the option of 16—this is fantastic. You can always choose simple accent colors if you don’t like any of these automatically generated hues. Similar to that, themed icons are now compatible with third-party apps, though it’s not always reliable.
2. Notification Panel Gets A Large Media Player
Google had to make some modifications to the notification panel for this Android release, but thankfully they are only minor ones. The persistent media player’s new look puts a strong emphasis on album art, and the notification panel still uses the large rectangular tiles that debuted last year. You can access playback controls and cast music to an additional device.
With Android 12, the media player had a narrow layout that made it simple to access the playback controls, and with a second pull-down gesture, you could switch to the full-width interface. In contrast, Android 13 uses a full-width tile by default for the media player, leaving less room for notifications.
The task manager that is located at the panel’s base is the only other addition to the notification panel besides the media player. It is a useful addition that highlights foreground apps that are currently active.
3. App Notifications Are Now Opt-In
With Android 13, app notifications are opt-in by default, and you must grant permission before they can send a notification. This is a great way to address the issue of services that send erroneous notifications that don’t contain any useful information.
Additionally, this is a better option than Android 12’s, which required you to wait for a notification before long-pressing it to access the app’s settings and manually change the notification settings. To that end, if you’re upgrading from Android 12, your notification preferences are kept, and the feature only applies to newly installed apps, not to apps you already have.
4. Change Language For Individual Apps
With the release of the ability to switch an app’s language, Google is making a big push for accessibility. You can choose the language for a specific app instead of changing the system language.
This is one of Android 13’s best additions and very useful for multilingual people. However, there are issues with usage; you cannot change the language for any app; it must appear in the language selection window. Furthermore, there are currently far too few services that make use of this feature.
Although the feature currently has a limited usability, that is likely to change in the upcoming months.
5. More Control Over Media Permissions
Google is modifying Android 13’s media permissions system. The new photo and video picker, which stops apps from accessing your entire media library, is the first thing we’ll talk about. Instead, only the photos you choose will be accessible when you use the system photo picker in an app like WhatsApp or Instagram. This feature has been available on iOS for some time, so it’s exciting to see it arrive on Android.
The best part is that Google is expanding the feature to include Android 12 devices as well, so it isn’t just available on Android 13. The only issue right now is that apps haven’t yet added this functionality, and Google doesn’t require its use.
Granular file access is one of the other changes to media permissions; previously, images, audio files, and videos were grouped together as media; now, they are separated into their own categories, so if an app needs access to both images and videos, it must request permission for each one separately. Therefore, if you’re using an audio player like USB Audio Player Pro, you can only grant it access to audio files; it cannot access pictures or videos.
Other Added Updates
Google rolled out a slew of minor changes in Android 13, with more on the way for next year’s release. Here’s what’s new:
- A native QR code scanner is now available as a tile in the notification shade. This method is quicker than using Google Lens, and it’s great to see Google making the feature more accessible.
- Split-screen multitasking remains limited on Pixel phones, with Google restricting the feature once more. When you open the split-screen mode from the Recents menu, you can only use an app that is already open — there is no option to select all apps on your phone. Other brands perform far better in this regard, with One UI and ColorOS providing a much more seamless path to split-screen multitasking.
- You’ll notice a new visual clipboard editor that allows you to easily edit the text you’ve just copied. After an hour, the contents of the clipboard are erased.
- Google increased the size and width of the gesture navigation bar at the bottom of the screen, but there is still no way to hide it or switch to a transparent mode. Other interfaces, such as ColorOS and MIUI, allow you to hide the nav bar, but the Pixel Launcher does not.
- Google is developing a predictive back gesture that shrinks the screen to the right and shows you a preview of the screen you’ll return to. If you don’t want to return to that screen, simply lift your finger to stay in the current window, which is a very useful feature. While the feature will not be available in Android 13, Google will make it available in Android 14.
- Instead of manually going through the settings app to pair a device with your phone, Fast Pair allows you to do so quickly. Android notifies you when it discovers that something is attempting to pair with the device.
- You can set dark mode to start automatically at bedtime using the “Bedtime Dark Mode” option.
- A new guest user can be created in Android 13 and you can choose which apps to install to the guest profile.
- Make use of the new toggle in the accessibility settings to automatically have the magnified area follow your typing when you use a magnifier.
- The Control from Locked Device setting in Android 13 allows for greater lock screen access and does away with the need to unlock your phone in order to access smart home controls.
- Android tablets with smarter touch controls will distinguish between touches from your palm and touches from a stylus pen. Therefore, you’ll encounter fewer unintentional stray marks when writing or drawing on your tablet as a result of simply resting your hand on the screen.
- The Foreground Services (FGS) Task Manager is a brand-new feature that displays a list of the apps that are currently running foreground services and offers a stop button to immediately terminate any of them. If Android determines that a task has been running for at least 20 hours within a 24-hour period, it will notify you to stop it. FGS Task Manager is described here by Google.
When Will Android 13 Be Available on all Devices?
The question, as with any new Android release, is how soon you can get it on your device. The stable Android 13 update is now available for Pixel phones, beginning with the Pixel 4 series, and the build will take some time to reach the best Android phones.
The majority of manufacturers are doing a better job of delivering stable updates. Samsung has already released the third One UI 5 beta build, the stable ColorOS 13 build for the Find X5 Pro, and OxygenOS 13 has also been released.
Xiaomi is hard at work on the MIUI 13 beta, with a stable release date set for the end of 2022. If you use a device with a stock Android interface — ASUS, Motorola, Nokia, and Nothing — you’ll have to wait a long time. Having said that, most brands are releasing the stable update faster than in previous years, which is an accomplishment in and of itself.
Overall, Android 13 doesn’t have much to offer, but that doesn’t make it a dull release — far from it. Google refined many of the features introduced last year and rolled out useful changes that make a big difference in daily use, such as opt-in notifications, as well as much-needed privacy fixes. It lacks the flamboyance of Android 12, but it is far more stable in daily use, making it even more appealing.