Google has outlined its vision for this year’s major Android update, which is expected to continue many of the personalization and privacy initiatives the search giant introduced with Android 12 last year. Its customizable Material You color schemes will now be available as pre-made themes and are also expanding to cover third-party app icons and the media player. There are also new security features, including a dedicated privacy and security menu.
The leadership probably won’t surprise anyone who’s been following early betas of Android 13 as much. But today’s announcements, made to coincide with the search giant’s annual Google I/O developer conference, see the company present its overall vision for this year’s major Android update. The search giant is releasing the second public beta of Android 13 today to coincide with the announcements.
After last year’s Material You customizable themes feature, Android can already match its color scheme to that of your phone’s wallpaper. This year, the media controls are also getting a similar overhaul to Material You and will be able to pull album art colors from music that’s playing. Another new feature for those who don’t want or need their phone’s theme to match their wallpaper exactly is a series of optional preset color schemes to choose from.
Material You theme options are also coming to third-party app icons, which appeared in the first developer preview of Android 13 in February. “It was a bit of a missing piece for us in the last release,” says Google VP of Product Management Sameer Samat. “It felt like everything in the system UI had that nice Material You treatment except for the icons. To us, it always felt like unfinished business. The new icon theme options in app will be available on Pixel devices first and will only work with supported apps.
RCS support for Google Messages is also set to get a big boost later this year with the beta launch of end-to-end encryption for group chats, a feature that’s currently only available in individual RCS chats. in Google Messages. The search giant says the standard, which aims to succeed the now-legacy SMS and MMS protocols, is now available to more than 500 million Google Messages users worldwide.
As we’ve seen in its betas, Android 13 also places more restrictions on personal data and phone features that apps can use by default. Soon apps will have to ask for permission to even send notifications in the first place, and there’s also a new photo picker that lets you restrict which photos and videos an app can access, rather than granting permission. to see your entire library. New permissions will also limit apps to accessing “Photos & Videos” or “Music & Audio” files, rather than all file types.
A new security and privacy settings page will be added later this year to collect all your critical data privacy information in one place. It is designed to encourage Android users to fix any security issues that may arise.
Away from Android phones themselves, Google is also emphasizing the work it’s doing on interconnectivity with other devices. It plans to add quick pairing support for the incoming Matter smart home standard this fall to make it quick and easy to use an Android phone to add supported smart home devices to your network. Support for the new energy-efficient Bluetooth LE Audio standard is also on the way in Android 13.
One last feature to mention: Android 13 will allow users to set system languages for each app, a feature that Samat says is useful for multilingual users who use different languages in different situations. “If you use a social media app, you can use one language. But if you are banking, you could use another language,” he explains.
After the chaotic rollout of Android 12, it’s perhaps reassuring to see that Google is focusing this year on refinement rather than revolutionizing Android. There’s no massive change in direction here, just a steady stream of tweaks and improvements to Android’s existing initiatives.