Android 13: Everything we know so far about the upcoming OS

Android 13: Everything we know so far about the upcoming OS

Google’s Android 12 may be in the process of rolling out to smartphones and tablets, but the company is already working on Android 13 (and the midcycle Android 12L). Upcoming features have been spotted by the sleuths over at XDA Developers, among others, citing sources with access to internal access builds. XDA has been pretty good with prerelease Android leaks, so they are fairly reliable, with some caveats we’ll run down below.

What’s coming in Android 13?

To put it simply, we can’t say for sure. While a few features have leaked out here and there, Google typically holds its consumer-focused cards close to its vest before the big I/O event in May. There are hints of what could be coming in code, but anything not announced might simply not make its way down to consumers due to technical, strategic, or even legal issues, so take this more as a rough indicator of what could be coming rather than what is definitely to come.

Android 13 release date

If patterns hold, the first Android 13 developer previews should be coming in February or March. Google isn’t going to tell us then what Android 13 is really about, especially with an Android 12L release still around the corner. We expect that revelation to come at or around Google I/O in May, with a release in the cards anytime between August and September 2022.

Even more Material You

Material You debuted with Android 12 as Google’s own kinda-sorta enhanced customization feature for Android that pulls in colors from your wallpaper to theme your apps and your phone’s interface. It’s available now on Google Pixels and some other Android 12 phones, while Google is working on making it widely available to all devices running Android 12L and later. With Android 13, sources speaking to Android Police have shared that Google plans to allow users to change how those colors show up. Right now, Material You is very pastel. While that’s to some people’s taste, not everyone’s down with that look. It also gets a little boring, especially when Android 11 counterintuitively had a much larger, immediately available pool of colors to choose from.

With Android 13, Google is planning to enhance the color hues with four new options. Material You will still pick colors from your wallpaper, but how it displays them will be up to you, somewhat. The current options are “Tonal Spot,” “Vibrant,” “Expressive,” and “Spiritz.” As Ars Technica points out, Google’s Pixel 6 promo images show more vibrant colors than you can get on Android 12, so this might be a way for Google to fix that while putting more power in the user’s hands.

Enhanced notifications

If Google isn’t fiddling around with notifications in Android, can it really be called a major upgrade? Settings in Android 13 have been spotted indicating support for notifications permissions. What this means is that Google won’t let just any Android app send you notifications right from the get-go. Just like you’ll see in Chrome or other modern browsers, they’ll have to explicitly ask for and be granted access to send you notifications. For apps like WhatsApp and Telegram, most users would do so without hesitation, but games and shopping apps may find it a little harder to get away with the notification spam they’ve been inflicting for years.

The Pixel 6 in Orange.
You can’t get this bright color on a Pixel 6 at the moment. Google

Tap to Transfer

Between its iPhones and HomePods, Apple offers a feature known as Tap to Transfer. When playing a song on your iPhone with Apple Music, you can easily tap the Homepod to transfer playback to the speaker for richer sound without fiddling with on-screen controls. Google is reportedly working on that for Android 13 as per a mockup shared by Android Police. There’s nothing much known about it other than it exists at the moment, so this is more of a possibility than a certainty. Still, with Google selling Nest Audios and Nest Minis — as well as the wider ecosystem of Cast-enabled smart speakers out there — this would be a pretty nice to have feature.

Easier to access QR code scanner

QR codes have become far more important in the age of COVID-19, and Google could be working on a way to make them easier to use going forward. It is worth noting that you can already scan QR codes via the Google Camera or equivalent third-party Android phone app. With Android 13, Google is reportedly working on a built-in QR code scanner that will be able to work directly on the lock screen and be accessed through the quick settings app. It’ll be more convenient than the camera, though it may not practically change much. Google’s QR code scanner has been criticized for security flaws recently, so hopefully, the company works out the kinks before release.

Multilingual madness

Google is adding native support for per-app language settings to Android. Currently, users can set a default system language that is used by all apps on their phone, but Google is working on a new setting that’ll let you pick which apps use which language. Your WhatsApp can be in English, your Telegram in Russian, your WeChat in Chinese, and so on. It’s a nice little tool for people who speak multiple languages and communicate with others around the world. Android Police reports Google is working toward a deadline for Android 13, so we may see this as a marquee feature at Google I/O this May.

Other features

At this early stage, there’s nothing really huge about Android 13 out there. Google is working on a QR code scanner to be built into Android, but you can do that now with the built-in camera apps on many of the best Android phones, or simply download and use Google Lens. There are signs of an iOS-like music transfer feature, allowing you to transfer music to speakers just by tapping on them, and the operating system could improve support for multilingual users with per-app language options.

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