Android doesn’t get the usual regular releases associated with the iOS, save for the big annual updates. Recently, Google announced a ton of exciting new features coming to Android devices this winter. As we head into the busiest time of year, Android is becoming even more helpful with these new features to make this festive period more fun and share holiday memories — all while strengthening security and personalization. Let’s take a look at what’s new.
First up is a new feature called Family Bell that should be especially useful for families in the Android ecosystem. Family Bell helps you keep track of the daily schedules of everyone in your family, no matter where you are. You can set up Family Bell on your phone, smart speaker, or smart display. If you turn on the feature, you will get bells and notifications daily to alert you and your family when it’s time for important moments like picking up your kids from sports practice or getting to bed on schedule. Family members will also be able to set individual bells on their own devices so they can stay on top of their individual goals too. For the holidays, suggested bells for new activities include watering a tree, a family movie night, or volunteering to support a local cause. Family Bell is always easy to edit, manage and customize from your selected device.
Google Widgets make it easier to view the content and information from your favorite Google apps on your Home screen. They are of three kinds, all of which will be valuable over the holidays and beyond:
Google Play Books widget: With this new widget, you can keep your holiday reading within easy reach, access your full library of books and even keep track of your audiobook progress.
YouTube Music widget: This new widget allows you enjoy your favorite holiday tunes. It also puts playback controls and recently played tracks right on your Home screen.
Google Photos People & Pets widget: Feel closer to your family, friends, and favorite furballs. Starting to roll out next week, the new widget puts your family on your Home screen. Simply select a few faces and an appropriate frame, then the widget will do the rest, decorating your Home screen with your nearest and dearest.
Google Photos Memories
Starting this week, Google is rolling out an all-new Memories feature for Google Photos. As the name suggests, Memories of curated selections of photos and videos from notable events and milestones like New Year’s Eve or Halloween, birthdays, and graduations will appear in your photo grid. And because everyone has their own special traditions, specific controls allow you to rename, personalize, correct, or even remove these Memories from your photo grid.
Android and your car
Google wants your Android device to be even more useful while you’re driving. That’s why it’s now possible to set Android Auto to launch automatically when you connect your Android phone to a compatible car to stay connected on every drive. Google is also working on smart reply options to make responding to text messages easier with the Google Assistant on Android Auto — simply tap to respond or create a custom message. You can listen to your favorite music with a single tap of the new always-on play button, right on the Home screen. Coming soon, you’ll be able to use your voice to search for music faster in your media apps on Android Auto. Just tap the new search icon and say your favorite artist or song for easy listening.
Also, you can now use your Android phone to lock, unlock, and start your compatible car. For now, the digital car key feature only works on Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro, and Galaxy S21 for compatible BMW cars.
Apps Permissions auto-reset
Google is constantly overhauling and adding new privacy features to Android. The latest is called permissions auto-reset, and it’s one of the smarter additions we’ve seen in recent years. Chances are that your phone contains at least a few apps you haven’t thought about or used in months or even years. With permissions auto-reset on Android, your device will automatically turn off runtime permissions—which allow apps to access data or take actions on your behalf—for downloaded apps you haven’t used in a while. You can always turn permissions back on anytime you like, either by opening the app again or through the settings menu. Starting next month, this feature will expand support to billions more devices with Google Play services that run Android 6.0 or higher.
Emoji Kitchen combinations
Find the right combination that says how you really feel with the Google Emoji Kitchen combinations in Google Keyboard – Gboard. This feature lets you combine emoji into stickers to share with your friends, family, and loved ones. The latest stickers are rolling out to Gboard Beta users. If you want to check them out right now, you can download the Gboard Beta onto your Android device.
We can’t wait for you to try out these new features while you celebrate the holidays.