3 reasons to be enthusiastic about Android 13 that aren't obvious

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3 reasons to be enthusiastic about Android 13 that aren't obvious


The initial beta version of Android 13 may appear unassuming, but don't be fooled: If you know where to look, you'll find plenty of interesting components in this latest version.

Prepare yourself, my Android-obsessed companion: You're about to go on a roller coaster of emotions. Ready?

First and foremost, Google has now released the first official beta version of Android 13 for this fall! If you have a current Pixel phone, you can download it right now and see all the new and exciting things Google has planned for our future. (Yay!)

The twist is that, unlike other Android betas, this first Android 13 beta still lacks several of the software's important features. It's mostly concerned with basic elements and under-the-hood changes, and it looks quite similar to the previews that came before it. To be honest, it nearly feels like a developer preview rather than a beta – at least in Android terminology. (Aww...)

When you think about it, that shouldn't come as a big surprise. Google's massive I/O developers' conference is less than two weeks away, and that's when the company usually unveils its most exciting new Android features. We officially hit the beta milestone earlier than usual this year because the Android 13 development process started a little earlier than normal this year — but the big reveal is still ahead of us for all intents and purposes.

But hold on! Don't be too dissatisfied. It's possible to peep inside Google's Android 13 code and see certain still-under-wraps elements that are currently being developed thanks to the way Android is built. Of course, there's no assurance that all of that will make it into the final product in its current form — and it's always conceivable that Google has more surprises in store that we haven't heard about yet.

However, when taken together, these hints provide a rather complete picture of what Android 13 is most likely to be. Despite the fact that this week's beta doesn't offer much in the way of new features, it does provide a tantalising glimpse of what's almost surely on the road.

Here are three major (and mostly unnoticed!) reasons to be enthusiastic.

1. Android 13 will pave the way for a more immersive large-screen experience.

Google is bringing its focus back to big-screen Android computing in a big way with Android 13. After years of neglecting and effectively abandoning the Android tablet form, Google is bringing its focus back to big-screen Android computing in a big way with Android 13.

All indications point to the Android 13 release building on the big-screen optimizations made in the awkwardly called (and scarcely pushed out) Android 12L in-betweener "feature drop" Google worked on shortly after the introduction of Android 12 last autumn. Android 13's debut could usher in some highly remarkable new alternatives, ranging from regular tablets to growing foldable phones.

Android 13 will, for the first time, begin to improve the core Android interface for larger screen experiences — sorry, once again. (As long-time Android nerds will recall, Google did this briefly during the Android Honeycomb era in 2011, but abandoned the idea a few years later.) What can we say, really? Sometimes, Google has no choice but to Google.)

That means that when you use an Android 13 tablet or a folded-out foldable phone, you'll see different elements on different halves of the screen and have access to some powerful desktop-like multitasking tools, including a new taskbar that looks a lot like Chrome OS and lets you access your favourite apps from anywhere and even drag them up to create a split-screen setup on the fly.

Some of these ideas were first introduced in the Android 12L update we discussed a moment ago, but that Android version has yet to reach any devices where they're useful. Android 13 refines the elements even further, and it will be the first time they are truly experienced in the real world.

2. Android 13 will essentially usher in a new device category.

Aside from the fundamental interface upgrades, Android 13 is expected to bring some new tablet-specific capabilities that may alter our perceptions of what a tablet is.

The code for Android 13 provides a lot of information about a new "hub mode" for large-screen smartphones, according to Esper's sleuths. When tablets are docked, they appear to be handled as shared devices, with access to a limited number of "communal apps" in that context, and then numerous users can pick up the tablets and login into their own personal profiles.

Android 13 has a completely redesigned UI for Android's long-underappreciated multiuser support system. It also comes with a beefed-up screen saver system that appears to allow you to add widget-like "complications" to a device's idle-time display to make it more information-rich and useful.

When you put all of these things together, you get a whole new kind of use case for Android tablets, one that opens up a lot of intriguing options both at home and in the office and other commercial settings. It's no surprise that Google believes Android and Chrome OS tablets can coexist peacefully while serving quite different purposes.

3. Notifications on Android 13 will be even smarter.

Notifications have long been one of Android's strengths and benefits over, ahem, that other smartphone ecosystem, but Google isn't one to rest on its laurels, and with Android 13, the company is gearing ready to bring some significant extra punch to the Android notification arena.

To begin with, Android 13's early prototypes have a clever new mechanism that allows you to touch and hold any notification, then drag and drop it to either side of your screen to create an instant split-screen between the linked app and whatever else you were seeing. You'd never know it was there unless you tried that action by accident, but it does work.

This, in combination with the taskbar drag-up option we just discussed, brings Android's long-buried and neglected split-screen feature back to the forefront, making it feel like a natural part of the primary interface rather than an awkwardly tacked-on afterthought. Notifications become much more informative and interactive as a result. And it's possible that it'll make split-screen a thing that many of us utilise.

Aside from that, Android 13 adds a new notification permission that forces all apps to seek for permission to send alerts before they can do so (at least in theory; I'm only seeing it with newly installed apps on this initial beta). That implies that unless you specifically specify you wish to receive alerts, no app will be able to inform you by default. Isn't that reasonable?

It's a little but crucial change that puts control in our hands and should significantly reduce unnecessary notification noise.

And keep in mind that this is only the tip of the iceberg. The whole picture of Android 13 won't be known until Google's I/O conference begins on May 11th, and even then, the firm could save some surprises for later in the year, closer to the final Android 13 deployment.

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