Three unnoticed reasons to be thrilled about Android 13

Breaking News


Three unnoticed reasons to be thrilled about Android 13


The initial beta version of Android 13 may appear inconspicuous, but don't be fooled: If you know where to look, this latest version contains a plethora of intriguing components.

Prepare yourselves, my fellow Android-obsessed animal: You're going to be thrown into a frenzy of contradictory feelings. Ready?

First and foremost, Google has 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 discover what Google has in store for us in the future. (Yay!)

The surprise is that, unlike other Android betas, this first Android 13 beta release lacks the majority of the software's main features. It focuses mostly on basic aspects and under-the-hood enhancements, and it appears to be very similar to the previews that came before it. To be honest, it seems more like a developer preview than a beta – at least in Android terminology. (Aww...)

When you think about it, that's probably not a great surprise. Google's massive I/O developers' conference is now less than two weeks away, and that's when Le Googlé regularly unveils its most flashy new Android advancements. The Android 13 development process began a little earlier than normal this year, so we technically hit the beta milestone earlier than usual – but the big announcement is still ahead of us.

But hold on! Don't be too disheartened. Because of how Android is built, it's possible to look into Google's Android 13 code and see certain still-under-wraps parts that are currently being developed. Of course, there's no assurance that all of that will make it into the final product in its present form — and it's also conceivable that Google has more surprises in store for us that we haven't heard about yet.

However, when taken together, these hints build a rather coherent image of what Android 13 is most likely to be. And, while this week's beta doesn't provide much in the way of new features, it does provide a tantalising peek of what's almost surely on the road.

Here are three major (and usually unnoticed!) reasons to be excited.

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

After years of ignoring and effectively abandoning the Android tablet form, Google is recommitting to big-screen Android computing in a significant way with Android 13.

All indications are that the Android 13 release will expand on the big-screen improvements offered in the oddly called (and hardly released) Android 12L in-betweener "feature drop" that Google worked on soon after the introduction of Android 12 last autumn. And, from regular tablets to expanding foldable phones, the release of Android 13 could usher in some quite notable new alternatives.

Specifically, Android 13 will, once again, begin to improve the core Android interface for larger screen experiences. (Google did this briefly in the Android Honeycomb period of 2011, as long-time Android nerds will recall, but abandoned the idea a few short years later.) What else can we say? Sometimes Google simply has to Google.)

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

Some of these notions initially debuted in the Android 12L update we discussed a moment ago, but that Android version has yet to reach any devices where they are important. Android 13 refines the aspects further, and it will be the first time they are truly experienced in the real world.

In terms of tablets...

2. Android 13 will effectively usher in a new class of smartphones.

Aside from basic interface changes, Android 13 is set to bring several new tablet-specific capabilities that may transform our perception of what the name "tablet" even means.

The code for Android 13 includes a lot of stuff relating to a new "hub mode" for large-screen devices, as discovered by Esper's keen eyes. When tablets are docked, they appear to be considered as shared devices, having access to a certain set of specified "communal applications" in that context, and then numerous users can pick up the tablets and sign into their own personal profiles.

As part of it, Android 13 includes a newly redesigned UI for Android's long-overlooked multiuser support mechanism. It also has a beefed-up screen saver system that appears to allow you to inject widget-like "complications" into a device's idle-time display to make it more information-rich and helpful.

When these aspects are combined, they offer a whole new type of use case for Android tablets – one that opens up a lot of fascinating options both at home and in the workplace and other corporate contexts. It's no surprise that Google believes Android tablets and Chrome OS tablets can coexist peacefully while serving quite different purposes.

3. Android 13 will improve notification capabilities.

Android notifications have long been one of the platform'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 up to pack a significant additional punch into the Android notification arena.

To begin, early previews of Android 13 have a clever new mechanism that allows you to touch and hold any notification and then drag and drop it onto either side of your screen to create an immediate split-screen between the linked app and anything else you were currently seeing. You'd never know it was there unless you tried that activity, but it totally works.

This, in conjunction with the taskbar drag-up option we just discussed, brings Android's long-buried and neglected split-screen functionality to the forefront and makes it feel like a native part of the primary interface rather than an awkwardly tacked-on afterthought. It also makes alerts more helpful and engaging. And it could just make split-screen a thing that many of us utilise.

Aside from that, Android 13 adds a new notification permission that forces all applications to seek for permission to send alerts before they can do so (in principle, at least; so far, I'm only seeing it with newly installed apps on this initial beta). That is, unless you specifically specify you wish to get alerts from an app, it will never be authorised to notify you by default. Isn't that reasonable?

It's a modest but substantial adjustment that puts power 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 obvious until Google's I/O conference begins on May 11th — and even then, the firm might save some surprises for later in the year, closer to the final Android 13 deployment.

But, based on what we've seen so far, there's plenty of cause to be thrilled - and plenty of reason to keep an eye on what happens next in the coming weeks and months.

Post a Comment