New versions of Android may only come once a year, but Google still rolls out plenty of updates throughout the year. The first big quarterly feature drop of 2023 launched at CES back in January, and now the second has launched at MWC 2023.
The themes of this update are all to do with productivity, accessibility and improved connectivity. All the details are available to peruse on Google’s official blog post, and the update itself is starting to roll out today. Here are all the big features on the way.
The first update comes in the form of a new single-note widget for Google Keep — Google’s wholly underrated notes app. The idea here is that the widget will let you manage notes and check off to-do lists more easily — all without leaving your home screen.
That widget can display all the things you’d add to your notes, including images, reminders and background colors, all while syncing with the cloud and your Wear OS smartwatch. Keep for Wear OS is also getting two new shortcuts that will help you create your own notes and to-do lists right from your wrist.
Also on the productivity bandwagon is a new freehand annotation feature for PDF files stored in Google Drive. Available on phones and tablets, this lets you annotate documents using touch or a stylus with ink strokes or a highlighter tool, which should prove useful for taking notes or saving all the important bits.
Chrome for Android is also getting an important accessibility feature, allowing you to increase the size of on-screen content by up to 300%. All while preserving the existing page layout. Users will have the option to set that sizing as the default, to avoid the annoying task of having to change it each time. This feature is currently part of the Chrome beta, and will be rolling out to the public in March.
Wear OS 3 and above won’t be missing out on these either. A new mono-audio sound mode is coming to prevent disorientation that can be caused by split audio, alongside color-correction and grayscale display modes to offer more choice on how on-screen screen content is presented.
While not Android, per se, Chromebooks will also be getting Google’s Fast Pair Bluetooth tech — letting you connect new Bluetooth headphones with a single tap. Fortunately, if you’ve already paired those headphones with your Android phone, those headphones will connect to your Chromebook automatically.
If audio is more your style, then a bunch of enhancements are coming with this feature drop. While not Android, per se, Chromebooks will also be getting Google’s Fast Pair Bluetooth tech, letting you connect new Bluetooth headphones with a single tap. Thankfully, if you’ve already paired those headphones with your Android phone, those headphones will connect to your Chromebook automatically
Also rolling out now is noise cancellation for Google Meet. As the name suggests, this feature will help filter out distracting background noise during calls; provided, of course, that you’re making those calls on Android.
This means that you don’t have to worry about taking those calls inside a busy coffee shop, or anywhere else that might feature inconsiderate people who won’t drop everything for the sake of a random stranger’s call.
In case the green robotic Android mascot wasn’t indicator enough, Google does like to have fun. So there’s some fun stuff bundled in the latest feature drop, including one that lets you combine emojis into custom stickers. So if you ever wanted a chicken shaped like a heart, or to share some screen space with the monkey emoji, this feature might be worth checking out.
Similar to this Google will be rolling out new tap-to-pay animations for Google Wallet — making the act of watching your payments get approved a little less mundane. Useful? Not at all, but it could help mix up the usual monotony of your day.
These new Android features are rolling out now, but since that rollout has only just begun they may take some time to get to you. In any case, it’s good to see that Google is committed to improving the Android experience, even outside the standard annual release cycle. Here’s hoping we see even more cool features by the time the next update rolls around.