- Google has announced an Android features update that is coming soon for most users.
- They include some features that were previously just on Pixel phones, including Locked Folder in Google Photos.
- New accessibility features are also rolling out, along with some ways to remote control your Google TV-based television via your phone.
Android 12 might be just a few weeks away from launching. However, if your phone isn’t supposed to get the new OS for a while, you can still expect to see some new Android features via updates that will begin to roll out today.
The new Android features update includes ways to control phones with facial gestures, new ways to control your Google TV-based smart television with your phone, and some features that were previously available exclusively on Google’s Pixel phones. Here’s a quick look at what Android features are getting updated.
Fall 2021 Android features update
- New Accessibility features — For people who have speech disabilities, Google is adding an app called Project Activate. It will allow those users to use facial gestures to trigger pre-set actions to communicate, such as sending a text or playing an audio clip. Google is also adding another new app today called Camera Switches. It will let owners use a phone’s front-facing camera as a way to navigate through a phone. The Lookout app, which reads out both print and handwritten texts, is being updated to do the same for Latin-based languages.
- New Android Auto Google Assistant driving mode dashboard — Android Auto users can expect to see a bunch of new features. That includes a new dashboard for Google Assistant driving mode that will include the ability to just say, “Hey Google, let’s drive” to launch the dashboard. Tappable cards will be shown on the screen to get you through the basics, like navigation, message notifications, and resuming any media you previously started.
- More new Android Auto features — You can now say “Hey Google, turn on auto-read” to hear any messages sent to you in Android Auto, and respond back with your voice. Also, Android Auto screens will be able to show your work-related messages and upcoming meetings via your Work Profile. If you are waiting in your car for some reason, you can play games on Android Auto while you wait via GameSnacks. Also, Waze for Android is getting an update with touchpad, night mode, and lane guidance support. If you are at one of 32,000 supported gas stations, you can now keep your credit card in your wallet when paying for gas. Just say, “Hey Google, pay for gas” on Android Auto or from your Android phone and you can do it via Android Pay. If you own a dual-SIM phone, this new update will allow you to pick which SIM card to use when making a call via Android Auto.
- Control Google TV with your phone — If you own a smart TV or set-top box with the Google TV interface for Android TV, you can now use your phone to handle several actions. That includes powering up your TV, scrolling through movies and TV shows, and even launching content from your phone. Your phone’s keyboard can also be used to remotely type in search strings or passwords as well. The Google TV app is also rolling out to 14 more countries over the next several weeks.
- Reminders hub for Google Assistant — Just say “Hey Google, open my reminders” to launch the new Reminders hub so you can keep track of upcoming events.
- Locked Folder in Google Photos is now for all Android phones — If you own an Android 6 Marshmallow phone and above, you can now access the Locked Folder feature in Google Photos that was previously an exclusive for Pixel phones. It will allow you to safely store any photos or videos in a password-protected folder, so they don’t show up on a normal scroll through your media library.
- Heads Up is coming to more phones — Here’s another Pixel-exclusive feature that is now expanding to phones running Android 9 Pie and above. Heads Up is a Digital Wellbeing feature for people who are using their phones while walking. It will remind them to look up and stay alert from time to time.
- Nearby Share improvements — This update will allow you to customize the Nearby Share feature, which lets other people near you detect your device to share files. Now, you can choose no one, just your trusted contacts, or for everyone to see your phone.
- Lots of new Gboard features — Heavy texters will find a lot to check out soon via Gboard. For example, users who copy and paste any content that has multiple phone numbers, email addresses, or website links will see that Gboard will automatically separate them into multiple pasting options. That way, you can delete any content from the list you don’t want to forward. Also, if you take a screenshot with the intention of immediately sharing it, Gboard will now automatically show that screenshot as a suggestion to send out. Android 11 and above users can also use Smart Compose in Gboard so it can guess how you might finish a text message, so you can just swipe to complete it. Finally, the Emoji Kitchen feature, which allows users to mash up emoji for some interesting combinations, will get 1,500 additional stickers to combine later this fall.
Whew! That’s quite a list of new additions. That’s certainly not counting all the new stuff that’s coming via the Android 12 launch. It looks like Android users have a lot to discover and access over the next few months.