Friday, October 07, 2022

Google reveals Android 13 developer previews and a bunch of new features that aren’t live yet

Hot on the heels of Android 12L Beta 3, Google has just announced our very first glimpse at Android 13. The first developer preview of this upcoming release is now available for intrapid, currently-supported Pixel-owners, but expect plenty of rough edges and issues if you take the plunge — and plenty of new features, according to Google. Highlights include a new photo picker, a new prompt for adding custom quick settings tiles, an expansion of Material You-themed app icons to support all apps, the per-app language settings we leaked before, and plenty of developer-facing goodies. Unfortunately for armchair Android enthusiasts, many of these changes aren’t actually live yet.


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To start, Android 13 has a new photo picker (and APIs for it) that sounds awfully like how Apple handles file selection menus on the iPhone. Instead of just having the document picker (which, I will note, lets you limit yourself to photos if you want to), Android will now have a dedicated view apps can use to select only photos. I may have concerns about this later once I can see it in action for myself, but sadly it doesn’t seem to be available yet in the current build — or apps don’t use it yet.

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The other big highlight in DP1 is support for themed app icons system-wide — not just for Google’s own apps. Previously Google rolled out “beta” app icon support for its new Material You dynamic theming, but it only worked a hard-coded set of apps outside some hacky workarounds. For users, that meant Android 12 could look a little weird with it enabled, showing a garish mix of themed and un-themed icons. According to Google, that won’t be an issue anymore, though, and we’ll have system-level support for any app to implement Material You dynamic icons (if developers opt to support it). But, again, Google announced this before it was actually live, and it doesn’t seem to be yet.

There’s a new API specifically for nearby Wi-Fi devices without needing access to your location — sort of like the changes to Bluetooth and location permissions in Android 11 for COVID exposure apps, and potentially handy for setting up smart home gadgets with better customer privacy. A Quick Settings placement API will also offer users a new dialog when an app wants to add a custom tile. It could admittedly be pretty hard to keep track of new custom additions if you didn’t happen to just spot them appearing. The per-app language settings we leaked earlier will also start being supported, though APIs across different development means aren’t going to be available at the same time — and, again, per-app language settings aren’t actually present in DP1 either . Starting to notice a trend here.

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Diving deeper into more developer-facing details, Google’s picked up the performance of text-wrapping hyphenation in TextViews, added support for programmable shaders, and it’s updating Android itself to meet OpenJDK 11 LTS at a library and language level — this level of core support will even be a Mainline module.

On that note, Google says there will be more Mainline modules, including one for Bluetooth, ultra-wideband, and that new photo picker.

App compatibility changes in Android 13 will again be toggleable for easier debugging, too, and Google’s clear that Android 13 (Like Android 12L) is meant to bring more tools for bigger-screen devices like foldables and tablets. That’s both Google and us at Android Police pleading for developers to please take large screen layouts seriously and start to focus on how you can improve your apps in Android 13.

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Google has shared its overall schedule for Android 13 in abstract terms, with developer previews landing between now and April and a switch to beta releases through a final release sometime after July. The last two months will encapsulate platform stability releases when changes start to slow down, and a final release will happen some undefined period after July — seemingly in the late summer or early fall.

Android 13 Developer Preview 1 will be available for the Pixel 6 series, Pixel 5, Pixel 4a series, and Pixel 4. The Pixel 3a series won’t be in on the fun — probably related to its software support window closing this May.

We strongly encourage most of our readers not to install this release, as these early Developer Previews have a history of breaking features and functionality you might rely on for normal use. Google also encourages the same by not making them available for easy installation via the Android Beta Program, so if you’d like to give Android 13 DP1 a try, you’ll have to manually install it yourself via the Android Flash Tool or sideloading it via ADB.

If you’d like to learn more about the changes in Android 13, keep an eye out for our feature-level coverage, which we’ll be expanding upon shortly. But if you were excited to test out any of the features we mentioned above, hold your horses: So far, most of the important features Google highlighted in DP1 aren’t actually in it.

UPDATE: 2022/02/10 14:20 EST BY RYNE HAGER

More information now that we’ve used it

Now that we’ve had a chance to see what’s actually in Android 13 DP1, Google’s announcement of some of these features was a little premature, and our coverage has been updated.

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