Google just dropped big Android AI upgrades at I/O 2024 — here's what's new

Android with AI
(Image credit: Google)

Google has announced several AI updates rolling out to Android at this year's I/O event — which, if all goes to plan, should help make the best Android phones even more helpful.

There's some on-the-surface improvements, such as the fact that Circle to Search will soon be able to solve even more complex problems later this year. The feature, initially launched on Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra and Pixel 8, will expand to understand symbolic formulas, diagrams, graphs and more. Google says this'll be a big help to students as the AI tool will be able to guide them step-by-step through a range of physics and math-based problems.

Google also confirmed more devices will be getting Circle to Search although it stopped short of announcing which ones. 

Another feature, TalkBack, is also getting a boost thanks to artificial intelligence. The accessibility feature helps those with blindness or sight issues with descriptions of what's happening in the image displayed on their screen. Google says that on average, TalkBack users come across 90 unlabeled images per day. This new performance update will help fill in missing information — whether it’s more details about what’s in a photo that family or friends sent or the style and cut of clothes when shopping online. 

That added power comes courtesy of Google's Gemini Nano — an LLM developed by Google to run on-device. And, while it's not exactly a nuts n' bolts feature, Google Nano is getting a significant performance boost that'll pay dividends across the Android OS.

Google Nano goes multimodal

Gemini Nano

(Image credit: Google)

Google has confirmed that, starting with Pixel "later this year", Android phones will have access to Gemini Nano with Multimodality. This is the company's latest version of the model and means your phone will not just be able to process text input but also understand more information in context. Things like sights, sounds and spoken language will now be understood with even greater context.

In a nutshell, Gemini will become the new Assistant and will be easily accessible at a system level to help out with queries across apps. 

Here's how that'll work in practise; you could, for example, call up the Gemini overlay while in an app like Gmail or Google Messages and ask it something based on what's on screen. That could mean asking Gemini for specific information on a YouTube video you're discussing with a contact — in Google's demo that involved explaining the rules of pickleball. 

Another example was translating the language on a picture you've been sent.

Real-time scam alerts

Scam warnings in phone calls using AI

(Image credit: Google)

Finally, Google has announced a new AI feature that should help protect Android users from scams in real-time. The company revealed during I/O it has been testing Gemini Nano's ability to provide alerts during a call if it detects conversation patterns commonly associated with scams. 

For example, users would receive an alert if a “bank representative” asks them to urgently transfer funds, make a payment with a gift card or requests personal information like card PINs or passwords. Because it uses Nano, Google says this protection all happens on-device, so the conversation stays private.

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The feature isn't available yet but will as an opt-in option later in the year. And while most of us no doubt think we're too savvy to be caught in a scam, Google cites a recent report stating that nearly $1 trillion was lost to fraud last year. Regardless, I can see this being a very useful feature for elderly or more vulnerable Android phone owners.

For the full lowdown on all the new AI features Google is bringing to the table, check out our live blog of the Google I/O 2024 keynote right here

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Jeff Parsons
UK Editor In Chief

Jeff is UK Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide looking after the day-to-day output of the site’s British contingent. Rising early and heading straight for the coffee machine, Jeff loves nothing more than dialling into the zeitgeist of the day’s tech news.

A tech journalist for over a decade, he’s travelled the world testing any gadget he can get his hands on. Jeff has a keen interest in fitness and wearables as well as the latest tablets and laptops. A lapsed gamer, he fondly remembers the days when problems were solved by taking out the cartridge and blowing away the dust.