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Android 13 leaks just tipped three major upgrades

An image of a Google Android robot
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Android 13 is coming. In fact, we expect the first Developer Preview to land next month. In the lead up to it, several possible features have appeared, which offer a glimpse at what we can expect from the final release later this year.

Three things of note have popped up: easier QR code scanning (via Android Police (opens in new tab)), Tap-to-Transfer media playback handoff (via Android Police (opens in new tab)), and a revamped media output picker (via Android Police (opens in new tab)). We'll go over these features here in a bit.

All of this comes courtesy of a "trusted source" in contact with Android Police. Bear in mind that all of these features are subject to change, evolution, or removal as Google works on them. That's how software development works.

Android 13: Streamlined QR code scanning

In this age of COVID-19, many restaurants have moved to online menus which you can access via a QR code. It's a pretty neat idea all things told, turning what used to be an annoyance into something useful. 

With most phones, you fire up your camera app and point it at the QR code. This usually offers up a prompt for you to tap that will take you to wherever the code wants you to go. Google seems to want to improve upon that, based on the screenshots provided in Android Police's article.

The first screenshot above shows an option for "Allow access to QR scanner from lock screen." That's pretty self-explanatory, though we're not sure how it would work in practice. It could be a shortcut of sorts to a QR scanner mode, or something even more seamless. 

On a similar note, the second screenshot shows us a QR scanner shortcut tile in Quick Settings. This could open a view of the QR scanner mode in the camera app, offering a quick and painless way to scan the code. It's simply too early to tell.

Android 13: Tap-to-Transfer media playback handoff

If you have an iPhone and HomePod mini, you can hand off media playing on your phone to the speaker by tapping your phone to it. It's a great way to pass music to speakers in different rooms if you're moving between them. 

Based on information provided to Android Police, Android 13 might get something similar. Currently dubbed "Media TTT" — with the "TTT" standing for "Tap-to-Transfer" — this feature could allow phones to hand off media playback to some other device.

How this will work remains unclear to Android Police and it's possible that Google still doesn't fully yet know how it's going to work. Whether the source device communicates the handoff via NFC, UWB, or something else isn't known.

However, the screenshots obtained by Android Police show a chip notification at the top. The first one says to move closer to the target device, the second says that the media is playing on the target device.

If this functions similarly to Apple, then it could mean that you'll be able to pass music of what have you to a Chromecast or Nest speaker. But since we don't know the means of communication, Media TTT could require specialized hardware. I know that I won't upgrade all of my Google Home/Nest speakers just for this feature.

Media output picker

The final bit of Android 13 info that Android Police obtained is much less exciting. Simply put, Google is apparently testing a redesign for the media output picker. This is the menu that appears when you tap the output text in the media playback notification. This is the part that tells you whether the media is playing on your phone's speaker, Bluetooth earbuds, Chromecast device, etc. 

In the first screenshot, the one that shows the output picker based on the playback notification, you can see the rounded volume bar and the output device ("Not Airpods" in this case). But if you pay attention, the option to bring up the picker in the first place is missing from the notification shade.

Android Police's source affirms that the button to bring up the picker is still there before the menu appears. Whether the disappearance is a bug or a redesign remains unknown. You can also call up the output picker from the Sound settings, right below the main media volume control.

Android 13 outlook

Android 13 is many months away, and we may not see the first beta until Google I/O in May. But we could get the first Developer Preview next month in February, assuming Android 12L hasn't messed with the development release cycle.

While all three of these are minor features, it's good to see that Google is at least considering improving some of the UI and UX elements for Android 13. We'll hear all about the new features at I/O, and when people start digging into the Developer Previews.

Stay tuned for more Android 13 news as it happens.

Jordan Palmer
Jordan Palmer

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He's written about phones for over five years and plans to continue for a long while to come. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. Jordan likes finding new things to dive into, from books and games to new mechanical keyboard switches and fun keycap sets. Outside of work, you can find him poring over open-source software and his studies.