The beta version of Android 13's next big update is here, and that means Google Pixel owners can sample the latest Android features before anyone else if they wish (although we don't recommend trying this on a device you use regularly).
A deep dive into the update's code by Android expert Mishaal Rahman and Esper have revealed several in-progress enhancements for the operating system. Not all of these are guaranteed to make it to launch, if at all, but hopefully they will as they seem like a useful bunch of upgrades.
Our favorite feature from what Rahman found is evidence of a clock customization system and a new screensaver that can show weather conditions, media and home controls and timely "At a Glance"-style information alongside the familiar clock, in either regular or dimmed low-light guises. It sounds similar to the lock screen widgets and clock that were just added to iOS 16, and while Google offered some customization options already, greater freedom to add all the information you could want to a single screen sounds just great.
SystemUI's new screen saver for when you dock your tablet and there's low ambient light. pic.twitter.com/QjtbR6mo4kOctober 5, 2022
Rahman points out that the screensaver changes in particular seem aimed at the Google Pixel Tablet. While the tablet isn't on sale yet, Google's already detailed its plans to make this slate a mobile smart home hub as much as it is a tablet.
Google's also been working on desktop mode enhancements according to Rahman's findings. There's now a shortcut to activate it in the quick settings menu, and the option to make resizeable, free-floating windows when enabled. While we've had semi-usable equivalents to this like Samsung DeX and Motorola Ready For before, having Google implementing it into Android natively could make using your smartphone as a portable PC far more practical.
Furthering this is the ability to swap to a permanent tablet-like taskbar instead of a regular set of on-screen buttons or gesture bar at the bottom of your home screen in the beta. We've seen this on a phone already in the form of the Galaxy Z Fold 4's taskbar, and it makes a lot of sense on a device with a larger display. It's probably best to stick with your traditional navigation though, since it's currently very small when adjusting the size to work on a regular smartphone panel.
😉https://t.co/dvMK0RSAqnMarch 10, 2022
Other small enhancements found inside the beta are partial screen recording mode that lets you record only one app rather than the entire contents of your screen by selecting a new option in the Screen Recorder dialog, a Google Keep pop-up window that lets you quickly make a drawing without exiting your current app, an option for an improved Google One VPN (although how it's better isn't specified), a picture-in-picture/split-screen mode for Android TV, and a less distracting "Immersive Mode" for Android Auto.
As the name suggests, Android's quarterly updates appear every three months or so. With QPR1 having gone live last month, we should see QPR2 and the new features highlighted above to appear around February or so. It's also possible some of this won't appear until Android 14 later next year.
If you were already planning on getting a Pixel 7 or one of the other best Android phones for yourself or someone else for Christmas, you'll soon have even more features to play with within just a couple of months of opening the box.
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Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.