December is here, so Google wants to celebrate with some new Android features. While most are pretty functional, the company isn't letting the holiday season go uncelebrated, thanks to some new emojis in Gboard.
Of course, the primary focus is on some new functionality in Android and Wear OS, which we'll break down here in a moment. Whether it's the new reading mode, YouTube search widget, or the arrival of digital car key sharing for Pixels and iPhones, Google has a lot of neat little goodies for most Android phones.
Here's what's coming to your Android phone.
Holiday emoji and Photos collage designs
Google introduced collages to Photos not too long ago, but for the holiday season, it collaborated with some artists to create some nice new designs. Simply create your collage and scroll over to the new designs to show off your pictures.
And if you want to spread some holiday cheer in your messages, Gboard's Emoji Kitchen now includes some festive new emojis to create creative sticker combinations.
Easy access to your content
Android is finally getting its own Reader mode, similar to what iOS 16 has. This is a minimal rendering of a web page that is easier to parse for accessibility reasons. Some prefer it because it is just simpler to read (me included). You can customize the appearance, such as font, size, and contrast.
YouTube also has a home screen search widget now. It seems odd that it took until 2022 for this to appear, but we'll take it all the same. It should look like on your Android 12 or Android 13 home screen.
And wrapping this part up, you will be able to cast Google TV content to compatible TVs with a single tap — we're not entirely sure which of the best Google TVs that includes. While the content is playing on the big screen, you can continue to browse content or use your phone as a remote.
Sharing digital car keys
Google talked about digital car keys at I/O earlier this year and now you can share them with family members who have Pixels or iPhones. (Support for other phones running Android 12 and above is coming later.) You can easily view who has access to your car in the digital wallet app, as well as control access from there.
Wear OS tiles and apps
Wear OS is also getting some love this holiday season. Google is adding some extra tiles to its wearable OS for watches running Wear OS 3, letting you get more information at glance. You could already use the Maps tile to get your navigation info quickly, but now there's sunrise/sunset and contacts tiles, which will make navigation easier for those who have a Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 or Google Pixel Watch.
The Wear OS Keep app has also gotten an overhaul to bring it more in line with its phone counterpart. It'll show labels and collaborators, plus backgrounds, photos, and drawings.
And if you use the Adidas Running app, you can start more than 30 types of workouts via Google Assistant on your watch.
December Android update outlook
None of these is a major upgrade, but together, they all make for a better Android experience. And the good news that all of it save the digital car key sharing is coming to Android phones as a whole. Google did not specify a version in its communication with us, but we're willing to bet you'll need Android 12 or newer.
As for when you can expect to see these updates, some like the holiday emoji and collage design should be available now or soon via an app update. The rest will likely depend on your phone maker.