Summer Android updates bring Gboard, Play Store, and accessibility improvements

Google Android Summer 2022 updates
(Image credit: Google)

What you need to know

  • Google announces new app updates available now or coming soon to Android phones.
  • Gboard receives new Emoji Kitchen mashups for Pride as custom text stickers roll out to all Android smartphones.
  • Accessibility features such as Sound Amplifier and Lookout are receiving helpful new updates.
  • Users will soon be able to use Play Points for in-app purchases on the Play Store.

Summer is almost here, and Google is announcing a handful of features arriving for Android smartphones. These new features will make it easier to communicate and interact with the world around them with fun updates to Gboard and improvements to accessibility features. The Play Store is also receiving a nice update to help users make in-app purchases.

Custom text stickers and new Emoji Kitchen mashups

Custom text stickers are one of the best new features to arrive on Gboard recently. The feature lets users easily convert just about any text into a fun sticker, adding a nice touch to a greeting or celebratory text. The feature was previously exclusive to Pixel smartphones, but Google is soon enabling the feature on all the best Android phones.

Gboard text stickers

(Image credit: Google)

It's easy enough to create a custom text sticker with Gboard, and it will definitely make your texts stand out. Google says it will be available on non-Pixel Android phones "soon," although we've already noticed the feature arrive on some of our devices like the Galaxy S22.

Gboard Emoji Kitchen Summer 2022

(Image credit: Google)

Gboard is also receiving a bunch of new Emoji Kitchen mashups to help get ready for the summer. There are 1600 fun new combinations to try out, including a soccerball watermelon. And to celebrate Pride Month, Google also includes a bunch of new rainbow stickers.

Accessibility gets a boost

Google is also making some improvements to its accessibility apps that should help make it easier for users to understand what's going on around them. The first is an update to Sound Amplifier, which is used to help those with hearing loss. It can be used to amplify sounds around you or on your device, and the latest update brings better noise reduction, improved processing, and a new UI that should make it easier to use.

And for those with visual impairments, Google is updating the Lookout app, which is designed to help describe various items around you. It features a few modes that can help describe text, currency, documents, or items around you. These modes are being updated with improved accuracy, but the biggest news is the brand new mode arriving on Lookout.

Lookout Images mode

(Image credit: Google)

With the new Images mode, Android users with low vision can open an image from nearly any app, and Lookout will describe it to them. And Lookout will also work offline, meaning you don't need a data connection, making the app much more accessible to those that rely on it.

Google Play Points get even better

Lastly, Google is giving its Play Points rewards program a boost by allowing users to use their points to pay for in-app items. This means you can save a few bucks and use the points you've racked up to either slip the payment or cover the entire cost.

Google Play Points in-app purchases

(Image credit: Google)

This feature started showing up in March, but it's finally rolling out to more users globally. According to Google, the feature will be available "in the coming weeks" in countries where the Play Points awards program is available.

Derrek Lee
News Editor

Derrek is a long-time Nokia and LG fanboy who loves astronomy, videography, and sci-fi movies. When he's not working, he's most likely working out or smoldering at the camera.