What you need to know
- Google has updated several Android apps and added new capabilities.
- The latest release introduces new improvements to Google Assistant, Gboard, Google Photos, Nearby Share, and Digital Wellbeing.
- Some of these features were first launched on the Google Pixel phones and are now being rolled out to more Android devices.
Google announced on Thursday a slew of fresh updates that are coming to some of the best Android apps as well as new features focused on privacy, productivity, and more. Some of these updates were previously only available on Google Pixel devices, but the search engine giant is now making them available on many of the best Android phones.
Reminders hub with Google Assistant
One of the most notable new features is the Reminders hub, which consolidates all your reminders into a single location. It allows you to manage your reminders using your voice by simply saying, "Hey Google, open my reminders."
Google will also display recommended reminders for recurring tasks such as turning off the lights. With a single tap, you can activate those suggestions.
Google is also turning your Android phone into a remote control, allowing you to power on or off any of the best Android TVs, select a movie to watch, or enter passwords. The new feature is similar to Apple's TV Remote app, which turns an iPhone into a universal remote for controlling your TV.
The remote-control feature is available starting today. You can get to that option by adding the remote tile to your phone's quick settings or by using the Google TV app itself. The company also revealed plans to expand the Google TV app to 14 additional countries.
Expanding Google Photos' Locked Folder
Google previously launched a Pixel-exclusive feature for Google Photos called Locked Folder, which allows you to hide sensitive photos and videos inside a password-protected space. However, it was available only on the Google Pixel phones at launch.
Now, Google is rolling it out to more Android devices. It will support handsets running Android Marshmallow and higher.
Faster typing experience and more with Gboard
Gboard is also getting a bunch of new features for power users of the copy/paste option. One of its new headline capabilities is a feature that automatically extracts important bits of information such as URLs, phone numbers, and email addresses from a body of text you've copied. These bits will then be separated into multiple pasting options so you can pick the information that matters to you.
The keyboard app is also picking up more than 1,500 stickers over the coming months. The new stickers will add to Gboard's existing Emoji Kitchen catalog.
Smart Compose is also rolling out to more Android phones after being previously limited to devices like the Google Pixel 5. It supports devices running Android 11 or higher, allowing you to quickly complete sentences by swiping on recommended texts. Gboard is also adding screenshot suggestions when you compose a message.
Nearby Share visibility options
The new update allows you to choose who can send files to your phone through Nearby Share. You can make your device discoverable to everyone, just your contacts, or no one at all. There is also a quick settings option to adjust your preferences.
Heads Up coming to more phones
The Heads Up feature, introduced earlier this year to the Pixel phones, is now available on more devices running Android 9 and newer. You can access it through the Digital Wellbeing setting if you want to be reminded to pay attention to your surroundings when you're walking using your phone.
Google Pixel 5a
The Google Pixel 5a is one of the best Android phones available right now, with long battery life, two excellent cameras, 5G connectivity, and an eye-catching display. It is also one of the phones that will soon receive Google's latest software updates, including Android 12.
- $449 at Google (opens in new tab)
Jay Bonggolto always keeps a nose for news. He has been writing about consumer tech and apps for as long as he can remember, and he has used a variety of Android phones since falling in love with Jelly Bean. Send him a direct message via Twitter or LinkedIn.
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