What you need to know
- Google today announced new features to make your Android phone more helpful.
- Bedtime Mode, an update introduced in the June Feature drop, is coming to older Android phones from today.
- The company also issued updates to both Android Auto and the Lookout app.
Google today announced a slew of new features it was bringing to Android, including a nifty new earthquake detection feature we covered here. The other features aren't quite as earthshaking, but they're still useful.
The first of these new features is Bedtime mode. Technically, it's not a new feature, it's one that made a debut earlier this year as part of the June feature drop as an update to both the Google's Digital Wellbeing and Clock apps. It'll help you keep track of your sleep patterns, and offer the option to soothe you to sleep with sleep sounds and wake you up with the gentle Sunrise Alarm. Google said it would be coming to Android phones after a short period of Pixel exclusivity, and now it's being made available to all Android phones running Android 6.0 and above.
The company is also updating its Lookout app, an app that's aimed at visually impaired users. First of all, it is also bringing this app to lower-tier devices including those running Android 6.0 and equipped with only 2GB of RAM. Second, Google is adding two new features, Food Label and Scan Document.
With Food Label, you can quickly identify packaged foods by pointing your phone's camera at the label. Lookout will guide you to position the food product so that it can be properly identified through its packaging or barcode.
Scan Document makes it easier to go through letters and mail. Use Lookout to take a snapshot of a document, and it will capture the entire document's content in detail so that it can be read aloud by your screen reader.
The company is also redesigning the app so that it works better with Android's native screen-reader, TalkBack. As it is an app for the visually impaired, making sure that it is optimized as much as possible for that audience is key in its usefulness, and Google says it's responded to user feedback with the redesign.
Finally, Google has added new calendar and settings apps to Android Auto. You'll be able to manage both your day and your Android auto preferences right from your car display.
One thing these updates serve to remind us is that while Google may not have Apple's capacity to update all Android phones to the latest version, Google Play Services makes that deficiency meaningless. Sooner or later, a reasonably modern Android phone will still get the most useful Android features anyway.