6 new features on Android this summer

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From keeping your account password safe to scheduling text messages to send at the right moment, we’re constantly rolling out new updates to the 3 billion active Android devices around the world. Today, we’re welcoming summer with six updates for your Android that focus on safety  — so you’re protected at every turn.


1. Android Earthquake Alerts System is rolling out globally

Earthquake alert screen that clicks through to an earthquake safety info screen

Last year, we embarked on a mission to build the world’s largest earthquake detection network, based on technology built into Android devices. With this free system, people in affected areas can get alerts seconds before an earthquake hits, giving you advance notice in case you need to seek safety. We recently launched the Android Earthquake Alerts System in New Zealand and Greece. Today, we’re introducing the Android Earthquake Alerts System in Turkey, the Philippines, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

We are prioritizing launching Earthquake Alerts in countries with higher earthquake risks, and hope to launch in more and more countries over the coming year.


2. Star what’s important with the Messages app

With tons of messages from family, friends, colleagues and others, it’s easy for information to get lost. Now, you can star a message on your Messages app to keep track of what’s important, and easily find it later without scrolling through all of your conversations. Just tap and hold your message, then star it. And when you want to revisit a message, like your friend’s address or the photo from your family reunion, tap on the starred category. 


Starred messages will start to roll out more broadly over the coming weeks.


3. Find the perfect Emoji Kitchen sticker at the perfect time

After typing a message, relevant emoji mixes are proactively displayed at the top of the keyword

In May, we introduced a new section in your recently used Emoji Kitchen stickers so you can quickly get back to the ones you use most frequently. Soon you’ll also start to see contextual suggestions in Emoji Kitchen once you’ve typed a message. These will help you discover the perfect emoji combination at the exact moment you need it.


Contextual Emoji Kitchen suggestions are available in Gboard beta today and are coming to all Gboard users this summer for messages written in English, Spanish and Portuguese on devices running Android 6.0 and above.


4. Access more of your favorite apps with just your voice

Ask Google to open or search many of your favorite apps using just your voice — you can say things like,  “Hey Google, pay my Capital One bill” to jump right into the app and complete the task or “Hey Google, check my miles on Strava” to quickly see your weekly progress right on the lock screen. See what else you can do by saying “Hey Google, shortcuts.” 


5. Improved Password Input and gaze detection on Voice Access

A gaze detection icon on a screen changes from crossed out to active when a character turns its head towards the device to speak the "scroll down" command in Voice Access

Built with and for people with motor disabilities, and helpful for those without, Voice Access gives you quick and efficient phone and app navigation with just your voice.


With gaze detection, now in beta, you can ask Voice Access to work only when you are looking at the screen — so you can naturally move between talking to friends and using your phone. 


Voice Access now has enhanced password input. When it recognizes a password field, it will let you input letters, numbers and symbols. For example, you can say “capital P a s s w o r d” or names of symbols (like “dollar sign” to input a $), so it’s faster to safely enter your password.


6. More customization and new app experiences on Android Auto

After a user taps on the Messages app icon and + New, Google Assistant is activated to help send a new message from the launcher screen

You can now customize more of your Android Auto experience for easier use, like personalizing your launcher screen directly from your phone and manually setting dark mode. It’s also easier to browse content with new tabs in your media apps, a “back to top” option and an A to Z button in the scroll bar. And, if it’s your first time using Android Auto, you can now get started faster in your car with a few simple taps.


We’ve also added new app experiences to help enhance your drive. EV charging, parking and navigation apps are now available to use in Android Auto. Plus, we’ve improved the messaging experience, so you can access your favorite messaging apps  from the launcher screen. You can easily read and send new messages directly from apps like WhatsApp or Messages — now available globally. 


These Android Auto features are available on phones running Android 6.0 or above, and when connected to your compatible car.

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Fiona Lee
  • Fiona Lee