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Android's spring feature rollout includes a Google Maps dark mode

You'll also see new Assistant features and other nice-to-have upgrades.

Published onFebruary 23, 2021

  • Google is officially rolling out a series of Android feature updates for spring 2021.
  • The highlights are a dark mode for Google Maps as well as better hands-free Assistant commands.
  • Scheduled messages, accessibility features and a system-wide password checkup are on the way.

Your Android phone is about to get a welcome refresh as the weather warms up in many parts of the world. Google is officially rolling out a string of Android feature updates for spring 2021, headlined by a dark mode in Maps.

While Google Maps had a quasi dark mode when you enabled navigation at night, the long-teased upgrade makes that available no matter what you’re doing inside the app — helpful if you’re looking for a late-night food delivery. When it’s available, you can enable the low-light option by choosing “Always in Dark Theme” in the app’s settings.

Related: Here’s why you might want to avoid dark mode

Google Assistant, meanwhile, is more useful if your phone doubles as a smart speaker. New easy-to-read cards help you make the most of the voice helper when you’re speaking commands across the room. Android Auto will be more engaging on drives, too, thanks to custom wallpapers, launch screen shortcuts, and voice-based games like Jeopardy.

Some of Google’s additions aren’t completely new, but may be as welcome as Maps’ dark mode when they officially arrive (if they haven’t already). Text scheduling in Messages is now reaching phones using Android 7 Nougat or later. The Password Checkup feature from Chrome now alerts you to exposed logins outside your browser through Autofill using Android 9 Pie or later. And if you have vision issues, an updated TalkBack adds more finger gestures, a simpler menu, and new easy-access voice commands.

It may take a while to see all of these features. Google Maps’ dark mode is deploying “soon,” while Android Auto’s improvements are due in the “coming days” for Android 6 Marshmallow and later. Even so, they’ll be helpful by reducing some of the little pain points in your mobile life.

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