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On Good Authority: 5 Android 13 features we're really excited about
It’s been nearly two weeks since the first Android 13 developer preview dropped. Like in previous years, this first release lays the ground for Google’s focus in the next few months. But unlike Android 12, this update is less of a groundbreaking change and more of a reiterative one. Material You improvements are in store, of course, along with more privacy and security enhancements, and some other cool features.
We’ve rounded up some of our Android Authority team members and asked them to share with us the features they’re most excited about. Some of these are already live, others have been announced by Google but still inaccessible in the first developer preview, and a few were leaked recently.
Dig deeper: Android 13 features: Everything we know so far
Material You’s icon theming — C. Scott Brown
It’s been a really long time since I’ve flashed a custom ROM onto one of my personal devices. With the prominent Android skins offering plenty of features and flexibility nowadays, I simply don’t find it necessary anymore.
However, I still always use a custom launcher (Nova Launcher) and always use a custom icon pack. I want my home screen, app drawer, and other areas of the phone to look and function the way I prefer, and a third-party launcher is the only tool for the job. And icon packs? They’re just lots of fun.
That’s why, with Android 13, I’m most excited about automatic icon theming. The major drawback of icon theming is when I install new apps, I usually need to swap out the default icon for one from my custom pack. To make matters worse, some apps don’t have custom icons in most packs, which forces me to choose a similar-looking icon instead. I hate it, and it’s tedious.
The idea that I would not need to do this anymore because Android would just do it for me is a revelation. It will get me one step closer to the real dream: just using my phone as-is without any customization whatsoever.
More customization: The best icon packs for Android
Tap to transfer media — Dhruv Bhutani
Pairing up an Android phone with an external speaker has always been a bit of a song and dance routine involving Bluetooth pairing, or Google Cast if you have a supported device.
With that in mind, Google’s decision to streamline audio sharing with Android 13 has me excited. As someone who has spent way too much trying to get all my speakers connected, the ability to simply bring my phone close to a speaker and transfer any audio stream sounds like a dream come true. Admittedly, we’ve seen this feature with iPhones and HomePods but Google’s implementation should bring a much broader range of audio products to the portfolio.
Google could even take it a step further by sharing media playback controls between multiple Android devices as well which would make it the perfect solution for groups or parties.
Related: How to cast and mirror to Chromecast
Better QR code scanning — Hadlee Simons
QR code scanning on Android has been a little hit-and-miss in recent years. Google Lens is capable of doing it and some OEM camera apps can do it, but there’s definitely room for a more consistent and seamless approach.
Thankfully, Google’s decision to bring a QR quick toggle seems to be a good step in the right direction. This means that accessing a QR code scanner should be as seamless as toggling Bluetooth or your Wi-Fi connectivity. It’s worth noting that MIUI already has a QR code quick toggle, so this would be another example of Google embracing a feature first seen in a third-party Android skin.
This new tile means that accessing a QR code scanner should be as seamless as toggling Bluetooth or your Wi-Fi connectivity.
In saying so, I would also like to see Google take it one step further and somehow integrate all of a user’s QR-enabled apps in Google Lens.
Better Material You — Joe Hindy
Once upon a time, I used to root my phones in order to add more themes. I was an ardent CyanogenMod user and I loved being able to download an app and change how my phone looked.
When Android 12 came out, I finally saw some framework being laid down for that level of customization stock in Android. With Android 13, a lot of those elements are being improved. You have more color options to choose from, icons are getting better support, and it seems like Google is building it out more.
Now, it’s unreasonable to think I’ll get the level of granularity I once did as a root user running a custom ROM based on AOSP, but if Google can get even halfway there, I’ll consider it a happy compromise. Android 13 isn’t there, but it’s another step closer, and that makes me excited for Android 14.
We asked, you told us: Custom ROMs still have a place on Android
Guest mode app installation — Rita El Khoury
For the longest time, I’ve wanted an ‘incognito mode‘ for some apps on Android — a way to use certain services without that usage being traced to me or tracked across apps. Signing out and in solves the former problem, but not the latter.
I tried using Guest Mode or creating a separate user profile on my phone, but that wasn’t ideal because I still had to log in to the Play Store to download the app, or find the APK to install it. Both are cumbersome and both take up double the space storage.
Switch to Guest Mode and the app is already there, but blank and with no way to trace usage to me.
With Android 13, I can simply toggle off which apps are enabled on the guest profile and that’s that. Switch to it and the app is already there, but blank. And it should have no way to trace any usage to me. Plus, this can be very handy if you really want someone else (probably a kid) to use some apps without giving them full access to your phone or tablet.