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Release date, features, and everything to know

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(Pocket-lint) – It doesn’t feel all that long ago that Google rolled out Android 12, but now the company is now rolling out Android 13, after months of beta-testing the software with developers and public beta users.

What is Android 13?

Android 13 is a major mobile operating system update – that’s now becoming available for people with newer Pixel phones to install. Google also showed a brief look during its opening keynote at Google I/O 2022 in May.

The first early Android 13 release – the developer preview – arrived in February 2022 for developers to test. It was followed by the public beta in April, which allowed anyone to install Android 13 on compatible mobile devices. In August 2022, the official release for Pixel phones arrived, with the promise that support would come later this year for devices from other manufacturers including Asus, HMD, Motorola, OnePlus, Oppo, Xiaomi, and Samsung.

What’s new in Android 13?

The TL;DR version 

Dave Burke, vice president of engineering for Android at Google, detailed a long list of changes included in Android 13 on the Android Developer blog. The new features include more theming options and privacy features, new language preferences, and several under-the-hood upgrades. We’ll dive deeper into some of the more meaningful changes below, but here is the TL;DR version:

  • Customise non-Google app icons to match your home screen wallpaper
  • Stream messages from apps including Google Messages directly to a Chromebook
    • This is similar to iMessage on the Mac
  • Support for spatial audio with head tracking
    • Makes sounds seem like they’re coming from a fixed point in space
    • Works when you move your head while wearing compatible headphones
    • Google doesn’t mention which headphones support it beyond Pixel Buds Pro
  • Set languages on a per-app basis
  • Redesigned media player that adjusts its look based on what’s playing
  • Support for Bluetooth Low Energy
  • Improved multitasking on large-screen devices
    • Drag and drop support for multitasking
    • Better palm rejection when using styluses
  • New permission to reduce notification spam
  • New option to restrict which of your photos and videos an app can access

The key features explained

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Theming options

Android 13 is bringing dynamic app icons to all apps, not just Google’s. The themed icons feature lets app icons have a colour tint that matches your wallpaper – but app developers need to offer a compatible app icon. This feature is coming first to Pixel devices, but Google said it’s working with other manufacturers to release it more broadly.

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Privacy features

Android 13 has new ways it’ll handle permissions and security. A new photo picker will let you share photos and videos with an individual app without giving the app permission to see all the photos on your device. Google plans to bring this feature to all phones running Android 11 and up.

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New media controls

One of the few visual changes made so far is the new media control, which shows an animated wave during music playback, and also fills the control widget with the album artwork. 

Under-the-hood upgrades

There are a lot of changes in Android 13, so far, that are not easily detectable. For example, a new Wi-Fi permission will allow apps to find and connect to Wi-Fi points without requiring location permissions. Google also said it’s continuing to develop Project Mainline, its effort to deliver more updates via Google Play rather than at the OS level.

Language preferences

Android 13 language preferences will now include the option to work on a per-app basis. This is useful for multilingual users.

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Permission to send notifications

When Google released the second Android 13 developer preview, it included a major new feature: Apps will have to ask your permission to post notifications. Keep in mind iOS has offered a similar feature for years. It ensures only certain apps send you notifications. According to Google’s blog post, asking for permission will be a requirement for Android 13 apps. “Apps targeting Android 13 will now need to request the notification permission from the user before posting notifications,” said Dave Burke.

Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) Audio support

Another big feature uncovered in the second preview is Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) Audio support. The new standard uses an audio codec – called the Low Complexity Communications Codec (LC3) – that can transmit at lower bitrates in higher quality. This should equal less energy consumption and a better battery life.

How to get Android 13

Starting 15 August 2022, the Pixel 4, Pixel 5, and Pixel 6 devices will get Android 13 as a free over-the-air software update. Or, if you’re ready to install Android 13 on your Pixel now, the OTA images are available here.

“This month, all supported Pixel devices running Android 12 will receive the Android 13 software update, which begins rolling out for most users today. The rollout will continue over the next few weeks depending on the carrier. Users will receive a notification once the OTA becomes available for their device”, a Google support page for Android 13 reads. “Check your Android version and update to receive the latest software.”

If you were in the Android 13 beta, you will get the final Android 13 release and can remain enrolled to receive beta updates for upcoming Feature Drops.  

Which devices support Android 13?

Android 13 is currently only rolling out to the following newer Pixel phones:

  • Pixel 4 (XL)   
  • Pixel 4a
  • Pixel 4a (5G)
  • Pixel 5
  • Pixel 5a (5G
  • Pixel 6
  • Pixel 6 Pro
  • Pixel 6a

When is Android 13 coming to your phone?

Android 13 has been available as a public beta for anyone with an eligible device to test. Now, the next major software update to Google’s Android mobile operating system is officially rolling out, starting with Google’s own Pixel phones. But the official release of Android 13 for devices from other manufacturers won’t happen until later this year. If you’re confused about this, no worries. Pocket-lint has made it easy for you to understand.

Check our guide here for your specific phone brand. If it is listed there, you can run some form of Android 13 – whether it’s a beta or the new official release. 

Writing by Maggie Tillman.

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