Just like clockwork, Google is back with another major version of Android.
Android 13 doesn’t reinvent the wheel, opting for iterative updates to the Material You redesign we saw with Android 12. However, there are still plenty of new features and improvements worth talking about, covering privacy, security, gaming and battery.
As of right now, the final version is only available if you have a recent Pixel phone. But plenty more devices are eligible for the beta, and eventually most Android 12 phones and tablets will get the free upgrade. Here’s everything you need to know.
When can I get Android 13?
If you own a recent Pixel phone, very soon (if not already). In an official blog post on 15 August 2022, Google announced that the OS is beginning to roll out to the Pixel 4/4 XL and newer. The Pixel 7 and 7 Pro are expected to ship running Android 13 once they’re released.
Elsewhere, devices from Asus, Lenovo, Nokia, OnePlus, Oppo, Realme, Sharp, Tecno, Vivo, Xiaomi and ZTE are all still compatible with the Android 13 beta, of which there are four iterations. Learn more in our separate guide on how to download Android 13.
All these phones will get Android 13 “later this year”, alongside devices from Samsung, Nokia, iQOO, Motorola and Vivo. But as usual, a full rollout is expected to take several months.
Android 13 version releases:
- First developer preview: 11 February 2022
- Second developer preview: 17 March 2022
- First public beta: 26 April 2022
- Second public beta: 11 May 2022
- Third public beta: 8 June 2022
- Fourth public beta: 13 July 2022
- Final version (Pixel): 15 August 2022
Which phones will get Android 13?
The safest way to ensure you’re going to receive the next release of Android is to own a recent Google Pixel phone, with every Pixel launched since 2019’s Pixel 4 line now eligible for an upgrade to Android 13.
Here’s the list of Pixels already set to receive Android 13:
- Google Pixel 4
- Google Pixel 4 XL
- Google Pixel 4a
- Google Pixel 4a 5G
- Google Pixel 5
- Google Pixel 5a 5G
- Google Pixel 6
- Google Pixel 6 Pro
- Google Pixel 6a
Beyond Google’s own Pixel phones, the Android 13 whitelist becomes a little trickier to map out – though almost every flagship from the last year or two should receive the update eventually. The phone eligible for the beta will be among the early adopters:
- Asus ZenFone 8
- Lenovo P12 Pro
- Nokia X20
- OnePlus 10 Pro
- Oppo Find X5 Pro
- Realme GT 2 Pro
- Sharp Aquos sense6
- Tecno Camon 19 Pro 5G
- Vivo X80 Pro
- Xiaomi 12
- Xiaomi 12 Pro
- Xiaomi Pad 5
- ZTE Axon 40 Ultra (purchased from China market)
Google has also mentioned Samsung, HMD Global (Nokia), iQOO, Motorola and Vivo as among the early adopters.
After years of severe fragmentation, big brands (like Samsung, OnePlus and Vivo) have started making more concrete promises, matching (or even surpassing) Google’s three-year OS update commitment. Other companies, meanwhile, still seem to decide how many new generations of Android their smartphones and tablets will receive on a device-by-device basis.
If getting the new version of Android is important to you, see our article on the best brands for Android updates.
What is Android 13’s codename?
While Google shelved the practice of revealing each major release’s codename to the public, the Android dev team still uses dessert-themed codenames internally, working gradually through the alphabet.
Having reached the letter ‘T’, Android 13 looks to be taking a trip to Italy, with an internal codename of ‘Tiramisu‘ confirmed in the OS’s first developer preview. Delicious.
Previously, Android 1.5 was labelled ‘Cupcake’, while 1.6 was ‘Donut, 2.0 ‘Eclair’, 2.2 ‘Froyo’, 2.3 ‘Gingerbread’, 3.0 ‘Honeycomb’, 4.0 ‘Ice Cream Sandwich’, 4.1 ‘Jellybean’, 4.4 ‘KitKat’, 5.0 ‘Lollipop’, 6.0 ‘Marshmallow’, 7.0 ‘Nougat’, 8.0 ‘Oreo’ and Android 9.0 ‘Pie’.
While Android 10’s official codename was simply listed as ‘Android10’, its unofficial codename is cited as being ‘Quince Tart’, Android 11’s is ‘Red Velvet Cake’ and Android 12’s ‘Snow Cone’.
What’s new in Android 13?
The biggest shift brought about by Android 12 – to Pixel users at least – was the introduction of Material You: a new design language for the Android user experience. Beyond that, the update showcased a heap of new privacy and security controls, not to mention convenient (and overdue) extras, like scrollable screenshots and even a one-handed mode.
While the arrival of the first developer preview shed some light on what Android 13 has to offer, at this stage in its development it’s the job of diligent developers and enthusiasts to dig around and unearth potential features and improvements destined to grace 2022’s big Android release; with the bulk of known and expected features consolidated by the likes of Android Police and the team at XDA Developers.
Features confirmed in developer preview 1:
An extension of Android’s existing document picker, the photo picker is set to serve as “a standard and optimized [sic] way for users to share both local and cloud-based photos securely.”
Like the document picker, this feature side-steps the need for permission to access all photos and videos on a device in order to let the user access shared media, and should better unify Android’s media sharing experience across devices from various manufacturers.
In his post concerning what’s included in developer preview 1, Android’s VP of engineering, Dave Burke also stated that this feature will also be made available to older Android devices, as far back as Android 11 (excluding Android GO devices), getting pushed as part of a future Google Play system update, rather than part of a major OS update.
Nearby device permissions for Wi-Fi
Contrary to Android’s current configuration, the addition of the NEARBY_DEVICES_RUNTIME permission will let apps more easily discover and connect to nearby devices, without needing to ask for location information; simplying interconnectivity over WiFi with nearby devices and making things easier for app developers in the process.
Quick Settings tiles
New APIs for developers to make custom tiles to fit within the quick setting section of Android’s notification shade. Developers will also be able to have their apps throw out a prompt for users to instantly add such tiles with a tap.
Themed app icons
As an extension of the system-wide palettes that Material You uses to dress your phone’s interface with a consistent colour theme, in Android 13, app icons can also benefit from this effect.
While Google has full control over its own apps, changing app icons to match a theme can become inconsistent when it comes to third-party offerings.
To address this, developers are being urged to include a monochromatic version of their app’s icon within their app submissions, which paired with the code will allow Android 13 to dress the icon file with the dynamic Material You colour theming magic that it introduced in Android 12.
As it stands, Material You remains a Pixel-exclusive trait, however, the Google has plans to bring themed app icons to other devices by working with manufacturers directly.
Multilinguists rejoice! A feature codenamed ‘Panlingual’ looks set to allow users to specify language settings on an app by app basis, meaning those who use apps that aren’t natively in the same language as their device’s system language won’t have to worry about working with a poorly translated app.
Ideal for bilingual, trilingual and polyglots who might prefer to have different apps set to different languages, everywhere.
Native animation tools for developers
Apps might start to look a little more dynamic, with Google implementing something called “RuntimeShader objects.”
Developers will be able to leverage the same tools the company itself uses to adorn Android with UI effects like rippling, blur and stretch overscroll.
The continuation of Project Mainline
Project Mainline aims to make the process of updating parts of Android and adding new features similar to that of how apps are already updated, via Google Play system updates, rather than having to include them as part of fully-fledged OS updates.
This is how Google intends to push features like the aforementioned Photo Picker, rather than making it an Android 13-exclusive addition.
Features confirmed in developer preview 2:
New notification permissions
Apps hoping to fire off user-targeted notifications will initially have to ask for the privilege of doing so on Android 13, while on Android 12 devices (or lower) “the system will handle the upgrade flow on your (the developer’s) behalf.” Google’s developer site doesn’t specify what “handle” means, in context, however.
Developer downgrade permissions
A refined app permissions model in Android 13 will downgrade previously-granted or newly redundant permissions on supported apps, in the pursuit of greater user privacy.
Improved language-related text management
A dry but important set of improvements come with how Android 13 handles certain text.
Japanese text wrapping will ensure more coherent and readable characters within Japanese-language apps and improved line heights for non-Latin scripts (examples given include Tamil, Burmese, Telugu, and Tibetan) will adjust line height dynamically based on the language being used to ensure characters are no longer cut off (great for non-Latin app UIs in particular).
What’s more, new text conversion APIs will come into play when using phonetic languages (such as Japanese and Chinese), where text will be able to be converted from (in the case of Japanese) Hirgana to Kanji directly, removing additional steps currently at play when performing actions like searches.
Colour vector font support
Android 13 gains COLR version 1 font support and emojis are now to use the COLRv1 format, making for faster-rendering and crisper fonts (and emojis) at scale.
Native Bluetooth LE audio support
The foundation for Bluetooth Low Energy audio support had already been laid in Android 12, but Android 13 brings the functionality to life.
Android 13 may be the first release to add full support for Bluetooth LE Audio.
Google recently merged an LC3 (the LE Audio codec) encoder and is adding the codec as an option in settings. It’ll be the highest priority A2DP source codec.
Commits: https://t.co/tXicKLMZbq pic.twitter.com/ZHcd22grEs— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) December 21, 2021
As spotted by technical analyst Mishaal Rahman, long before the release of the second Android 13 developer preview, Bluetooth LE had only ever been used for data transmission but Google has now folded in the LC3 (the Low Complexity Communications Codec) for Bluetooth A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile), allowing for high-quality audio with lower power demands, by way of Bluetooth LE.
MIDI 2.0 support
Support for MIDI 2.0-compliant devices over USB allows for “increased resolution for controllers, better support for non-Western intonation, and more expressive performance using per-note controllers,” according to Google’s own developer site. Great news fundamentally for musicians and music producers.
Notifications for excessive background battery usage
While not explicitly mentioned in the announcement article for Android 13 developer preview 2, as initially spotted by Android Police, changes made to the Battery Resource Utilisation section of Android 13’s developer documentation make mention of a new notification that’ll pop up when the system detects an app causing excessive battery drain.
The notification arises after a 24-hour period, in which Android 13 takes into account factors like foreground services (even those that have visible notifications), work tasks, background services and an app’s cache to decide whether extrenuous battery drain is coming from a particular source.
Features confirmed in public beta 1:
More colour for Material You
One of the novel talents of Material You is its ability to theme the entirety of your device’s interface by automatically colour-picking a few palettes based on (and thus complementing) your chosen lock screen/home screen wallpaper.
Android 12 only gave users a few palettes to pick from, but Android 13 adds additional variations. In public beta 1, users now see up to 16 sets of ‘wallpaper colours’ and a further 16 ‘basic colours’.
Granular media file permissions
Previously if an app wanted to read files it needed to be given access to all of your phone’s storage. Android 13 is now confirmed to include more granular file access permissions.
Apps will now have to ask for specific access to images, audio files, or video files, giving users better ability to control app access.
Android 13 introduces dedicated support for switching display resolution in the Settings app.
A new “Screen resolution” page appears under Settings > “Display” on supported devices, letting the user choose between FHD+ (1080p) or QHD+ (1440p), the two most common screen resolutions seen on handhelds and tablets.
Most high resolution phones already offer these resolution-switching options, but it’s welcome to see Google finally bake support in officially.
Google seems to have a renewed focus on screensavers in Android 13. Not only is it changing the UI around how to activate screensavers, but it’s included code that hints that a page devoted to screensavers will be added to device setup, along with code that references “complications” – the WearOS term for widgets overlaid on a watch face.
The code in public beta 1 is clearly early though, so we may have to wait until a future preview to learn more.
Squiggly media progress bar
A small change, but perhaps an important one: the media player widget now shows a squiggly, wavy progress bar up to the current timestamp in whatever song or video is playing. Progress.
TARE: The Android Resource Economy
As part of how Android handles power management going forward, TARE (The Android Resource Economy) is a feature Google is introducing that awards or deducts ‘credits’ from an app, based on how many processes it tries to perform through ‘JobScheduler’ and ‘AlarmManager’, relative to the device’s battery percentage.
We’ll have to wait until Google publishes official information on TARE to better understand how it’ll operate but it sounds like a novel way to handle app processes and device power management on Android 13.
Control smart home devices from lock screen
Android 12 introduced a new set of smart home device controls. Unfortunately, while these are accessible from a lock screen shortcut, while the device is locked you can only look at your smart home devices, not make any changes to them.
Android 13 now includes a toggle under lock screen settings to control compatible smart devices from the lock screen even while the phone itself is locked.
Vibrate taskbar icon toggle
This is a minor change that sees Google half walk back on an Android 12 tweak.
That OS removed the taskbar icon for the ‘vibrate’ setting, so you no longer saw a persistent icon to let you know the phone was set to vibrate. Now users will have a toggle to decide whether or not they want to see this taskbar icon when the vibrate mode is on.
Features expected based on leaks and rumours:
Lock screen clock placement
The lock screen clock, as it appears on near-stock and AOSP builds of Google’s mobile OS sits front and centre on-screen, occupying most of the display. While some skinned versions of Android allow for lock screen customisation to some degree, seldom is there the option to shift the clock around.
Android 13 will supposedly support such a feature natively, letting you alter the style and placement of the clock, branded the ‘double-line clock’. There are even signs that this particular update might arrive even sooner, as part of Android 12L.
Switch account from lock screen
Sticking with the lock screen, while Android already supports multiple users and there are multiple ways to change users on-device, Android 13 may introduce a new option that lets different users switch profiles, directly from the lock screen.
NFC payments for secondary users
One key feature that secondary users aren’t able to access when sharing a single device is the ability to make NFC payments, something that only the primary user has access to. Android 13 looks as though it’ll add contactless payment support for multiple users on one device.
Android Beam was meant to be the platform’s answer to AirDrop on iOS, with the added convenience of being able to initiate a connection with a simple NFC ‘handshake’ by placing two devices back to back.
Frustratingly, it never quite took off in the same way and has since been replaced by Nearby Share, which offers similar convenient sharing but through a mix of Bluetooth and WiFi Direct instead.
Trusted sources have now informed AndroidPolice of a potential forthcoming feature codenamed ‘Media TTT’ (along with a set of relevant screenshots) that looks to be using close proximity-based connectivity technology (potentially NFC) as a means of ‘throwing’ media to other devices and outputs.
Little else is known about the feature but it’s assumed that, if it does appear in Android 13, it’ll manifest as ‘Tap-to-transfer’ and support more convenient file and media sharing on the platform.
UWB support to get wider
Android 12 added native support for UWB (ultra-wideband) connectivity, a feature only really leveraged by the Pixel 6 Pro – the only Pixel to currently support the feature (UWB-capable devices from other manufacturers, like Samsung and Honor, rely on their own UWB software support to function).
An UWB ‘generic hardware abstraction layer’ is apparently in the works for Android 13, offering a common toolset for manufacturers to work with when implementing the technology on their devices going forward.
Audio output picker glow-up
The output picker implemented in Android 10 which lets users choose where the audio for their chosen media is channelled to (headphones, loudspeaker, Bluetooth-connected speakers, etc.), may well get a makeover in Android 13.
In its current guise, the feature adds independent volume sliders for each available output source, although this implementation may be subject to change before release.
Android already has a fairly robust notification management system, but Android 13 may also give users the ability to grant or deny newly-installed applications notification privileges from the get-go, just like iOS does.
QR code scanner
Like one-handed mode – which finally found a home in Android 12 – one long-overdue addition in Android 13 could be the shortcut to a dedicated QR code scanner. The average user might not realise that their camera (or Google Lens) can already scan QR codes but Google apparently wants to make the process more obvious and accessible.
AndroidPolice already has screenshots of a new quick settings shortcut to a QR code scanner, as well as the ability to access it from the lock screen. Whether this is a separate app of feature from the existing implementations of QR code scanning built into Android is unclear.
Flashlight brightness control
As uncovered by senior technical writer at Esper – Mishaal Rahman, Android 13 includes two new APIs in ‘getTorchStrengthLevel’ and ‘turnOnTorchWithStrengthLevel’. As their names suggest, one allows developers to know what brightness level a devices LED flash is set to, while the other lets them control the torch based on that brightness value.
While some apps and manufacturers’ devices already allow for this sort of control, this is the first time we’re seeing support baked into Android directly. The ability to control LED brightness may be dictated by hardware limitations, however, meaning not all Android phones will allow for such functionality.
Google Assistant home button toggle
There are already a lot of ways to invoke the Google Assistant on most Android phones (particularly Pixels) but there are signs that, for those who still prefer navigating around their devices with on-screen buttons (in place of edge gestures), the ability to toggle long-pressing the home button to summon the Assistant will be reinstated.
Opening games faster
Rahman again spotted updated AOSP code that suggests phones running Android 13 will be able to launch games faster, by way of an API that boosts CPU performance momentarily.
Lesson learned: Take screenshots of AOSP code changes because you never know when Google might make them private.
All I have as evidence of this feature is a screenshot of the tabs I had open before. pic.twitter.com/YngwIOd2LV— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) January 26, 2022
Pixel phones are most likely going to be the primary beneficiaries of such a feature but it’s unclear at this stage as to whether it’ll also be accessible to other devices too.
Native support for DNS over HTTPS
New code in the AOSP points to the potential of upgraded security, thanks to the addition of support for DNS over HTTPS.
As per XDA Developers’ piece on the feature, Android currently supports DNS over TLS (usually abbreviated to ‘DoT’), however, DNS over HTTPS (or ‘DoH’ for short) uses the HTTP or HTTP/2 encryption protocol, which offers a slight advantage over DoT’s TLS encryption, with regards to privacy.
Phantom process toggle
Android 12 introduced a power management feature called ‘PhantomProcessKiller’ which, as the name suggests, stops processes running in the background in an effort to free up resources and prevent excessive power drain.
Updates to AOSP suggest that Google has seen the error in this indiscriminate approach – particularly where power users are concerned – and looks to be adding a toggle into Android’s developer options that will let users disable the PhantomProcessKiller if they wish.
Features confirmed in public beta 2:
New tablet features
Google signalled its intention to include dedicated tablet features with the announcement of Android 12L last year, but it now looks like many of these features will be making their way into Android 13.
Tablet-specific features include a new taskbar at the bottom of the screen, alongside intelligent split-screen multitasking and drag-and-drop support. Google says more than 20 of its apps are being redesigned for the big screen, including Messages, Maps and YouTube music.
The news was announced alongside the reveal of Google’s first Pixel Tablet, scheduled for release in 2023.
Updated Google Wallet
Google’s digital wallet app is getting a refresh. It already supports a range of digital tickets and payment methods, but digital IDs will soon be available too.
Early earthquake warnings
Android already has an earthquake alerting system, but it’s being expanded to more of the world’s high-risk regions. Using the phone’s accelerometer date to determine if an earthquake is happening and warn people nearby.
Features confirmed in public beta 3:
Everything you copy on Android is saved to the clipboard, with the latest item often displayed directly within the keyboard. On Android 13, any content deeming sensitive (such as passwords or other personal data) will be hidden by default.
Intelligent background processes
Currently, Android’s ‘JobScheduler’ only runs necessary background processes after you open an app or start tapping. This will be refined in Android 13, with the OS anticipating when you might next launch and app and carry out everything ahead of time. This should deliver a smoother user experience, particular when apps are loading.
There are no new features of significance for end users in the fourth public beta. That’s to be expected, with Google refining the OS ahead of its full release.