Google has announced it will be giving Android users a whole new set of improvements and novel features for the mobile operating system in the coming year, although there’s no set date yet for when they are officially coming out (there are release dates on only some of them).
These updates not only span elements across the entire operating system, from accessibility to fun & productivity—but there’s also a special something for those who own a Google TV device.
1. Camera Switches
One of the cool new features coming to Android will be called Camera Switches. This is one of those special accessibility features, and it is designed with people suffering from speech and motor impairments in mind. It essentially turns your selfie camera into a switch, allowing you to use specific eye movements in place of physical taps to navigate your Android phone.
What’s more, unlike some of the other upcoming features, we actually know the date for the release of Camera Switches: September 30.
2. Project Activate
Just like Camera Switches, Project Activate caters for those who cannot speak or have difficulty interacting with smartphones in the regular physical way. This includes those stricken by ALS, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and others. Project Activate lets you use all the communicative functions of a smartphone simply by making facial gestures in front of the front camera, such as “smiling or looking up.”
The app allows you to play audio or control a smart speaker, make phone calls, send text messages, listen to your messages in text-to-speech, and so on—all with your facial muscles!
3. Lookout updates
While Camera Switches and Project Activate cater to those with motor impairments, Google’s Lookout app has been available since 2019 and is designed for those with low vision or blindness.
The newest update coming to Google Lookout is adding two new features which Google says have long been requested: handwriting recognition, and currency recognition (so far only for dollars, euros, and rupees at the moment).
1. Heads Up
Heads Up is a new feature coming to Android’s Digital Wellbeing dashboard, which is meant to help you take control of your digital life and stay aware of how you are using your smartphone.
When activated from within Android’s Digital Wellbeing settings, Heads Up seems like it will feature some sort of pop-up warning on your screen if you’re using your phone while walking, to make sure you’re aware of your surroundings and staying safe. “Use with caution,” says Google: “Heads Up doesn’t replace paying attention.”
2. Android Assistant Reminder Hub
Reminder Hub with your Android smart assistant will soon be introduced to remember and bring up your to-do list for you. Just by using the phrase “Hey Google,” you will be able to easily set reminders to notify you of anything you need to do at a given time.
3. Waze on Android Auto
This one is a full redesign of Google’s own subsidiary GPS navigation app, Waze, for Android Auto. According to Google, Waze “has been redesigned to accommodate maps and instructions first, so you can drive distraction-free.” In addition to that, Waze will now include lane guidance, a new night mode, as well as touchpad support.
Fun & Productivity
1. New Emojis
The incoming updates to Android also include some fun features, such as brand new emojis to choose from. In particular, Google is introducing 1,500 more emojis to the Emoji Kitchen, for plenty more diverse options to choose between from now on.
2. Animated backgrounds in Meet
Google Meet has long offered different options to hide the background in your image window, from simply applying a lens blur effect, to replacing the entire background with an image, transporting you into a different setting entirely.
As of the new update, Meet will now introduce a set of new animated backgrounds, to add some extra fun and flair to routine Google Meet business or class gatherings.
3. Gboard updates
Furthermore, the clipboard will now automatically detect phone numbers, email addresses or URL’s in any text that you copy, and it will automatically suggest those snippets of important info to help you share contact information faster than ever.
Another useful addition to the Gboard is Smart Compose. Like a next-level autocorrect, it will automatically suggest common phrases to be filled in as you type a message, to make the writing process easier. This way you might save a bit of time, and also avoid any typos.
4. Improved visibility settings in Nearby Share
With this update, you will have much greater control over to whom you want to make your Nearby Share files visible. You will be able to choose to have them visible to everyone, only to your contacts, or to no one. Once again, you can access and change these visibility settings right from Quick Settings on your phone.
5. Locked Folder
Google TV update
This is a pretty significant update to all owners of the Google TV device, because it will finally allow them to use their Android phone as an advanced remote control. This should make navigating Google TV infinitely easier, as your phone has its own keyboard on which you can type (as opposed to the painstaking one-letter-at-a-time way of typing anything with a regular remote).
You can enable this feature by adding the “remote” tile to Quick Settings on your Android phone, and voilà! Your phone will instantly be transformed into a remote for Google TV and Android TV OS.
These are all of the upcoming Android updates that Google has promised us so far, and as mentioned before, there is no sure date on which we know to expect the features to go live. They’re likely to be released one by one as they become ready, and we’ll keep you posted as soon as we find out more.