Please note: All material discussed in the present article is subject to change. Additionally, this overview is not comprehensive—we have elected not to include a variety of particularly minor changes here.
Yep, it’s that time again already! Android 13, internally code-named Tiramisu, has to date seen two developer previews followed by two beta releases. It’s expected to go live sometime in the third quarter of 2022.
With over three billion active Android devices in circulation, every major Android release is a big event. So, what’s in the pipeline for Google’s popular operating system this time around? Will this be a mostly under-the-hood update or can we expect bigger things? And to what should engineers pay particular attention? Let’s take a quick look at what we know so far.
Let’s start with the two Android 13 developer previews, released in February and March. These featured a variety of notable changes, including the following:
Guest profile features
New with Developer Preview 1 is the ability for guest accounts to access any app installed on the device. Useful multiple users on a single device, personal information does not transfer over with this feature (Sounds like the eternal question of ‘do you have any games on your phone?’ will get a lot easier). As of Developer Preview 2, these profiles may also use custom avatars.
New photo picker
Developer Preview 1 indicates that a new photo picker is coming to Android 13, implementing both local and cloud-based image files. At this time, apps do not appear to require any special permission to access these files.
Themed app icons and quick tap picker
Themed app icon support appears to be on the horizon with Android 13. This provides support for adaptive monochrome icons in Android. It appears that no app currently supports this feature, but it might well turn out to be a widely adapted feature.
And for devices that support it (Pixel 5 and newer, specifically), Developer Preview 1 arrived with a dedicated toggle flashlight option, perhaps implying more to be expected for this (currently uncommon but quite novel) feature as well.
In Android 13 Developer Preview 2, Google poured the groundwork for apps asking permission before sending notifications (a feature iOS has had for years). When—or even if— Google will make this mandatory for all apps remains unclear (See this report from The Verge for further discussion).
The notification shader now displays a new feature called active apps that does what one would expect: It lists all apps currently running on the operating system.
Media output picker and quick settings tiles
Developer Preview 1 also introduced a variety of changes to the Android Media Output Picker, primarily focused on UI tweaks and usability. Many of these changes appear to be ideal for smaller displays, perhaps at the expense of larger displays. Additionally, Quick Setting tiles see some additions, including QR scanner.
Haptics and vibrations
Developer Preview 2 introduced a variety of new options for vibrations and haptics, allowing for intensity adjustments (this setting appears to be primarily aimed at specific Pixel devices).
Screen saver UI options
When docked, a new quasi-smart display appears on Pixel phones in Developer Preview 2. Users can custom this display with a variety of new options.
Font and display controls
Finally, Developer Preview 2 introduces a new accessibility-focused text and reading options settings menu. This allows users to modify text with ease.
A tale of two betas
Following the above outlined developer previews, Google has so far released two Android 13 beta installments: Android 13 Beta 1 went online back in April 26, 2022, while Google released Android 13 Beta 2 into the wild soon after (on May 11, 2022). While neither beta arrived with anything too surprising or revolutionary, all the little changes that each brings to the table add up and every engineer operating in the mobile app space certainly benefits from being aware of them.
Android 13 Beta 1
Of the two betas, beta 1 features the least amount going on but still introduces a variety of changes in its 429 MBs package. These include changes to the lock screen and home screen, the introduction of a variety of Material You colorways (introduced back in Android 12 Beta 1), changes to tiles and media controls, a new fingerprint icon, a new screenshot-like floating clipboard editor (pretty neat!), new settings, and some under-the-hood changes, including a variety of performance and stability adjustments.
Smart device controls, lock screen bypass, and fingerprint icon
Let’s go with what you’ll see first: Lock screen and home screen changes. Beta 1 introduces an immediately recognizable and more contemporary lock screen display. Other updates include visual changes to the PIN prompt and emergency button along with new effects upon interaction with the keypad or entering an incorrect PIN.
Perhaps most notably, the lock screen now allows users to interact with connected external devices without the need to unlock the device. In other words, as of this build, users can modify a nearby smart light system with an Android 13 mobile device without the need to enter a PIN. That’s right, no more password-gated lamps!
Users will also note a few contrast-focused changes to the fingerprint icon whenever the prompt appears.
Ongoing changes to search
Sidestepping a system app icon adjustment or two, the most notable change on the Android 13 Beta 1 home screen is the removal of a system-wide search. In its place, Google Search appears. The reasons for this change remain unclear but Beta 1’s search is not especially functional, but it may be paving the way for a unified search system.
This build introduces a whimsical squiggle in place of a straight line for the played portion of a media file (such as a song). A small adjustment that has received significant attention—turns out that a little whimsy goes a long way!
Speaking of colorful changes, Material You’s generated color ways appear to be greatly expanded in this build, providing users with considerably more UI display options than when it debuted in Android 12. Of course, it remains to be seen how many devices will actually allow for the use of Material You, but this popular feature continues to point to potential future applications on non-Google apps.
Android 13’s new clipboard editor is a welcome addition. In short, whenever a user performs the copy command, a thumbnail of the copied item appears in the bottom left of the screen alongside a pencil icon. Selecting this icon allows users to modify clipboard items (whether text or images). Handily, the editor indicates where the item derives also provides other contextual options (For example, after a copying a link, the editor will prompt users to open it in Chrome). The new clipboard editor stores multiple clipboard items for one hour.
Split screen interface
Users can now enter split screen mode by dragging notification shapes. This build introduces a variety of other ways of adjusting split screen mode but—again, as of this build—they appear to be a bit finnicky and unintuitive.
Android 13’s split screen mode also saw significant changes between the two betas. For one, Android 13 Beta 2 does away with navigational icons and shows a real-time image of both windows, whereas Beta 1 displayed icons for each window. It’s a slight change but notable.
Low battery notification
If a user’s battery drops below 20%, they receive a new notification explaining what Android automatically does in response.
With this build, the settings menu has seen a variety of changes. These are primarily a case of moving around and/or adjusting and introducing some new graphical compliments and textual instructions. Most notable here may be the introduction of more support for stylus users, as indicated by a new Input Method subcategory in Developer Options that includes Stylus handwriting.
Android 13 Beta 2
Hot on the heels of Beta 1, we now have access to Beta 2. Like its predecessor, it offers a few notable additions, such as the following items:
As of Beta 2, Developer Options sees the introduction of a few new toggles while another vanishes. First, there’s a new allow mock modem option, providing testers with the ability to run mock modem service for instrumentation testing and to simulate specific network speeds. This looks to be very handy for testing. A new disable Bluetooth A2DP hardware offload option also appeared with this build but it seems to be inaccessible at this time. Meanwhile, the Enable Gabeldorsche option has now disappeared altogether.
Dark theme scheduling
New in this version is the ability to schedule dark mode at bed time, further integrating dark mode options into the OS. If dark mode is not something you’re considering in your testing, this is yet another indicator that appears to be here to stay.
Larger display options
Google has introduced a variety of options for mobile devices with larger screens with Beta 2. If Android 13 detects a minimum DPI limit of 600, a persistent text bar. This bar also allows for a swift toggle over to split screen mode.
Running Windows 11 and Linux within Android 13?
One fascinating development with Android 13 is the potential to run, yes, Windows 11 and Linux distributions through Android 13. How exactly is this possible? Perhaps some complicated work-around? Not at all, this option was created by Google. Read more about this interesting topic here.
So far, Android 13 is shaping up to consist primarily of small changes—many of them impacting form factors in some way—combined with a few larger changes with notable question marks surrounding them. Whatever the case, it’s clear that significant testing will be necessary for every app that runs on Android with this update.
Of course, the best way to get this done is automated testing and, better yet, no-code. In other words, there’s never been a better time to save your team time and trouble with Sofy.