Google has announced a list of new features for Android users that make your phones more useful. One of the most noteworthy features is Family Bell, which can help you and your family stay on track on your daily schedule by receiving their alerts to phones as well as home devices such as a smart speaker or display. Another big update is coming to Google Photos, where you get new memories to look back on the memories you had with your loved ones. Google is also introducing a digital car key feature so you can use your Android phone as a car key.
In the list new features What Google has detailed on its blog, Family Bell is what you will find most useful if you plan on spending some quality time with your family. It lets you send alerts not only to your phone, but also to your family members’ phones and devices, including home speakers and smart displays with bells and notifications, when you want to connect for a specific shared purpose. You can call the family for morning breakfast, water a tree at a party, or go to a family movie night.
Family Bell can be edited, controlled and customized from your chosen device. Each of your family members can also install bells on their devices for individual goals.
Besides Family Bell, Google apps including Google Play Books and YouTube Music get widgets. Google Play Books is getting a new widget with which you can access your complete library of books and track your audiobook progress right from the home screen.
With the new YouTube Music widget, you can access playback controls and recently played tracks from the home screen to easily manage and enjoy your favorite music.
The new People & Pets Google Photos widget is also launching next week so you can add a frame of family photos to your home screen. You can choose multiple faces and a suitable frame to decorate your loved ones home screen.
Google Photos also has a new Memories feature to remind you of the memories you spent with family and friends. These memories will appear in your photo grid and showcase a carefully curated selection of photos and videos from holidays like New Years Eve or Halloween, and important events like birthdays and graduations, according to Google.
Users will also get controls to rename, personalize, fix, and even remove memories from their photo grid for a personalized experience.
Google also offers a digital car key feature that allows Android users to lock, unlock, and even start a compatible car from their phones. It initially launches in select countries on Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S21 for compatible BMW vehicles.
Notably, Apple introduced a similar digital car key feature to iPhone users last year, which began rolling out to newer iPhones earlier this year. For now, this is also limited to a few luxury vehicles.
Along with the digital car key, Google is updating Android Auto so that users can set their compatible car systems to start automatically when connected to an Android phone. This is very helpful as you don’t have to manually connect your phone to Android Auto when you leave your home.
Google will also introduce smart reply capabilities in Android Auto soon, so you can reply to a text message using the Google Assistant while driving – simply by tapping to reply or creating your own message. You can also listen to your favorite track with a single tap on the new always play button available on the home screen when connected to Android Auto.
In the near future, Google will also give you the ability to use your voice to find music faster in your multimedia apps on Android Auto. This will happen with a new search icon that will allow you to name your favorite artist or song to play in your car.
Gboard on Android is also getting an update with a feature called Emoji Kitchen, where you can combine emoji into stickers to express your feelings without typing. You can celebrate the holidays in the western world by sharing your favorite emojis in a gift box, or using the furry friends collection to share your doggy love with your friends and family.
Google said it is currently distributing the latest stickers through Emoji Kitchen to Gboard Beta users, although all Gboard users will receive them in the coming weeks.
The last major change Google is making for Android users is the automatic reset of permissions. This will allow your device to automatically disable execute permissions for downloaded apps that you haven’t used for a long time. Runtime permissions allow apps to access restricted data, including location and contact information, or perform actions such as using the camera and microphone on your behalf.
You can of course re-enable permissions at any time, either by opening the app again or via the settings menu.
Google said the new auto-reset feature will expand support to “billions of additional devices with Google Play services” running Android 6.0 or higher starting next month.