Google today announced six new features that will hit current devices without having to wait for Android 12 to be officially released. The Android Messages app – the text messaging app included in Pixel phones and some other devices – will allow you to schedule the sending of messages at specific times. This can be used to remind a friend of something important, wish someone a happy birthday on the right day, or organize events. Google itself gives the example of sending a text message to a friend who is in another time zone so that it does not reach him when he sleeps. Download the Messages app or update to the latest version to get this functionality.
Google has introduced its Password Checker tool – the same one that it has been using in Chrome for a long time – to alert you if your login credentials have been exposed and are potentially posted somewhere on the Internet. The tool applies to passwords stored with Google’s Android autofill feature, which works with various applications. Although the fact that your password is compromised does not necessarily mean that someone has stolen your information, it is advisable to change it. Android password checking will be automatically available for users with Android 9 and above.
Google Maps also has a dark mode. You can go to the application settings, click on “Theme” and select “Always in dark mode”. You can also choose to keep the theme light if you prefer the brighter look.
Android has made improvements to TalkBack, an accessibility feature for the visually impaired. The update includes “more intuitive gestures, a unified menu, a new reading control menu and more.” You can get TalkBack by downloading or updating your Android Accessibility Suite from the Google Play Store.
Google is also making it easy to use Google Assistant without touching or unlocking the phone. The device will now display cards that can be read more easily to confirm actions, and you can now allow more personal actions – like sending texts and making calls – without unlocking your device. Until now, Google Assistant required the phone to be unlocked before these actions could be performed (unless headphones were used), which often made them useless – if I have already unlocked my phone, it will most likely be easier to dial a number or write a message.
Finally, Google has introduced some updates to Android Auto, which allow you to customize the wallpaper, play trivia through the wizard and add shortcuts to the home screen. The shortcuts on the home screen will allow you to access your contacts and even complete tasks such as checking the time or adjusting the thermostat remotely by simply touching the icon on your car screen. In the case of cars with wider screens, you can do more with a split screen that includes a real-time view of Google Maps and multimedia controls. And if you have family and friends with you, now you can set a privacy screen to control when Android Auto appears on your car screen. These Android Auto features will be available in the coming days on phones with Android 6.0 or higher, and when connected to the compatible car.
For the past two years, Google has been working to make Android a bit more modular, allowing the company to update important services and applications associated with the mobile operating system without requiring a full system update. Although we will surely see more updates with Android 12, it is good to know that we do not have to wait a whole year to receive some useful improvements.