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What’s new in Android 13’s March 2023 feature drop, now in beta

What’s new in Android 13’s March 2023 feature drop, now in beta

Google has just released Android 13’s first Feature Drop, but the company is already hard at work preparing the next update, which is supposed to come out in March 2023. Just like that, the first beta version for this second quarterly platform release (QPR) is now out. While Google hasn’t spilled too many beans on what’s going to be new, eager experts took a look at what’s going on behind the scenes and what new features are going to be released as part of it.

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Interface changes

Visual changes are always the most noticeable, and there are a few tweaks available in QPR2 Beta 1. The quick settings panes in the notification shade were moved up a bit and sit closer to the time and date now. When you expand them by swiping down, you’ll also notice that the clock increases in size as you swipe, while the date moves below the clock. The mobile service provider also appears on top of the status icons on the right instead of next to them.

1st image: New media player animation. 2.: Large clock in the notification screen.

Google just can’t stop tweaking the media player that sits in the notification screen, and Android 13 QPR2 is no different. The new version of Android adds a foggy overlay to the album art that is used as a background for the media player that animates when you first view the player. The animation just disappears after you’ve been watching it for a while, and it doesn’t react to the current playback at all, which leads us to believe that it’s still in development and not finished.

Another notable change (or bug) also comes to the notification shade. When you swipe down on the lock screen without first unlocking, it will show a black background (even in light mode) and hide silent notifications completely. In previous versions of Android, silent notifications would not appear on the lock screen, but would reappear when you swipe down.

First pair of images: Notifications on the lock screen. 2nd pair: Notifications on the home screen.

As spotted by 9to5Google, the QPR2 beta’s Pixel Launcher made adjustments to icon density and padding. In folders, app icons are now further apart, making it harder to accidentally hit mistakes. The app icons on the home screen itself have also moved up a bit compared to previous Android 13 versions, complete with more padding on the left and right sides. This is also the case for the app launcher which you can access by swiping up anywhere on the home screen.

Desktop mode and partial screen sharing

Esper Android expert Mishaal Rahman revealed further changes under the hood. As he mentioned in his recap of Android 13’s feature drops in December, work continues on the currently hidden desktop mode that was originally only intended for developers testing multi-screen environments. When using desktop mode on this version of Android, there’s a floating bar above floating or freeform windows, offering options to minimize, maximize, enter split-screen mode, and more. This makes it clear that the company is trying to make the mode ready for consumers.

Google is also continuing work on partial screen recording, which Rahman first revealed in the current feature drop in December. The option allows you to select a single window to record or cast, the same way you can select individual tabs or windows for sharing in video conference calls. On Android, you will be able to choose between individual apps and full screen sharing.

New Material You theme

Another tidbit discovered by Rahman is a new Material You theme called “MONOKROMATIC.” It is not available for use right now, but it is already visible in the code. Judging by its name, it’s likely to be one of the most muted options you can choose. It will likely be similar to the “SPRITZ” option introduced with the first version of Android 13, a desaturated option that already feels monochromatic in itself.

Various

A major update like this fixes minor issues as well. Some people are reporting that their Pixel 7 Pro scrolling issues have been resolved, which used to be inconsistent for them. Then there are people who lost access to the new device pane for security and privacy settings, which seems to be related to the way Google is rolling out that option (using Google Play services instead of system updates). There are even more bits found by Mishaal Rahman, collected for your convenience below.

  • The Google Pixel 6 Pro has gained a 1080p display option with this update, similar to what the Pixel 7 Pro already offers.
  • Spatial Audio has been re-enabled for all supported Pixels (Pixel 6 series to Pixel 7 series). You may notice a difference when listening to spatial audio sample videos on YouTube with Spatial Audio enabled.
  • A new adaptive alert vibration option can reduce the strength of alert vibrations when the phone is lying flat on a surface with the screen up, although this feature is not active or available yet.
  • There’s further evidence that Google is developing software for the rumored foldable Google Pixel Fold: A new setting will be available for devices with side-mounted fingerprint sensors (like the Fold is rumored to have), allowing you to unlock the phone only with it. when the screen turns on.
  • Google is considering separating ringtone and notification volume. In old Android versions, this has always been the case, but Google combined these two options on Pixel phones a long time ago.

Join the Android 13 QPR1 beta program

If you have a Pixel phone, you can join the Android 13 QPR2 beta program on the Android website. Here you need to select the “View your eligible devices” option to select the phone you want to enroll in the beta. As always, be aware that there may be bugs that directly ruin the way you use your phone, so proceed with caution and only if you can do without your Pixel phone in an emergency. If you prefer to sideload the beta, be sure to learn how to install the Android 13 beta.

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