Google Announces Several New Android Features

Posted on December 3, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 11 Comments

It looks like Microsoft isn’t the only company updating its platforms with new features outside of major upgrade releases: Google today revealed several new features that it’s bringing to Android in the coming weeks, and outside of its annual OS update schedule.

“With the holidays around the corner, we’re sharing six new Google features for Android, a few more ways your phone gets more helpful over time, even outside of major OS updates,” Google’s Ajay Gokhale writes. “Whether you’re texting holiday greetings to loved ones or winding down with a book, Android can help.”

The new features include:

Emoji Kitchen for Gboard. Google’s Android keyboard has a feature called Emoji Kitchen that lets users mix multiple emoji into customized stickers, and it’s picking up several hundred new design combinations. The new version of Emoji Kitchen will be available on Android 6.0 and above over the coming weeks.

Automatic narration for books. Google Play is working with book publishers in the U.S and UK to bring automatic narration to e-books that do not have audiobook versions. The publisher tool to create auto-narrated audiobooks is currently in beta, but it will roll out to all publishers in early 2021.

Voice Access. This new accessibility feature lets you navigate your smartphone using only your voice. “Now using machine learning technology, you can add labels to the screens of your Android apps to help you work within them with your voice,” Gokhale explains. Voice Access rolled out first with Android 11, but it’s now available globally on all devices running Android 6.0 and above.

Go tab in Google Maps. The new Go tab in Google Maps lets you find recently- and frequently-visited places more quickly. You can pin favorite locations and driving directions, public transit routes, and even multiple routes. The Go tab starts rolling out on Android and iOS in the coming weeks.

Improved Android Auto availability. Android Auto is coming to more countries over the next few months. It requires a phone running Android 10 or above, though those with Android 9 and earlier can download the standalone app.

Nearby Share improvements. An update to Nearby Share will let you share apps from Google Play with nearby Android phones, even there isn’t a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. This update will roll out in the coming weeks.

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