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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Comments (11)

11 responses to “Google Announces Several New Android Features”

  1. walterwood44

    I assume that those of us that no longer get updates for Android still wont get these?

  2. retcable

    It will be quite interesting to see if these updates actually get to users without the usual months-long "testing and evaluation" that everything Android-related has to go through. First the phone manufacturers have to test and evaluate all Android updates for months or even a year before they allow them to be installed. Then the carriers have to test and evaluate all Android updates for months or even a year before they allow them to be installed. Some of these features probably will not work on all models of phones, and some will probably be put behind pay walls by the carriers since they require data use. This is the way with Android.

  3. RonV42

    Can they please fix the issue with letting tasks run in the background? Google promised they would be more open on what rules need to apply before the scheduler kills background threads. Strange how Google apps never have their background services killed but use a 3rd party calendar, messaging, backup, and other alerting apps. There is nothing worse unlocking your phone and then a few seconds later all your scheduled appointments notifications fire or you got the freeze warning from last night.

  4. crunchyfrog

    WHY does every major phone OS release have to have emoji's front and center on the update list? Do people really needs this many emoji icons? I use like four or five at the most IF I use them at all.

    Maybe I'm just out of touch on this...

    • nerdile

      In reply to crunchyfrog:

      This is like asking why Sports gets its own section in the newspaper every day, even during a pandemic when sports aren't happening. Some people care for it, you don't. Doesn't mean either party is more "in touch" or better in some way. There's some percentage of people that are highly delighted by having it. It doesn't make you any worse off for having it.

    • trevorl

      In reply to crunchyfrog:

      I'm with you there. I'd go further and say this list of "features" is very ho-hum. I can't imagine myself using any of them.

  5. sammyg

    Knowing how Google just sucks up your data, I wonder why anyone uses their products???

    Besides YouTube their are many viable alternatives to Google products.

    • Paul Thurrott

      It's because many of its products are best of breed. Not using them is the classic "bite your nose to spite your face" dilemma.
  6. Jorge Garcia

    The only thing they should be working on is GOOD tablet support; meaning a fleshed-out Desktop Mode to compliment the Touch-first mode. That is how the Galaxy Tab S7 already works, and the upcoming Lenovo P-11 pro will have a similar dual-mode setup. A great way to turn consumers away from your ecosystem is to make it so that every OEM feels the need to develop their own unique "take" on how an Android Desktop environment should function. Google is (purposefully) dropping the ball on this front because ChromeOS is where they can have the most control and leverage, but that "selfish" attitude has let Apple thoroughly dominate the Tablet/Tablet-Laptop segment.