Google Delivers Several New Android Features

Posted on June 15, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 22 Comments

Google announced today that it is rolling out six new features for the 3+ billion devices out in the world running on Android.

“We’re making your phone more useful this summer with features designed to improve the way you experience the world,” the Android website notes of the updates. “Like the global launch of earthquake alerts. Starred messages to help you keep track of what’s important. And so much more. Here are the latest features available on your Android phone.”

Here’s what’s new.

Android Earthquake Alerts System expansion. Android’s Android Earthquake Alerts System is now rolling out in Turkey, the Philippines, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan after previously launching in New Zealand and Greece. Google says it is prioritizing launching Earthquake Alerts in countries with higher earthquake risks, and it hopes to launch in more countries over the coming year.

Starred messages in the Messages app. Google’s messaging app, called Messages, will now let you “star” important messages so you can find them again more easily. Starred messages will be viewable separately in a categories view.

Contextual Emoji Kitchen suggestions. Contextual Emoji Kitchen suggestions are available in Gboard beta today and are coming to all Gboard users this summer for messages written in English, Spanish and Portuguese on devices running Android 6.0 and above. I’m not an emoji guy, but I think this helps you find combinations of emojis to express more complex thoughts. You know, in the context of using emojis to communicate.

Voice shortcuts for apps. Now, you can ask Google to open or search many of your favorite apps using your voice. You can say things like, “Hey Google, pay my Capital One bill” to jump right into the app, Google says, or “Hey Google, check my miles on Strava” to quickly see your weekly progress right on the lock screen. To see what else you can do, say “Hey Google, shortcuts.”

Improved Password Input and gaze detection on Voice Access. Voice Access lets you navigate your phone and apps with just your voice, and it now supports enhanced password input: For example, you can say “capital P a s s w o r d,” Google notes, or names of symbols (like “dollar sign” to input a $). And gaze detection, now in beta, lets you ask Voice Access to work only when you are looking at the screen so you can more naturally move between talking to people around and using your phone.

Android Auto improvements. Android Auto now offers better customization functionality, improved navigation, and new app experiences, like EV charging, parking, and navigation apps, to help enhance your drive. You can also access favorite messaging apps, like Google Messages and WhatsApp, from the launcher screen. These features require a phone with Android 6.0 or higher.

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Comments (22)

22 responses to “Google Delivers Several New Android Features”

  1. lvthunder

    Why does someone need an earthquake alert? Wouldn't everything shaking be an alert? What am I missing here?

    • bluvg

      Presumably it's advance notice? I think they can only provide a few seconds, but that could be important. Tsunamis are another possibility (though that might be better separately as a tsunami alert?).

      • locust_infested_orchard_inc.

        I believe there's another new feature in the upcoming Android 12 (currently in beta), which shall alert the user when the phone is transmitting user-sensitive data.

        Naturally this feature is off by default (with this feature buried deep within the settings) else the phone shall be in a continual state of emitting both audio and visual notification cues.

    • beckoningeagle

      You may not feel the earthquake and still need to be alert for tsunamis and after shocks.

    • bbennett40

      Wow...just wow. Any early warning can save lives.

    • jgraebner

      Here in California, there is already a state-issued earthquake alert app. It sends an urgent push alert as soon as the initial part of an earthquake (P-waves) is detected, which can typically be 20-30 seconds before human-detectable shaking starts, depending on your distance from the quake. That may not seem like much, but it can be enough time to get to a doorway, under a desk, or otherwise to a more protected location. In a major quake, that can save lives.

  2. markbyrn

    I finally got the locked folder option for photos but presumably that's just for Pixels.

  3. wright_is

    Speaking your password out loud, that isn't a security fail in any way, oh, no. /s

  4. SyncMe

    "for the 3+ billion devices out in the world running on Android"

    No where near this many Android devices will ever see these updates.

  5. mikegalos

    For those who don't follow Earthquake news, this is not an Android app so much as it's an Android front end to the new ShakeAlert earthquake warning system that is already working on Android and iOS devices in California, Oregon and Washington (and eventually elsewhere).

    ShakeAlert was developed by the USGS, California's Office of Emergency Services, Caltech, University of Washington, Berkeley Seismology Lab, University of Oregon and ETH Zurich.

    What it does is give SOME warning of an earthquake by using an array of seismometers that read the faster waves (that don't do damage) to pinpoint the epicenter of the quake and get an alert out to people in the area that a quake is about to hit. In the BEST case it gives about 30 seconds warning but that's enough to get away from windows, lie down and cover your head.

    The system has been rolling out for a few months now.

    There's more at the ShakeAlert website at

  6. Truffles

    Danielle is having a rather odd conversation (even if we ignore the concept of an Hawaiian pizza breakfast - a topic on which reasonable people might properly disagree).

  7. vhaakmat

    Saying your password out loud, makes me think back at the early 90's joke of voice commands implementation... Someone passes your PC and shouts "Delete star dot star" .. LOL

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