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.