Google released Android 12 in October, and while there are plenty of phones still waiting to receive the big upgrade, the company is already working on Android 13. The first developer preview of the next-gen Android OS is now available to download, with new privacy features and interface improvements that make it a bit easier to use across the board.
The usual caveats here: Developer betas aren’t meant for daily use—please don’t do that to yourself or your phone—but rather for testing purposes as Google works out the kinks. If you’re interested in taking it for a spin, Google offers directions on how to flash a system image to the Pixel 4, 5, and 6. Start here if you’re curious.
Much of what’s being introduced in today’s preview is mainly developer-facing, so we picked out the most exciting parts of the next version of Android so far. Here’s a glimpse at what’s to come.
Google is introducing a new photo picker API into Android 13. In this case, it acts like a blanket that hides your files and folders. It works similarly to the document picker API in Google Drive, which lets you share a specific document with an app without granting total access to the rest of the directory. In this case, you can share either locally- or cloud-stored photos with an app without giving it access to your whole camera roll. (Apple offers an identical feature in iOS.)
Google plans to bring the photo picker experience to devices running Android 11 and up via Google Play system updates. This excludes Android Go devices.
Developers are getting new tools to help their apps integrate a little better with Android’s Material You theming. In Android 13, there’s the option to enable a themed app icon so that it can “inherit” part of the Material You color palette currently in use. This means icons will match the rest of the interface’s look. (The lack of matching icons in Android 12 is why I haven’t been in a rush to hop on back to a Pixel device. I require the icons to match!) To that end, these new themed app icons will be available on the Pixel devices first.
Android 13 also features a Quick Settings Placement API, which will make it easier for you to discover which of your apps have configurable Quick Tiles. And if you’re multilingual, app developers can enable a prompt that asks you to choose your preferred language each time you set up a new app.
Throughout the years, Google has been working on consolidating app updates through the Google Play store so that even devices on different versions of Android can take part in new features. In Android 13, the company plans to double down on this effort, called Project Mainline. Features like the photo picker mentioned earlier will be delivered as an update through the Play Store. And it’s how the company plans to update Android devices to have other updated specs, like Bluetooth and ultra-wideband support.
Android 12L is the first flavor of Android made to work with large screens and foldable devices, but Android 13 will have support for tablets, foldables, and Chromebooks right out of the box. There are no further details beyond that, but we’re bound to learn more in the coming months.
Google says it plans for Android 13 to reach Platform Stability in June 2022, with the final release slated sometime after July. There’s no exact month listed out, but we can usually expect the final version of every new generation of Android around the arrival of the next Pixel smartphone.
Android 12 was a huge upgrade—with big ramifications—so Android 13 will likely bring less major changes. We’ll be on the lookout for the biggest tweaks you should know about in the coming months.