It’s time for another Android software update bundle! There are goodies for all Pixel and non-Pixel users this time—there’s even something for iPhone users.
If you have a car with keyless entry via your smartphone, the latest Android update will let you share that digital key with trusted friends and family. The feature is only available on Pixel smartphones, though you can share your key with iPhone users who are on compatible devices. Google says this digital car key feature is “coming soon” to other devices running Android 12 and up. A similar ability came to iOS earlier this year.
Goodies are coming to other Android users, too—specifically holiday-themed ones, which I’m probably going to use to annoy my iOS-using friends. The Emoji Kitchen is one of the best things Google’s cooked up. There’s an update coming to Gboard specifically, and you can get the new stickers by typing holiday emojis like ☃and❄. I’m probably going to use these everywhere.
Google Photos is also getting some holiday flair. Now you can use the collage editor to make a digital holiday card from your photos, using templates from two new artists: Australian husband-and-wife duo DABSMYLA and watercolor artist Yao Cheng Design. You could probably use this feature for cooking up some holiday photo gifts—I’ve made photo books with Google Photos before, and it’s been effective at making people emote. Even in the digital age, I found that people still like getting physical photos of happy times.
There are also non-holiday functions coming with the update. The most intriguing is the new Reading mode on Android, which Google says creates an accessible reading experience for folks who are vision impaired or dyslexic. The feature adds customizable display options so you can adjust the contrast, font, and size to your liking. There’s also a helpful text-to-speech function with controllable playback. As with most assistive features, Android’s new Reading mode will benefit lots of people, regardless of ability. I could see myself using this, as sometimes black-on-white websites are too much for my sensitive eyes.
Lastly, if you’re an avid YouTube watcher, this Android update introduces a new search widget for your home screen. And if you’re watching things on Google TV, you can use the Google TV app to cast directly to a compatible screen in your smart home. Finally! These features are available to anyone running Android 6 and up.
Wear OS is still finding its footing—yes, many years after Google launched the wearables platform—but that’s also what makes software updates worth noting. This time around, there are new tiles to check out. Apps like Google Keep let you see your notes on your smartwatch just as they look on your smartphone. A new Google Maps tile allows travelers to navigate to quick hits like home or work. There’s also a tile to keep track of the sunset and sunrise and a tile for Contacts to call oft-called users. These features are coming to all Wear OS devices running OS 3 and above.
Wear OS still has strides to go before it’s a bonafide fitness platform, but with every new compatible app, it moves an inch closer. Google has added the ability to jump into an exercise with the Adidas Running app by using the Assistant. You can say, “Hey Google, start a run with Adidas Running,” and then sprint into the winter sunset (I hope you’re wearing layers). The app tracks workouts, speed, distance, and heart rate. It’s compatible with Wear OS 3 devices with Google Assistant installed.