Google has announced a list of new features for Android users that are rolling out to make their phones more useful. One of the most notable features is Family Bell, which can help you and your family stay on top of your daily schedules by receiving alerts on phones and home devices like a smart speaker or monitor. The other big update is coming to Google Photos where you will get new memories to look back on the memories you had with your loved ones. Google is also introducing a digital car key feature to let you use your Android phone as your car key.
In the list of new features Google detailed via a blog post, the Family Bell is the one you’ll find most useful if you’re planning on spending time with your family. It allows you to send alerts not only to your phone, but also to your family members’ phones and devices, including home speakers and smart screens with bells and notifications when you want to connect for a specific joint goal. This could be calling your family for breakfast, watering a tree on a holiday, or going out for a family movie night.
Family Bell can be edited, managed and customized on selected device. Each of your family members can also set bells on their own devices for individual goals.
In addition to Family Bell, Google apps including Google Play Books and YouTube Music are getting widgets. Google Play Books is getting a new widget through which you can access your entire library of books and track the progress of your audiobook right from your home screen.
With the new YouTube Music widget, you can access playback controls and recently played tracks from the home screen to easily control and enjoy your favorite music.
A new Google Photos People & Pets widget will also be released starting next week to let you put a frame of your family photos on your home screen. You can select some faces and appropriate frame to decorate your home screen with your loved ones.
Google Photos is also getting the new Memories feature, which aims to remind you of the memories you’ve spent with your family and friends. Those memories will appear in your photo grid and show a curated selection of photos and videos from holidays like New Year’s Eve or Halloween and milestones like birthdays and graduations, Google said.
Users will also have controls to rename, customize, correct and even remove memories from their photo grid for a personalized experience.
Google is also bringing the digital car key feature to allow Android users to lock, unlock and even start a compatible car using their phones. It is initially rolling out in select countries on Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S21 for compatible BMW cars.
Notably, Apple introduced a similar digital car key feature for iPhone users last year, which started rolling out to newer iPhone models earlier this year. It is also limited to a few luxury cars at this time.
Along with the Digital Car Key, Google is updating Android Auto to allow users to configure their compatible vehicle systems to start automatically when connected to an Android phone. This is quite useful as you won’t need to manually connect your phone to the Android Auto system when driving.
Google is also bringing smart reply options soon to Android Auto to let you reply to a text message using Google Assistant while driving – simply by tapping to reply or creating a custom message. You can also listen to your favorite track with a single tap on the new always available play button on the home screen when connected to the Android Auto system.
In the near future, Google is also bringing the ability to let you use your voice to search for music faster in your media apps on Android Auto. This will be done via a new search icon that will let you say your favorite artist or song to play them in your car.
Gboard on Android is also getting an update with a feature called Emoji Kitchen, where you can combine emojis into stickers to express your feelings, without typing text. You can celebrate the holidays in the western world by sharing your favorite emoji in a gift box or using a collection of furry friends to spread your canine love with friends and family.
Google said it’s rolling out the latest stickers via Emoji Kitchen to Gboard Beta users, though all Gboard users will get them in the coming weeks.
The last big change that Google is bringing to Android users is automatic resetting of permissions. This will allow your device to automatically disable runtime permissions for downloaded apps that you haven’t used in a while. Runtime permissions allow apps to access restricted data, including location and contact information, or to perform actions such as using the camera and microphone on your behalf.
You can of course reactivate the permissions whenever you want by opening the app again or via the settings menu.
Google said the new automatic permissions reset feature will expand support to “billions more devices with Google Play services” running on Android 6.0 or higher starting next month.