Steve February 23, 2021
google-announces-a-bunch-of-new-android-features

The Android logo against a grey background and green lines

Google today announced a few new features coming to Android, both via updates to select apps and the OS itself. The features related to security, accessibility, and more, and the rollout is similar to how the company introduced added capabilities to older Android versions late last year.

The first on the list today is the addition of the Password Checkup tool natively to Android, something that first debuted as an extension and then made it to the Chrome browser itself. As the name suggests, the feature helps users keep a tab on the integrity of their saved passwords by notifying them if their credentials have been exposed. This allows users to act on compromised credentials and avoid using passwords that might have been exposed on the web.

Android Password Checkup tool prompting a password change notification

Now, the feature integrates with Autofill on Android 9 and newer, notifying users of any potential password exposures and a guide to reset them. Additionally, Autofill can also generate unique passwords and secure that information via biometric authentication, making it a great overall tool for password management.

Next up is a nifty new update to the Messages app that brings the ability to schedule messages to be sent later. Long pressing the send button will now provide an option to set the date and time to deliver the text message. The option to schedule messages has been present for users on Samsung devices via the default Messages app that ships with those devices. Alternatively, users have had to rely on third-party offerings such as Pulse SMS for the feature. The updated Messages app is now rolling out to users on Android 7 and newer.

As for accessibility improvements, the search giant announced a new update to TalkBack, its screen reader for those with impaired vision. The updates include new multi-finger gestures on Pixel and Samsung phones that can be used to perform preset commands like selecting and editing text. There are also new swipe commands for reading through just the headlines or through entire paragraphs. The firm is also adding 25 voice commands to help with actions such as finding particular text on the screen and more. Lastly, there are two new languages for the Braille keyboard.

Google Assistant responding to commands on the lock screen

Google assistant is also receiving some updates that let users interact with it better on the lock screen. The company is adding a new card layout to review Assistant commands right from the lock screen, including alarm and timer options, sending messaging using voice, and more. The firm adds that users can “get things done on [their] phone without needing to be right next to it”.

Google Maps in a dark theme on Android

Another highly awaited feature announced today is the rollout of a dark theme for Maps. While Maps automatically switches to a darker theme when navigating, a proper dark mode has been teased for a while. Users will finally be able to switch to the darker side permanently from the settings, a welcome addition for those that prefer the theming option to conserve battery on AMOLED displays, or just as a matter of preference.

Lastly, the Mountain View company announced new Android Auto features such as “car-inspired backgrounds” and Assistant actions – features that began rolling out earlier this month. For long journeys, the in-car system is also adding voice-activated trivia games. Other new features include a split-screen view of Maps and audio controls – like on Apple CarPlay – on wide screens and a new privacy screen to “control when Android Auto appears on your car display”. These Android Auto features are rolling out to users running Android 6 or newer.

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From Neowin