Google had announced its next Pixel feature drop earlier this week, and now it’s back with yet another announcement, this time for Android as a whole.
These six new features are coming to all Android devices, not just Pixels. It’s the first time the firm has done something like this, combining a number of planned improvements into a single news piece, presumably influenced by the way Google unveils new features.
One is the global launch of the Android Earthquake Alerts System, which can send you an alarm seconds before an earthquake strikes, allowing you to find a safe place in time. “We are prioritizing launching Earthquake Alerts in countries with higher earthquake risks, and hope to launch in more and more countries over the coming year,” Google writes.
The Android Earthquake Alerts System is now available worldwide. People in earthquake-prone locations can receive warnings seconds before an earthquake occurs. New Zealand and Greece were the first countries to launch the product. Turkey, the Philippines, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan all got the Android Earthquake Alerts System on Tuesday.
Google is planning to introduce a feature to the Texts app that allows you to mark noteworthy messages with a star. Tap the star next to a message you want to preserve. And instead of scrolling through thousands of old messages to discover one of these messages (say, the one with your Wi-Fi password), you’ll hit the starred category.
Google will also release an upgrade this summer that will provide contextual Emoji ideas in the Emoji Kitchen after you’ve composed a message. The Contextual Emoji Kitchen ideas are currently in the Gboard beta and will be available this summer for all Gboard users who use English, Spanish, or Portuguese on Android 6.0 and higher devices.
You’ll soon be able to use your voice to access apps and have them execute tasks for you. You’ll be able to say things like, “Hey Google, pay my Capital One bill,” or “Hey Google, check my Strava mileage.” You may find out which apps you can access using Google Assistant by saying “Hey Google, shortcuts.”
Voice Access is a feature that allows people with disabilities to navigate their phone using their voice. Voice Access will only operate when the user is glancing at the screen, thanks to gaze detection, which is still in beta.
Gaze detection and Voice Access, like app search, are two further ways to modify a touch-first computing system for users who can’t really touch the screen. These changes not only make smartphones, whether Android-based or not, more accessible, but they also show how far voice-first computing has progressed in the last decade or so.
It may not be Gideon-level capabilities, but it’s still impressive—especially for individuals who require other control techniques to utilize their smartphone(s).
Finally, Android Auto now has Dark Mode, a “back to top” option, and an A to Z button in the scroll bar for a more personalized experience. If this is your first time using Android Auto, you can get started with just a few fast touches.