After four months of beta testing, Android 13 is finally here. The software, codenamed “Tiramisu,” is available right now for many Android users, and includes many of the new features and changes Google has been cooking up this past year.
That said, despite having a whole number in its name, Android 13 isn’t a particularly feature-filled update. If your phone even supports Android’s thirteenth iteration, don’t expect it to revolutionise your mobile experience. But that’s OK! The changes this update brings to Android are welcome and necessary: From Material You expansion to powerful security updates, Android 13 is a must for all phones that support it.
Which phones are compatible with Android 13?
At this time, only Google’s Pixel phones are able to update to Android 13. As is always the case with Android, other OEMs will soon make the update available for their devices: Google says later this year, Android 13 will be available on “Samsung Galaxy, Asus, HMD (Nokia phones), iQOO, Motorola, OnePlus, Oppo, Realme, Sharp, Sony, Tecno, vivo, Xiaomi and more.” Until then, here is the official limited list of Android 13 phones:
- Pixel 4
- Pixel 4 XL
- Pixel 4a
- Pixel 4a 5G
- Pixel 5
- Pixel 5a 5G
- Pixel 6
- Pixel 6 Pro
- Pixel 6a
Material You updates
Android 12’s Material You design language matched the colour scheme of your phone’s wallpaper with first-party Android apps and elements. It’s a great feature that makes your home screen and overall Android experience feel purposely designed, rather than a jumble of different shades and hues.
Android 13 picks up where 12 left off: Now, you’ll be able to tweak third-party apps with Material You, so their app icons will match your wallpaper’s colours. Google also expanded the tonal palettes available for Material You customisation — these new “styles” will give you more hue options to choose from per colour. After all, Android is all about customisation.
Per-app language settings
If you speak more than one language, you probably feel frustrated when choosing a system-wide language option on Android: Some apps you’ll want one language, while other apps you’ll want another.
In addition to setting one system language, Android 13 now lets you set languages per-app, so you can keep your phone in English, while WhatsApp can be set to French.
A new dynamic media player
The media player in Android 13 is getting an overhaul. It now adjusts based on what you’re playing. When listening to a song, for example, the album artwork takes up the entire player window, while the progress bar goes “squiggly,” dancing to the music.
Share specific photos and videos with apps, rather than your entire library
Android 13 picks up one of iOS’ best privacy features: When an app asks for Google Photos privileges, you no longer need to give it access to your entire library. Instead, you can choose which photos and videos the app can see, which makes it perfect for times you only want to share a specific image with an app.
Your clipboard destroys sensitive information
Android 13’s clipboard will erase its contents after one hour, ensuring scummy apps that read the clipboard won’t be able to steal any sensitive information. Gboard has had this feature, but with Android 13, any keyboard you use will be able to take advantage of this security feature. You now also receive an alert any time an app accesses the clipboard, so keep an eye out for any shady activity.
Copy items from one Android device and paste to another
Speaking of the clipboard, Android 13 will soon allow you to copy and paste between Android devices. You can copy an image from your phone and paste it to your tablet, or copy text from your tablet and paste on your phone.
Bye bye, notifications
Android’s notification system has been the gold standard for years. Still, notifications are notifications, and, often, they’re annoying. Nothing is worse than downloading a new app, only to be spammed to hell and back about something you do not care about. By default, Android 13 forces apps to give you the option to opt into notifications, rather than enable them automatically, which is a great change.
Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) Audio support
Android 13 supports Bluetooth LE Audio, which reduces latency between the audio source and your Bluetooth audio device, like earbuds or a speaker. You should notice the devices more consistently in-sync after the update.
Turn on Dark Mode at bedtime
In addition to the traditional scheduling options for Dark Mode, you can now choose to switch the system theme to Dark Mode at bedtime. If you don’t already use Dark Mode at night, you might enjoy using it just before you put your phone away for the night.
Support for Spatial Audio
With Spatial Audio support (and compatible headphones), your sound will track with your head movements, creating the illusion the sound is happening all around you. It’s a more immersive experience when listening to your favourite songs or watching a show or movies.
Stream conversations from your phone to your Chromebook
It’s not live yet, but soon, you’ll be able to text friends and family from your Chromebook by streaming chats from your phone’s messaging apps.
Tablets have a new taskbar
Once your tablet gets Android 13, you’ll notice a new taskbar that shows all your apps, and lets you drag and drop for easy multitasking, similar to iPadOS. Android 13 can also recognise the different between palm and stylus pen touches, which should reduce the number of accidental presses.
Access smart home devices without unlocking your phone
If your smart home device supports it, you can now control the device without unlocking your phone first. That makes it easy to pass your phone to a friend to control your lights, music, or other device, without you needing to give up the rest of your phone to do so.
Over a hundred bug fixes
There are a ton of bug fixes for Pixel devices with the first official Android 13 update. The issues fixed range from wifi connectivity problems, to face unlock and fingerprint authentication, to battery and charging glitches, to a sea of user interface bugs. You can find a full list of the bugs patched from Google’s “Pixel Phone Help” post here.