Android devices will be getting new features as part of a December update courtesy of Google. On the surface, the changes seem totally random, but that's because each one is aimed at a specific type of user.
For example, Google is adding a new Reading Mode app (opens in new tab) to help the visually impaired read text on their phones. It works by integrating itself into your phone’s quick settings and can be activated by selecting a new book tab that appears on other apps. The page then transforms into a more readable form complete with colored text on a black background for high contrast.
Customization options are available, according to the announcement (opens in new tab), where you can change the color of the text, its font size, and the level of contrast. Reading Mode also has a text-to-speech option for users who struggle the most or just want to relax and listen. An in-app slider allows you to adjust the reading speed.
The other big feature is the ability to share your digital car key (opens in new tab) but only between Pixel devices and iPhones. Compatible keys are sent via a phone’s digital wallet app (just make sure you can trust the other person). Google has plans to expand the digital key support to “select phones with [Android 12] and up”, but didn’t give an exact date other than “soon”.
Besides that, everything else coming to Android phones is much smaller in scale. Going down the list, you have a new YouTube Search widget to look up videos right from the Home screen. Google Photos’ collage editor (opens in new tab) has two new artistic designs: a cartoonish style by husband and wife duo DABSMYLA with another by watercolor artist Yao Cheng Design. And finally, casting content from the Google TV app to a compatible display can now be done with a single tap.
Wear OS changes
Wear OS has a few tweaks coming. New tiles are being added that’ll tell you when you can watch either the sunrise or sunset on any given day and give quick access to your favorite contacts. Select workouts on the Adidas app can be accessed via Google Assistant voice commands starting December 5. Apart from that, it’s unknown exactly when any of the other features will roll out. We asked Google if it could give us a concrete date, but it’s been nothing but radio silence at the time of this writing. We’ll update this story if we hear back.
Be sure to check out TechRadar’s recently updated best Android smartwatch list if you're thinking of picking one up for a last-minute Christmas present. Plus, we’ve heard through the grapevine that multiple Google Workspace apps may be making their way over to WatchOS. If this comes true, it’ll give Android smartwatches a boost in productivity.