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Android phones will get six new features - and you don't need to wait until Android 12

Android 12 on a Google Pixel 4a 5G
Android 12 on a Google Pixel 4a 5G (Image credit: Future)

Google frequently releases content drops for its Pixel phones, to give them constant new features, but now the company is bringing a new batch of features to all Android phones.

As detailed in Google's blog, the six new additions cover a range of features, from accessibility to texting changes, and we'll run you through them all below.

Most of these features will presumably be available on all Android phones, whether you've got a brand new powerhouse or an older device. The two exceptions are the emoji and Android Auto features - you need to be on Android 6 or above to get these.

You can check your system version by heading on over to Settings, then About Phone, and you should find the Android version here - you'd need to be on a pretty old phone to be locked to Android 5 or earlier, though. 

To get some of the individual features, you'll likely need to update your apps that they're part of. Google has yet to reveal exact roll out dates for any of these features, but expect them in the coming weeks and months.

New Android phone features

Perhaps the most useful new Android phone feature is the ability to 'star' texts in the Messages app, to save them for later, which will be great for remembering information you're sent without resorting to the old screenshot trick.

Another communication feature is an update to Emoji Kitchen, a pre-existing Android feature that lets you mash up emoji, so you can send custom and more specific emoticons to people. Now, the Gboard keyboard will automatically mash up custom emoji based on your message and suggest them to you.

Android Auto is getting some big upgrades too, including electric vehicle charging and parking apps to help you find a charging point, easier navigation and the ability to customize the dashboard from your phone.

If you're a fan of using the Google Assistant, you'll now not only be able to open apps with it, but also trigger certain functions in the apps, like starting a run on Strava or paying a bill on your bank app.

Now from the useful functions to the potentially life-saving ones. First, the earthquake alerts system is rolling out to more countries. This feature alerts you if an earthquake is about to hit your region, giving you valuable time to react - it's available in a few places already, but is launching in more regions too, starting with the more vulnerable areas.

Finally, Android's Voice Access mode for people with motor disabilities is getting some improvements. You'll now be able to make sure the function only works when you're looking at the screen (with gaze detection), and password input has improved so you can more readily specify capital letters and symbols.

So that's a wide range of new Android features, and while it's unlikely that you'll be completely blown away by every single new addition, there's probably at least a few new tools that you'll find useful.

Tom Bedford

Staff Writer, Phones

Tom's role in the TechRadar team is as a staff writer specializing in phones and tablets, but he also takes on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness trackers and more.