New Android 13 beta lets you customize app icons in a way it always should have

Google Pixel 7 with foliage behind
(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

The second beta for Android 13 QPR2 is currently rolling out for select Pixel phones adding new experimental features and even some emojis.

If you just looked at the official release notes, you would think it’s nothing but a patch for fixing things like a glitch with the user interface that “caused the Home screen to become unresponsive.” But notable Android expert Mashaal Rahman managed to break down the entire beta in a long Twitter thread. There’s one feature in particular that has him and other Android watchers pretty excited, and that is the ability to create monochromatic app icons that reflect the Material You theme on Pixel phones. That way, everything has a uniform look.

The feature is disabled by default, according to Rahman, so beta users will have to go into the phone’s settings and toggle ENABLE_FORCED_MONO_ICON (this is most likely a placeholder name). Upon turning it on, all apps that support the feature, including first and third-party apps like Netflix, will switch over to the monochrome look. Other reports do state it ultimately depends on the app developers themselves if they want to support the feature or not. This could leave “Pixel owners in a weird spot” where launcher icons are this mishmash of monochrome and full color.

More changes

The only other notable new feature in the beta is a partial screen-sharing menu for sharing or recording an app. It includes a new scrollable interface on top of a list of apps that appear to work with the screen-sharing tool.

As for the rest of the changes, they appear to be merely updated versions of previously seen beta features. Rahman discovered a new shared library in the beta’s files called “aoc_audio_stereo_spatializer” which he thinks refers to “enabling spatial audio over the phone’s stereo speakers.” Spatial audio was first hinted at in the first Android 13 QPR2 beta. Unfortunately, Google is still playing its cards close to its chest as a lot of basic information on how spatial audio will work on Android remains unknown.

Coming back in the beta is the ability to control smart home devices from the lock screen, which has been in the works as far back as March 2022. The change this time is the beta will suggest you turn on this feature if “you try to toggle a [smart home] device from the lock screen a few times.”

As mentioned earlier, the QPR2 Beta 2 is available for download from the Android Beta program if you have one of the following Pixel phones: the Pixel 4a, Pixel 5, 5a, the base 6 model, 6 Pro, 6a, the base 7 model, and the Pixel 7 Pro. Be aware it’s not perfect. There are multiple threads on the Android Beta subreddit about all of the problems users have run into after downloading QPE2 Beta 2, from the icons not becoming monochrome to Google Messages not working properly. If you encounter any of these problems, the company is asking users to report glitches via the Feedback app.

And while we have you, if you're thinking about upgrading your phone, be sure to check out two new Pixel 7 deals we found.

Don't trust beta updates? The full launch of Android 13's next update is coming soon with some nifty features.

Cesar Cadenas

Cesar Cadenas has been writing about the tech industry for several years now specializing in consumer electronics, entertainment devices, Windows, and the gaming industry. But he’s also passionate about smartphones, GPUs, and cybersecurity.