The most useful new features in Google’s Android 13 update

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After a few months of public testing, the latest version of Google’s Android operating system — Android 13 — is now available. Well, for some people, anyway.

As usual, new software is coming to Google’s own phones first, although at least a few people are still eagerly awaiting the arrival of their long-awaited updates. And eventually, Android 13 will make its way to devices made by companies like Samsung, Motorola, OnePlus and more. In a blog post announcing the release, Sameer Samat, vice president of product management at Android, said the software would be coming to third-party devices “later this year”.

So what is really worth using?

Updates like these are always kind of a purse, with some features you can expect to see soon and some you may never notice in action.

I spent an afternoon getting a feel for what’s new on a handful of my own test phones, and a few of Google’s additions have already started to stand out. To my surprise, the features I really like have nothing to do with the sleek visual overhaul that Android started getting last year – they’re mostly smart little changes that I’d love to see. somehow always be there in the first place.

If you find yourself using an Android device in your day-to-day life, here’s our brief guide to the features you might soon be counting on.

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Imagine this: you have created an account on the social application of the day that is causing the buzz, and it asks you to upload a photo of yourself to your profile. “Good”, you think, so you hit the button that opens your photo library and start looking for a suitable photo.

This type of interaction happens all the time, and in older versions of Android you usually have to give the app in question the power to peek at the media stored on your phone. In Android 13, however, these apps can instead use a Google-built media “selector” that lets them access only the files you choose, and only for a limited time.

As part of this year’s big update, Google also made a handful of privacy changes that you should never really notice. Consider your copy-paste habits: whatever information you move from one place to another is temporarily stored in Android’s “clipboard”, and Android 13 makes it a point to clear every hour or so, to make sure other apps can’t access anything sensitive that you might have put there without realizing it.

Tell your apps to shut up

Previous versions of Android always assumed you wanted to see notifications from apps you downloaded, which meant it was up to you to learn how to manage them or close them altogether.

Not anymore. In Android 13, when you install an app that wants to send you notifications, it needs to ask for your permission first. And if you decline this request – which takes just one click – you won’t have to worry about this app clamoring for your attention when you’re not using it.

Your phone has tools to help you use it less. They work.

Keep an eye on active apps

Android has always made it easy to view the apps you’ve used recently, but some continue to work even when you’ve stopped looking at them. Luckily, Google’s update contains a handy feature that will show you which apps are doing just that – as well as how long they have been doing it.

Why bother? Well, it’s possible that these “active” apps have drained your phone’s battery life without you realizing it. If you spot an app running longer than seems appropriate, one click will stop it in its tracks.

But there is a small catch: this feature can be a bit difficult to find. On Google’s Pixel phones, you’re supposed to swipe down in your device’s quick settings, and the option will appear at the bottom of the screen.

A QR code scanner, just when you need it

Love them or hate them, but QR codes have become a weird little part of society in the age of the pandemic. And while many Android devices, including Google Pixels and Samsung Galaxys, let you scan QR codes with their built-in camera apps, not all of them make it that easy.

Fortunately, Android 13 comes with a standalone QR code scanner tool that you can add to your quick settings palette – otherwise known as the toggle for internet service, Bluetooth, do not disturb mode and more as you see when you swipe down from the top of the screen. Admittedly, this may seem like a pretty minor addition to the mix – and you’d be right – but I’ve used it three or four times in one day already.

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