As is tradition, Google has dropped a new version of Android without warning. While most phones are still waiting to get Android 12, Google has given us a peek at Android 13, codenamed Tiramisu. This software won’t be final for many months, but those with a Pixel phone can try out the developer preview for themselves. You probably shouldn’t though.
This is a developer preview, so most of the new features are aimed at the people who make apps. Having access to the OS early lets them prepare for how Android will work later this year. Naturally, there are some privacy features planned. For example, the new photo picker API will allow apps to select images and video for sharing without getting access to all the other files on your device. There’s also a change to connectivity that removes the need for location access when scanning for nearby Wi-Fi devices.
Most of the remainder is developer-focused. In Android 13, apps that have quick settings tiles (the things above your notifications) will be able to ask if you want to add the tile. Previously, devs had to just hope users would look in the dumping ground of unused tiles in settings. Devs will also have some work to do when it comes to themed icons. In Android 12, Google added Material You theming, which supported app icons at a very basic level. Only Google’s apps work with themes, and the underlying “Monet” color picker engine is not open source. In Android 13, devs can get in on the themed icon game simply by including a monochrome icon with the app. Android will take care of adjusting the colors based on the wallpaper. However, app makers might have to give up some branding identity to blend in.
The new OS also includes optimizations for foldables, tablets, and Chromebooks. It’s quite a turnaround from Google, which said a few years ago it was done focusing on tablets. It’s consistent about modularizing Android, though. Project Mainline debuted in Android 10 to make it easier to update core parts of the OS via Google Play. Android 13 expands the list of Mainline components to include the new photo picker, OpenJDK 11, and more.
If you’re interested in trying Android 13, you can flash the OTA or full system image to your compatible device. Currently, that includes the Pixel 6 Pro, Pixel 6, Pixel 5a 5G, Pixel 5, Pixel 4a (5G), Pixel 4a, Pixel 4 XL, and Pixel 4. There will be a lot of bugs in this software, so don’t install it on your main phone. There will be a more stable beta release in a few months, and it will get updates unlike the dev preview. A final release will probably happen this fall in time for new Pixel phones.
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