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Google just revealed a ton of new Android features coming this winter

Published Dec 2nd, 2021 9:18PM EST
Android is getting a ton of new features this winter.
Image: Google

Websites all over the internet pore over every update Apple releases for the iPhone, iPad, and Mac. In fact, we have an article that we update every time Apple releases a new iOS beta. Android doesn’t get quite the same attention, save for the big annual updates. But this week, Google announced a ton of exciting new features coming to Android devices this winter.

New features coming to Android this winter

1. Family Bell

First up is a new feature called Family Bell that should be especially useful for families in the Android ecosystem. Family Bell lets you keep track of the daily schedules of everyone in your family, no matter where you are. You can set up Family Bell on your phone, smart speaker, or smart display. If you turn on the feature, you will get bells and notifications to let you know about upcoming events.

For example, if you have plans to go pick out the Christmas tree with your family, you can ensure that everyone gets an alert. That way, you won’t have to run around and round everyone up yourself. You can set individual bells as well that only you will see. This should be helpful if you need to take some time to go wrap presents, but don’t want anyone else to know what you’re doing.

2. New widgets

Google also built three new widgets, all of which will be valuable over the holidays and beyond:

  • Keep that holiday reading within easy reach, access your full library of books and even keep track of your audiobook progress with the new Google Play Books widget.
  • Enjoy your favorite holiday tunes with the new YouTube Music widget — it puts playback controls and recently played tracks right on your Home screen.
  • Feel closer to your family, friends, and favorite furballs. Starting to roll out next week, the new Google Photos People & Pets widget puts your family on your Home screen. Simply select a few faces and an appropriate frame, then the widget will do the rest, decorating your Home screen with your nearest and dearest.

3. Google Photos Memories

Starting this week, Google is rolling out an all-new Memories feature for Google Photos. As the name suggests, Memories are curated selections of photos and videos from notable events and milestones. You can rename, customize, and remove Memories from the photo grid as well.

4. Android and your car

Google wants your Android device to be even more useful while you’re driving. That’s why it’s now possible to set Android Auto to start automatically when you connect your phone to a compatible car. Google is also working on smart reply options to make responding to text messages safer, and a new always-on play button on the Home screen to start listening to music right away.

Also, you can now use your Android phone to lock, unlock, and start your car. For now, the digital car key feature only works on Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro, and Galaxy S21 for compatible BMW cars.

5. Permissions auto-reset

Google is constantly overhauling and adding new privacy features to Android. The latest is called permissions auto-reset, and it’s one of the smarter additions we’ve seen in recent years. Chances are that you phone contains at least a few apps you haven’t thought about in months or even years. The permissions auto-reset feature automatically turns off an app’s runtime permissions for apps you haven’t opened in ages. You can easily turn the permissions back on, but now you don’t have to remember to turn them off.

6. New Emoji Kitchen combinations

Finally, Google added thousands of combinations to Emoji Kitchen in Gboard. If you want to check them out right now, you can download the Gboard Beta onto your Android device.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.

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