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Google Releases Android 13 Dev Preview With Themed Icons, Improved Privacy and More

Android 13 logo
Google

Today, Google’s Android team released its first developer preview of Android 13, giving us a glance at what’s coming next for phones, tablets, foldables, and more. While we still have several months before the official release, the dev preview gives us a look at upcoming privacy and security upgrades, new interface changes, and the addition of themed icons.

The official Android 13 preview also suggests that Google is working hard on software for foldables and bigger screens and has integrated all the changes from Android 12L to support more display sizes and formats.

First, this is a very early developer preview and not software the average person will want to use. It’ll be full of bugs, issues, and unfinished changes. Over the next 5-6 months, the Android team will make adjustments, address feedback, add (or remove) features as it prepares for a global launch later this year. Still, the Android 13 fun has started with plenty of changes on the way.

What’s New in Android 13?

The Android logo over a plate of tiramisu.
Goskova Tatiana/Shutterstock.com

Codenamed “Tiramisu,” Android 13 will have a ton to offer when it finally arrives. However, considering this is a very early developer preview, there are only a handful of changes, and most of them are for developers, app builders, and manufacturers.

We’re seeing big changes to privacy and security for the average user, better photo sharing, the option for themed icons, quick settings tile improvements, and new language controls. Then, the Android team has integrated several tweaks for developers to prepare apps and products ahead of Android 13’s inevitable release.

Themed App Icons

App Icon themes coming to Android 13
Google

One of the most significant changes to Android in recent years was Material You and the built-in theme controls of Android 12. Users can change their device’s entire look and feel simply by changing the wallpaper and letting all the interface elements match its colors. Plus, Android 12 is more customizable than ever before.

With Android 13, Google is expanding app icons into the Material You theme options. The dynamic color changes will go beyond Google apps and will work with all app icons. Developers can quickly enable this for icons, plus users can enable or disable it for individual apps.

App icon themes are nothing new, but now it’ll be built right into Android for all icons, making it quicker and easier. That said, Google states that themed app icons will initially only work on Pixel devices, but they’ll work with other manufacturers to bring them to more devices.

Improved Language Controls

Some apps let users choose a language that’s different from the rest of the phone, allowing for a better multilingual experience. However, this requires many changes, and the experience isn’t consistent across apps and devices. With Android 13, app developers will have a new API so users can easily set a different language on a per-app basis.

This way, device owners can use one language on their phone and a second language for a messenger app when they communicate with friends or family.

Secure Photo Picker

Google Photos smartphone application icon on iPhone X screen close up

Delivering a safe and more secure photo-sharing experience is important to Google, which is why Android 13 will have a new photo picker tool. The new Photo API will make it so apps will let users select and share photos and videos (on the device or from the cloud) without giving the app permission to view every media file on the device.

Basically, this is an improved permission control, so 3rd party apps can’t view every file on your phone yet still access photos and videos for easy sharing. The change also delivers a streamlined interface for photos sharing.

Android Updates Through Google Play Services

Over the last few years, Google’s worked hard to allow the Android system to get more updates through the Google Play Store rather than full system updates. Android 12 added an Android Runtime (ART) module, allowing Android to push updates to the core runtime and libraries on devices.

With Android 13, Google is expanding what it can update through the Play Store, and some of those include features like the new photo picker, OpenJDK 11, and new modules enabling quick updates to Bluetooth and Ultra-wideband 5G support. Essentially, the developers at Google can make bigger core changes without sending out entire system updates.

Support For More Devices, Screen Sizes, & Foldables

Android 13 has a big focus on different form-factors and foldable devices. The Android team called on developers to optimize apps for tablets, foldables, TVs, and Chromebooks. Plus, we’re hearing rumors about Google releasing a foldable device this year, named the Pixel Notepad. If so, they’ll want apps that work better on folding phones.

What Devices Can Try Android 13 Today?

Considering this is the first developer preview of Android 13, it’s limited to a small list of devices. For now, you can manually download and install the 13 dev preview on the Pixel 6 Pro, Pixel 6, Pixel 5a 5G, Pixel 5, Pixel 4a (5G), Pixel 4a, Pixel 4 XL, or Pixel 4. However, as Google inches closer to a stable Android 13 beta, we’ll see the list expand.

Android 13 Release Date and Betas

Android 13 release date timeline
Google

Along with the release of the first Android 13 developer preview, Google shared a timeline on when we can expect an official global release of Android 13 for more devices. Like previous years, look for roughly one new version each month and a more stable beta release in April and May.

Then, looking ahead, Google will begin making its final changes for the official update and rollout later this summer, with an August release date.


As a reminder, this is just the first of many developer previews and betas before Android 13 finally gets released for regular users. There are loads of behind-the-scenes changes to improve privacy and security, improve battery life, and deliver better performance. We’ll learn more about Android 13 with each developer preview, plus more at the annual Google I/O developer event this Spring.

For now, developers need to adopt the new standards, changes, and APIs, and they’ll need to start testing apps with the latest security features in place.

If you aren’t an experienced developer, you likely shouldn’t download the Android 13 preview today. Instead, wait for Google to release the Android 13 beta. But if you are and you have a Pixel, head to the Android Developers site to learn more.

Source: Android Developers

Cory Gunther Cory Gunther
Cory Gunther has been writing about phones, Android, cars, and technology in general for over a decade. He's a staff writer for Review Geek covering roundups, EVs, and news. He's previously written for GottaBeMobile, SlashGear, AndroidCentral, and InputMag, and he's written over 9,000 articles. Read Full Bio »