Google is getting into the festive spirit today by announcing a bunch of new Android features, which are coming soon or available today.
Let’s start with the digital car key functionality. This is now live on the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, as well as the Samsung Galaxy S21, in select countries. It will only work with compatible BMW cars for now.
Next up, there’s Family Bell, which will alert you and your family when it’s time for important moments throughout the day. The alerts come via phone, home speaker, or smart display. Aside from the shared “bells”, you can also set “bells” on your own devices so you can stay on top of your individual goals too. For the holidays, suggested bells include watering a tree, a family movie night, or volunteering to support a local cause.
Three Google apps are getting new widgets. The new Google Play Books widget lets you access your full library and keep track of audiobook progress, the new YouTube Music widget puts playback controls and recently played tracks on your Home screen, and the new Google Photos People & Pets widget lets you select a few faces and an appropriate frame, and then the widget will decorate your Home screen with your nearest and dearest.
The new Photos widget is rolling out next week, while the others have an unclear release schedule. Speaking of Photos, this week new Memories are rolling out in the app, featuring a curated selection of photos and videos from holidays, as well as important milestones like birthdays and graduations. Specific controls will allow you to rename, personalize, correct, and remove these if you want to.
Auto-resetting of permissions for apps you haven’t used in a while will be available next month on Android 6.0 and later, through Google Play Services. This feature will automatically turn off runtime permissions, which allow apps to access data or take actions on your behalf, once they’ve been dormant for a while. The permissions turn back on again when you next open each app.
Gboard is getting new Emoji Kitchen combinations – you can now use the wrapped gift box emoji as well as an all-new collection of furry friends to create cool combos. These are rolling out to Gboard Beta users today and will be available for all “in the coming weeks”.
Finally, Android Auto can be set to launch automatically when you connect your Android phone to your compatible car, and like us you’re probably wondering why this wasn’t a feature already. Once you’re on the road, you’ll have access to smart replies “soon”, so you can respond to a text more easily with the Google Assistant. Also “coming soon”, the ability to use your voice to search for music faster in your media apps.