While the yearly numbered Android OS update tends to get all of the attention, a considerable number of features come to Android phones throughout the year in the form of updates to Google apps and services.
Today, Google has announced via its blog a spring update that includes the rollout of a number of impressive new features including enhanced password security, scheduled messaging, improved accessibility through Talkback along with updates to Assistant, Google Maps and Android Auto.
- Best phones in 2021
- Best cell phone deals in February 2021
- Pixel 6: Price, release date, specs, and all the latest details
Security is certainly top of mind for plenty of users today. And with the news that popular password manager LastPass is restricting its free tier, more users may be looking at the integrated password management through Android and Chrome.
That makes the news of this upgrade all the more welcome, Chrome users will likely be familiar with the Password Checkup extension that identifies whether a password that you have saved for a site or service you are visiting has been exposed. This update that will be available to any device running Android 9 or later will do the same for any password that you have saved for use in Autofill with Google.
While it still has a ways to go to properly compete with iMessage, Google has been hard at work on improvements to Messages over the last couple of years and this new update is another awesome addition. Android phones running Android 7 or later can now schedule the time and date that a text message will be delivered.
This is great particularly if you are texting someone in a different time zone that you don't want to wake up. It's also handy if you simply find yourself checking your text messages late at night or early in the morning, but don't want your reply to go out quite yet. With the date setting, you can even set messages for weeks or months in advance, make sure you never forget to send that birthday or anniversary text.
Improved accessibility for TalkBack
TalkBack is the built-in screen reader in Android geared towards blind and low vision users. It has received plenty of praise already, but the user interface is receiving a number of updates based on feedback from the community.
These updates include improve gesture support, a unified menu and a reading control menu to dictate the speed of the narration.
Improved Google Assistant on Lock Screen
While most Android users are probably accustomed to using Google Assistant while holding their phone, Google Assistant is also designed to be used when your phone is sitting on its charger across your desk or on the other side of the room.
This new update will improve that functionality with larger more legible cards popping up at the bottom of the screen when summoning Assistant with "Hey Google" or "OK Google" while your phone is locked. To make use of this new feature, you will just need to turn on Lock Screen Personal Results in Assistant in Settings.
Google Maps Dark Mode
This one is pretty self-explanatory. The dark mode that you are familiar with throughout the rest of Android will now be available in Maps allowing you to spare your eyes and battery life.
This will carry over your global dark mode setting or you can set it specifically in the app.
Android Auto UI and feature enhancements
Android Auto is getting a substantial update that will be available to all users running Android 6 or higher when connected to a compatible vehicle with Android Auto.
One of most notable additions is support for shortcuts on the launch screen that can give you quick access to your most used contacts or even more complex features set up with Assistant. Vehicles with a wide screen will be able to use a new split-screen mode allowing you to for example keep your Google Maps navigation on screen while also having your full media controls.
Other updates include support for custom wallpapers, new voice-activated games like "Jeopardy!" to keep you busy on long road trips. And when you have friends or family in the car and perhaps don't want all of your personal info to pop up on Android Auto you can now set a privacy screen for these times.
Stay in the know with Laptop Mag
Get our in-depth reviews, helpful tips, great deals, and the biggest news stories delivered to your inbox.
Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more. Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.