Google Brings More Pixel Features to All Android Phones

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A rendered illustration showing a sampling of the new Android features

Some Pixel-only features are now rolling out to more Android phones.
Image: Google

It’s almost time for the official release of Android 12, but Google isn’t saving every feature for the public launch. Today the company announced a handful of new abilities coming soon to Android, Google TV, the Assistant, and Gboard, including some that were previously exclusive to Google’s own Pixel lineup.

The Pixel features rolling out soon to Android phones include the Heads Up ability in Digital Wellbeing, which alerts you if it detects you’re walking and using your phone. And whether you’re using a OnePlus smartphone or a Samsung device, you’ll have access to the password-protected Locked Folder available in Google Photos.

Gboard users across all devices will get more copy-and-paste capabilities, including a few that were only for the Pixel. You can already access images and links in the Clipboard, and Gboard will eventually start to extract phone numbers, email addresses, and links into separate items as you copy them. Gboard will also store recent screenshots in the clipboard, which was a feature announced at Google I/O earlier this year. And all versions of Gboard will get the Pixel’s Smart Compose feature for every device running Android 11 and up.

Google today is also introducing new accessibility features to make Android more usable to folks with physical impairments. Camera Switches is a Switch Access feature that allows people to use their phone’s front-facing camera to navigate with eye movements. The feature joins another, Project Activate, which lets you program facial gestures and eye movements to trigger shortcuts for tasks like sending prewritten text responses. Both of these accessibility features were found previously floating around in the Android 12 beta but are officially rolling out more widely.

One of the new accessibility features in Android lets you scroll with your eyes or facial gestures.
Gif: Google

The beta also gave us a glimpse at the varying Nearby Share permissions, now available to everyone else. Nearby Share lets you choose to send photos or links to everyone with an Android phone within your vicinity, select contacts, or no one at all. I’d advise you to choose the latter two options if you don’t want any random pics popping up on your phone—after all, we’ve seen what’s happened to Apple’s AirDrop users in the past.

Google TV users are getting a helpful little feature that will make it easier to find something to watch without looking for the remote. Google has built remote control features directly into Android, inside the Google TV app. There’s also a Quick Tile, so you can easily pull down your notification shade to enter remote control mode. The ability had been discovered by 9to5Google just a few days ago.

Google’s promotional video for the Assistant’s new Reminders ability.

If you’ve ever wanted to bring up your reminders on your smart display a little more easily, Google added a Reminders hub to the Assistant. You can pull it up by saying, “Open my reminders,” and the Assistant will present you with the list of things you reminded yourself to do. Eventually, the Assistant will start to offer suggestions for reminders based on your activity.

There are also some changes coming to Android Auto, which I wrote about in more depth here.

The accessibility features will be rolling out this week, with Google’s other Android features landing in the coming weeks.



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