Google has made a habit of dropping Android developer preview releases in February, and this year is no different, Even though Android 12L is still in the oven, with a new beta released this week, Google has just released the first developer preview of Android 13.
This release is aimed at developers rather than the general public, but it gives us our first good look at the next major version of Google’s smartphone and tablet operating system… or rather, the one that will come after Android 12L, which is a modest update that brings an updated user interface optimized for tablets, foldables, and other devices with large screens.
Android 13 Developer Preview images are available for Google’s Pixel 4 and later phones and there’s also an image that can be set up in an emulator. But if you’re not a developer you probably don’t want to dive right in and install this on any of your devices. Sit tight at least until the beta releases become available. That’s expected to happen in late March or early April.
So what’s new in Android 13?
One of the biggest visual changes to appear is themed icons. It’s part of the Material You push and started taking shape in the Pixel Launcher in Android 12. The Monet theming engine is rolling out to everyone in Android 13 and Google is urging developers to add icons so that users can choose whether to use icons that match their system theme or stick with defaults.
Google is also making it easier to customize quick settings via a new tile placement API. In Android 13, apps will be able to prompt you to see if you want to add a tile to your quick settings.
While those are some of the more visible changes, there’s quite a lot going on behind the scenes in the Android 13 developer preview.
One of the most significant is that Google has begun updating the Android core libraries to support Java 11. These will eventually find their way to your devices via Google Play updates.
On a related note, Google has also continued the work that was begun with Project Mainline in 2019. Additional modules will allow Google to update even more functionality via Google Play services in Android 13, with support for things like the Bluetooth stack now existing as Mainline modules.
The photo picker is another such module. It now allows an app to select a single image or video for sharing without granting the app full permission to access a device’s storage. This particular update will also reportedly be shipped to older versions of Android, too.
Another permission-related change is a tweak to how Android 13 allows apps to see nearby WiFi devices. Apps like those used to set up robotic vacuums won’t need permission to access WiFi settings. Instead, the system will forward information to the app (presumably without handing over location data, as Ars Technica muses).
Android 13 also makes it easier for multilingual users to jump comfortably between their apps. Per-app language preferences have been added via a new API that allows developers to query or change settings independently of Android itself.
There are also improvements coming for tablets, Chromebooks and foldables — many of which popped up in the also-just-released Android 12L. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For more changes coming in Android 13, check out the Android Developers Blog or a deep dive article from Esper’s Mishaal Rahman.
Just keep in mind that Android 13 is still under development, and Google doesn’t expect to release the stable version of the operating system until this fall, so it’s possible that some features in the preview could change or be removed before Android 13 officially launches, while other features that we haven’t seen yet could still be added in the future.
via XDA Developers