Developer Preview offers a first look at Android 13

A developer preview of Android 13 has been released that offers a first look at the new design of the mobile operating system and feature updates.

The preview is now available for download on all Pixel smartphones from the Pixel 4 to the latest Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. A full version of the OS isn’t expected until later in the year, presumably sometime in the third quarter, but a developer preview is often a good indication of what it will look like at the end.

At face value, the user interface does not appear to have any significant design changes, although there is a further expansion of “Material You”. Launched with Android 12, Material You is a customizable feature that takes color themes of a user’s background and applies them across all display elements, such as buttons, slides, and even Google icons.

For Android 13, the feature now includes all apps; For example, the WhatsApp icon will turn into a silhouette version and take on the colors of the wallpaper. It’s not a huge change technically, but it will be noticeable visually.

Android 13 privacy features

There are more substantial changes to privacy and security, with tweaks to how Android handles permissions. Many of these changes are intended to make it easier to create custom settings at the application level, rather than creating custom settings at the system level.

Photo Picker will allow users to share photos and videos with individual apps without having to allow the app to access their entire library. Alternatively, users can select specific content to share. Google says it plans to bring this feature to all phones running Android 11 and later.

A similar function is also available for applications to securely connect to Wi-Fi points. The new Wi-Fi permission feature allows apps to connect without requiring location permissions, which was a problem for apps that needed to connect to nearby Wi-Fi devices. Apps targeting Android 13 will now be able to request the “NEARBY_WIFI_DEVICES” permission with the “neverForLocation” flag instead, which Google says should help promote privacy-friendly app design.

Since it’s a developer preview, it also means new developer tools. This includes API functions for adding setup shortcuts directly to an app with custom tiles. The new system dialog allows the user to add the panel in one step, without leaving the app, instead of having to go to Quick Settings to add the tile.

There is also a “Language preference for each app” for apps that allow users to choose a language that is different from the system language. These apps can now use the new platform’s API to either set or get a user’s preferred language, which Google hopes will reduce standard code. This is where sections of the code are repeated in multiple places with little or no difference.

Developers will also be able to use quick hyphenation to make encapsulated text easier to read for a more adaptive user interface. According to Google, hyphenation performance will increase by up to 200% on Android 13. To enable it, developers can simply enter “fullFast” or “normalFast” frequencies.

How to access Android 13 changes

To make these changes, developers need to flash a system image to any Pixel 4 device onwards. However, if you don’t have a Pixel device, you can use 64-bit system images with the Android Emulator in Android Studio.

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