Android introduces a series of new features to improve accessibility, personalization and productivity on various devices. One of the big announcements is that Nearby Sharing – Google’s AirDrop competitor – is getting a much-needed update that allows users to easily send files between their own devices.
After you agree to use the new feature on your Android phone or tablet, all transfers between those devices will automatically be accepted, even if your screen is off.
This car-sharing feature has been anticipated for a few months, and while we’re glad to see that file transfers will be easier, it’s still disappointing (though totally unsurprising) that the feature is limited to Android interactions at Android. An official release date for Car-Sharing has not been announced, but Google says the feature will be coming to devices in “the next few weeks”. (It’s unclear when exactly the other features mentioned in this update will go live.)
The new updates will also improve the accessibility of various Google services. Google Drive and Keep are getting redesigned widgets for devices with larger screens that will give Android tablet users direct access to Docs, Slides and Sheets files in the Google Drive widget, while the Keep widget will increase in size and size. font size, improving note taking for people with reduced vision.
There’s also an upgrade for Android’s sound notifications – a little-known feature that’s found in your device’s accessibility settings.
These sound notifications were originally intended to help people who are hard of hearing. Turn them on and your Android device will listen for sounds like fire alarms and knocks on your front door, creating a notification when it hears them. Now users can create Customs alerts by recording specific noises. So, for example, you can record the jingle your washing machine plays after it completes a cycle, and then whenever your Android phone, watch, or tablet hears that sound, it’ll send you a notification.
For those who use Google TV, the service also now has a curated content library with audio descriptions that you can find either by searching for the service manually or by using the voice-activated Google Assistant (it’s unclear exactly when this feature was launched).
Google Meet users will also have access to multi-pinning during calls, allowing you to keep your attention on multiple specific people within larger group meetings, such as the keynote speaker and an ASL interpreter.
Google Meet is also introducing live shared experiences such as games and co-watching on Android mobile and tablet devices. This feature can be used to play classics such as Uno, Kahoot!, and Heads up!as well as watch YouTube content with up to 100 people at once.
Text messaging on Android devices is also getting an update to “smart emoji suggestions” in Gboard, and Android will increase the emoji available for this feature by releasing new seasonal emoji mashups for Emoji Kitchen that will be available as of stickers.
Finally, if you happen to have a smartwatch running Wear OS, there are additional and fun features waiting for you as well. A Keep tile can now be added to your watch for on-the-go note taking, and your Bitmoji can be added to your watch face. This cartoon avatar will change its expression depending on what you are doing, the time of day and even the weather. So if you’ve been out for a run and got caught in the rain, your watch will look as miserable as you feel.
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