This week’s newsletter is going to be a little different than previous weeks’. Mishaal and I are both out, so instead of your usually scheduled programming, we put together a list of the top features in Android 13 that deserve specific attention. We have a list of the top five features for everyday users, the top five for developers, and the top five that you’ll almost certainly need new hardware for. 

We hope you enjoy this detailed look at these upcoming features, and we’ll be back to our regular content next week! 

Top 5 features for all users

  • A more useful taskbar: Large screen devices like tablets have a lot to gain with Android 13, as the update brings a much improved taskbar with an app drawer, app predictions row, and search bar.
  • An enhanced clipboard: Android 13 will show you a preview of text or images you copy to the clipboard in an overlay at the bottom left. You can tap the pencil icon to edit the text or image, and the overlay can even show smart actions for URLs, addresses, or phone numbers. Plus, the system will automatically clear the clipboard after 1 hour, so you don’t have to worry about apps snooping your private data.
  • Better control over notifications: Apps will need to ask you for permission before they can post notifications in Android 13. This may cut down on spammy advertisements from apps.
  • Built-in QR code scanner: You don’t need to download an app to scan QR codes in Android 13 because the update adds a Quick Setting tile to launch the new QR scanner built into Google Play Services.
  • Per-app language preferences: With this feature, you’ll be able to set a different language for each app, provided the app supports that language. You’ll no longer need to change the system language or hope an app offers its own language settings!

Top 5 changes for developers

  • A new runtime permission for notifications: You can’t assume your app can post notifications anymore, because Android 13 reworked how notifications work. You’ll need to convince the user to grant your app access – consider asking them in context with an introductory screen.
  • Back navigation is getting predictive, but the system can’t do it without your help: Android is changing the way back events are handled so the system can show the user their destination before taking them back. Are they going back to the home screen, or up the back stack? Though the new back behavior isn’t mandatory in Android 13, it will be in Android 14, so you should get your apps ready now.
  • Background work gets more complicated…again: Google’s war on background processes rages on, with new concessions and restrictions. There are new APIs to set a job’s priority and enhancements to prefetch jobs. On the other hand, there are new limitations on background restricted apps, exact alarm APIs, and job scheduling.
  • Foreground service notifications have a new home: If your app has a foreground service, you need to be aware of the new task manager feature. The FGS task manager shows all running foreground services and even lets users stop them. You need to be prepared for what happens when the user stops your foreground service via the task manager, because it’s different from other ways it could be stopped.
  • New permissions to access media files: If your app uses media store APIs to access media files owned by other apps, it needs new permissions to do so in Android 13. The READ_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission has been deprecated and split into three new permissions for accessing audio, image, and video files separately.

Top 5 features you’ll probably need new hardware for

  • Bluetooth LE Audio: Support for this next-gen Bluetooth standard may be baked into Android 13, but you’ll still need a device and headset that support it at the hardware level. If you do have compatible hardware, BLE Audio brings a lot to the table, including high audio quality with low power requirements and multidevice audio streams.
  • Dual SIM with an eSIM: Android 13 will make it possible to enable multiple SIM profiles stored on a single eSIM, so you won’t need to have a SIM card for dual SIM functionality. Unfortunately, there are still relatively few devices with eSIM support, but there’s a way around that.
  • Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking: Spatial audio is the hot new thing in audio, and with head tracking, it can really feel like the audio is coming from all around you. While spatial audio by itself doesn’t require special hardware, adding head tracking to the mix requires sensors in your headset.
  • Virtualization: Want to natively run a Linux distro on your phone, or how about Windows? With KVM support and Android 13’s new virtualization framework, it’s possible. The only problem is that very few phones ship with KVM support.
  • WiFi 7: The IEEE’s next-gen WiFi standard is coming a lot sooner than you think, and it’ll bring substantial improvements to bandwidth and latency. You’ll not only need a new phone or tablet but also new networking gear, because nothing supports the standard yet.

Honorable mentions

These are our top picks for the Android 13 features and changes that users and developers should be aware of, but there’s a lot, I repeat, a lot more in the update. If you want all the details, there’s no better place than our Android 13 deep dive.