Android 13 is a subtle improvement over Android 12

Android 13 is here for Google’s Pixel devices, and if you have a compatible model, you can get the software now by requesting the over-the-air update in the settings panel. The software update is available for Pixel 4 and later, including the latest version of Pixel 6a. Please note that this is a phased rollout, so you may not have access to the update yet.

We cover Android 13 changes in each version of the beta. But if you still have Android 12 or earlier, you may be wondering what the new features will look like. There isn’t much that stands out in terms of interface design. While Android 13 is essentially the refined version of what Android 12 tried to be, you might have a hard time figuring out what’s new. I reviewed Android 13 on a Pixel 6 Pro and Android 12 on a Pixel 5 to find some of the main differences. This is what I managed to discover with the first release of Android 13.

Note that this is not what the software will look like when it becomes available for smartphones made by companies like Samsung and OnePlus, as they use custom versions on their respective devices. Android 13 is still on its way to those smartphones.

How to update to Android 13 on your Pixel device

Photo: Florence Ion/GizmodoPhoto: Florence Ion/Gizmodo

Alright, first things first: If you want Android 13 on your compatible Pixel smartphone, you’ll need to find out if it’s already rolled out for you. That depends on things like your carrier, but you can see if you can download the update by going to your settings panel and requesting it.

If you were on the Android 13 beta, you may have already received the software update notice. But if you weren’t signed up for the program, don’t be surprised if you still don’t see the ability to install Android 13.

I encourage you not to bother with the Android developer tools to force the update on your device, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. You can still enroll your Pixel devices in the Android 13 beta if you’re desperate for the update.

Enjoy the freedom of app notifications

Screenshot: Florence Ion/GizmodoScreenshot: Florence Ion/Gizmodo

I’m happy to announce that by default, apps won’t bother you in Android 13. In Android 12 and earlier, if you wanted to close an app, you had to go deeper into the app’s settings and close it manually. App notifications are now turned off by default until you allow them, either through a popup when you first install the app or through the standard settings menu.

QR codes on the notification screen

Screenshot: Florence Ion/GizmodoScreenshot: Florence Ion/Gizmodo

It looks like QR codes are becoming the norm for restaurant menus, so you might as well give in and pin the option to Quick Settings on your notification screen for quicker access.

On Android 13, drag down the notification shade, tap the edit icon, and then drag to add the Scan QR code direct access to your quick settings list. When you need it, tap on it and it will quickly launch the scanning option. It’s much more accessible than previous versions of Android, which required you to launch the Google Assistant app or go to the camera app and select the QR code shortcut.

Media output selector with a fresh new coat of paint

Screenshot: Florence Ion/GizmodoScreenshot: Florence Ion/Gizmodo

The big theme in Android 13 is that it’s the solidification of the Material You design paradigm. So when you enter the playback output selector, you’ll see a much more polished-looking selection panel in Android 13 than in Android 12.

Dive into the aesthetics of matching app icons

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Google’s Android OS doesn’t yet allow you to change your icon pack from one of the many floating around the Play Store. At least Android 13 now offers a matching icon pack to keep things looking more consistent, as long as the third-party app developer you’re using is targeting the latest APIs.

You can enable matching icons from the Wallpaper and style menu by activating the theme icons feature, which still appears to be in beta. Note that Pixel devices on Android 12 will also see this capability appear as a beta feature, but it may not work as well with third-party apps as it does on Android 13.

Change the language of specific applications in Android

Screenshot: Florence Ion/GizmodoScreenshot: Florence Ion/Gizmodo

My bilingual butt was excited to finally try multilingual app settings, which weren’t available in the Android 13 beta. Settings board under languages ​​and inputtap on Application languages to go through and change the language in a specific application. Unlike Gboard, which allows you to change the input language, this will change the language in menu items, prompts, and dialogs. This feature is limited to just a few apps at the moment.

Choose a screensaver

Screenshot: Florence Ion/GizmodoScreenshot: Florence Ion/Gizmodo

If you use accessories like the Pixel Stand 2 or want to watch something while your phone charges nearby, you can set up one of Android 13’s new screen savers. Previously, Android 12 only offered one option, the clock, but Android 13 offers three new ones: colors, news and weather, and photos. Only two are customizable.

To access the screensaver, go to Display > Screen saver > current screensaver. Then tap an option. You can choose between a digital or analog clock if you choose the clock option, while the colors will cycle through the rainbow. If you select Photos, you can choose which Google account or locally stored folder to pull images from. The news and weather option cannot be customized.

When you’re done choosing your screen saver, don’t forget to select When to start. Choose from three options: while charging, while dockedeither While charging or docked.

A great unfinished media player

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I can’t help but think of what I read from Ron Amadeo of Ars Technica, who tweeted about unfinished app icons in the new Android 13 media player. In fact, the newly created media player, which is larger and includes album art in the background, appears to still be “in progress” depending on the app multimedia. Regardless, it looks better than what Android 12 had before.

The easter egg is different with each version of Android

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An undeniable significant change in each version of Android is the easter egg that lives inside the settings panel. You can access it under About of the phone > Android version. Tap the Android version multiple times until you see an analog clock spring up. Set the clock to 1:00 p.m. (or 1:00 p.m. for Americans) and you’ll see the number 13. Circle the number 13 with your finger to bring up different emoji, in the style of Emoji wallpaper.

Some Android 13 features are still missing

Photo: Florence Ion/GizmodoPhoto: Florence Ion/Gizmodo

Android 13 offers a lot of changes that can’t be captured visually (MIDI 3.0 support, Bluetooth LE Audio, and spatial audio come to mind), but some features still haven’t been broken since the beta.

According to 9to5Google, we’re still missing a unified search capability from Pixel Launcher, which allows you to search for your device based on the search bar on the home screen. In Android 12 and earlier, the search bar is different from the app drawer, and it’s annoying to have to tap all the way to the Right search bar to search your device. The praised and revamped security and privacy center has yet to appear in the settings menu. And the announced cross-device messaging and copy-and-paste features between Android and Chrome OS aren’t yet available, though they should roll out sometime this fall.

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