The latest Android 13 update comes with some hidden secrets

Google may not release point updates for Android anymore, but the company still brings new features to the mobile platform every three months without a full version upgrade. These quarterly platform releases (QPRs) always offer a host of choice improvements, and Android 13 QPR1 is no exception. The extensive changelog gives us a great overview of what’s new, but it looks like Google is planning more features for all kinds of cool Android phones out there. Some features have been spotted under development in QPR1, such as partial screen sharing options, a revamped desktop mode, custom screen lock clocks, and more.

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Desktop mode, phone taskbar and tablet hub mode

As described by Esper Android expert Mishaal Rahman, Google is finally interested in putting the desktop in Android again. It was initially only offered to developers to help them optimize their apps for multi-monitor setups, but making it more of a rudimentary environment was left to device manufacturers. For example, Samsung offers its own branded DeX version. In Android 13 QPR1, Google is paying some special attention to it again. Developers can activate desktop mode more easily with a quick settings panel, and Google is internally testing different behaviors and layouts for free-form windows without maximize or minimize buttons, which are supposed to be replaced by gestures. None of this has been carved in stone yet.

In related news, it looks like Google is considering bringing the taskbar intended for devices with large screens to phones. The new developer tab allows you to replace the usual navigation bar with a taskbar, giving you access to your favorite apps (or pinned apps) at all times, and making it easier to enter split-screen mode. Mishaal Rahman hasn’t been able to activate this yet, but the proof is there. The tweet below explains what it might look like.

Google also continues to develop on tablets. The company is preparing new features for the Android screen, which will be able to display complications in addition to the usual clock that they provide you. The “smartspace” option will display important information in context, just as the At a -Glance widget does on the Pixel phones’ home screen and lock screens. There are also media options and home controls, which will fall below the complexity of At a Glance. The screensaver will also support a low ambient light mode, which is set to match the Nest Hub’s limit.

These developments are apparently related to the upcoming Google Pixel Tablet, which is supposed to act as a tablet and smart home display when installed on a potentially included stand. The exciting device may be officially joined by the Pixel Tablet Pro later, which some desktop mode features could target. Likewise, the quick Google Keep notes shortcut that Google is working on could be in the works for these devices as well.

Custom lock clocks, partial screen recordings, and more

For those who don’t like the two-line clock that Google has been offering on the Pixel lock screen since Android 12, it might be possible to change that soon. Google has long been spotted working on adding support for this — as early as Android 10, in fact — but the company seems to have lost interest. This has changed in Android 13 QPR1, where the new code indicates that we may soon see a Google app that will allow us to change the look and feel of the lock screen clock. Considering that Apple introduced powerful lock screen customization options with the latest version of iOS, it’s no wonder that Google is trying to offer a match.

Google may also make partial screen recordings possible in the future. This can be something that is mostly useful for tablets and other devices with large screens that regularly display more than just one app on their screen. It is definitely a stylish addition.

A few smaller changes are being prepared under the hood. Google may offer a more advanced VPN, though it’s not entirely clear what that entails at the moment. Then there’s the split-screen option for Android TV, which will live alongside the platform’s advanced picture-in-picture mode. On the vehicle side, Android Auto could get support for Immersive Mode, which would remove taskbars and other system navigation interfaces from the app. And last but not least, the company is preparing to port the Pixel’s Quick Tap gesture to Android Private Compute Core (PCC), which could mean there’s less potential for accidental data leaks from the sensors responsible for the feature.

Android 13 QPR1 release is obviously packed with features, but there’s a lot more that Google is preparing. As with anything in code like this, there’s no guarantee that all, or even any, of these features will make it to the stable version of Android. With Google working on releasing some new devices that could take advantage of exactly these kinds of features, it might really pay off. In the meantime, check out the best features in Android 13.

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