Android users get new features and emojis

Google has introduced numerous innovations for Android smartphones. These should be rolled out to many users within the next few weeks.

The Android operating system now not only gets new features with version updates. Instead, Google repeatedly introduces features that appear independently. Usually, it is at the end of the year – and 2021 is no different here. Just in time for the pre-Christmas season, Android smartphones receive a number of new features.

New smileys from the “Emoji Kitchen

Exactly one year ago, Google made the smiley kitchen public, with which users can merge individual emojis into a completely new one. For example, a snowman and a laughing smiley create a snowman with a laughing face. Previously, 14,000 combinations were possible, but now Google is adding a number of new options. Smileys can now be combined with gift boxes or animals, for example. However, the “Emoji Kitchen” function is only available with Google’s own Gboard keyboard. Those who do not have this can simply download it from the Play Store on an Android smartphone. First, beta testers will get the new options starting immediately. Within the next few weeks, all Gboard users will receive the update.

Google Photos can already create reminders from photos and videos for certain events or vacations. Starting this week, however, these reminders will appear directly in the photo overview in the appropriate time period. Users can edit them and, for example, remove certain pictures and videos and add others. Those who don’t like the feature, however, can remove the reminders from the photo grid altogether.

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New car key function for Android smartphones

Apple already turned the iPhone into a digital car key last year. Now Google is following suit and bringing this feature to certain Android smartphones. In addition to Google’s own Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S21, S21 Plus and S21 Ultra also support unlocking compatible BMW models. Besides unlocking and locking, starting via smartphone is also possible. For the time being, however, the function is limited to the models mentioned and certain markets. It is not yet clear whether other models will follow.

Android smartphones get new functions
Google turns Android smartphones into car keys Photo: Google Blog

But that’s not the only auto-focused new feature. You can now set Android Auto to start automatically as soon as you connect your smartphone to a compatible car. In addition, “Smart Replies” are supposed to come soon. This will allow Google Assistant to answer text messages for you at the touch of a button. A new always-on play button that permanently appears on the home screen also ensures even less distraction while driving. This allows music playback to be started with a single tap. In addition, a new search button is supposed to come soon, which will make voice control work even better.

Never forget anything again with “Family Bell”

Google Assistant already reminds users of certain events and appointments. However, this function is to be expanded with “Family Bell”. It is now possible to set different bell tones for different events – for the whole family or individual persons. Google gives the example of breakfast together, a reminder to the children to water the plants, or to pick up the kids from sports. You can set up the chimes on your Android smartphone and on smart devices. Google Assistant also makes its own suggestions, for example, for a movie night together.

Improved app permissions coming for older Android versions

According to Statista, more than 40 percent of Android users still have smartphones running Android 9 or older. That means these devices often don’t have privacy improvements. To counteract that a bit, billions of Android devices running Android 6.0 or newer are now getting a small update in app permissions.

Arguably, hardly anyone can remember which permissions every app has requested and received. Android 11 has a handy auto-reset function for this. It automatically revokes permissions from apps that have not been used for a while. If you open such an app, it has to ask for it again.


  • Google blog