Google Announces A Slew of New Updates

Published · May 21, 2021

Google announced dozens of upcoming technologies at its I/O event this week. Some are upgrades to current devices and software, while others introduce completely new things.

A Massive Android 12 Update

Android 12 is the “biggest design change in Android’s history,” as the tech giant described it.

The new “Material You” design offers more personalization than ever. The color scheme can be adjusted based on factors like the wallpaper, time of day, and the weather.

There’s more than pretty colors, though. Google implemented significant UX changes, providing a better overview of notifications and access to critical settings in just one swipe. Meanwhile, the CPU and power expenditure of the OS are decreased.

Privacy and Security Changes

Google also announced recent changes in the app permissions.

Users will now see hard-coded visual cues whenever an app accesses essential functions of their phone, like the camera, microphone, clipboard, or location details. The days of taping over a device’s camera to protect one’s identity are over.

More granular location sharing is available too. Users can share their exact location with some apps, such as Uber, while revealing only the area to others, like weather apps.

The new Android version will feature a unified privacy dashboard. It will let users see and revoke permissions in a few taps.

The update is making strides in user privacy. Although it can’t compete with the iOS anti-tracking tools, the permissions dashboard is a huge step in the right direction. But for now, people need to rely on private network services like ExpressVPN for their online security.

Google’s password manager gets more features, too, like stronger sharing capabilities and notifications for compromised accounts, and automatic updates of passwords on specific sites.

This is a step toward Google’s idea of removing passwords altogether and using different ways of authentication to eliminate the dangers of phishing and identity theft.

Boost to Camera and Photo Features

The tech giant also announced many changes in the way it handles images.

The smartphone camera algorithms will be more inclusive, adjusting the white balance to depict different skin tones more accurately.

The AI photo collection tool in Google Photos—the photo storage app—gets a piece of the pie too.

The album generation feature will exclude certain photos or time periods based on user preferences. Complaints about Google’s reminders of negative memories triggered this particular decision.

A new medical feature will let people take a photo of themselves and identify skin conditions. It can assess the severity of the condition and suggest further steps.

The Google team also demonstrated how to create an AI-generated video by taking a few photos close to one another.

However, many people think the feature dips into the uncanny valley. It remains to be seen how it will perform in a real scenario.

Should Tech Enthusiasts Get Excited?

A few more innovative features include Google Keys, a tool for using a phone as a car key. For starters, the solution will appear on Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy phones and will work on BMW models.

Project Starline ups the video conferencing experience by creating a 3D model of the person in the feed. Unfortunately, this technology is not yet rolled out to the public.

Goodies for Developers

Technology professionals have a lot to look forward to as well.

The new version of Flutter, the UI software development kit, features security updates and tools for caching using service workers. A bespoke payment system for Flutter apps is reportedly in the works too.

Android devs get another surprise with the new Android Studio entering beta. Its primary focus is on adding more accessibility tools for users with disabilities.

Firebase gets a whole host of new features as well, including better analytics, a new security tool, Remote Config update, and support for the Android App Bundle format. It’s a massive update to an already impressive service.

Branko Krstic
Branko Krstic

Branko is a round-the-clock tech geek and loving it. His ideal vacation destination is the Akihabara District (or really any place he can take his computer). If there’s a server out there, count on him to find out what it’s made of… and tell you all about it.