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(Pocket-lint) - It doesn't feel all that long ago that Google rolled out Android 12, but now the company is already on to the next thing. The first developer previews and beta versions of Android 13 are here, for those brave enough to try it. 

What is the Android 13 public beta?

  • Early version of the software for consumers to test
  • Should only be installed on secondary devices
  • It may have bugs, as it's not yet a stable (or public) release

Android 13 is a major mobile operating system update - but it's not yet available for consumers to officially install on their Android phones and tablets. It's in an early release stage at this point, which means people can test it, but it's not stable. The first early release  - the developer preview - arrived in February for developers, and the other - the public beta - arrived in April, allowing anyone to install Android 13 mobile devices to test.

We've since moved past the first beta, and more will pushed out at regular intervals until later in the year when they're eventually followed by a stable (or public) release of Android 13 for all new Android devices.

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When will Android 13 officially release?

  • First developer preview released 10 February 2022
  • Second developer preview released 17 March 2022
  • Public beta release date: 26 April 2022
  • Official unveiling: Google I/O 2022
  • Official release: Autumn 2022

Google released Android 13 developer previews throughout spring 2022. It moved to public beta releases in April 2022.

Google also showed a brief look during its opening keynote at Google I/O 2022 in May. The company currently expects the software to be stable by around the end of June 2022 or early July 2022. If Google sticks to that timeline, a public release of Android 13 should arrive around autumn 2022 for all newer Android devices.

How to install the Android 13 public beta

Anyone already running the developer preview should automatically receive the beta. Otherwise, you need to enroll your Pixel device to get the beta (more below).

Requirements

The Android 13 preview and beta are limited to running on Google's Pixel phones. That includes the Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro, Pixel 5a 5G, Pixel 5, Pixel 4a (5G), Pixel 4a, Pixel 4 XL, and the Pixel 4.

Enroll your device

If you have a compatible Pixel phone, you can install the beta now: Just enroll your supported Pixel device from here to get started. For complete details, visit the Android 13 developer site.

Beta updates

You will receive the first beta and all future beta updates over the air for free. In fact, Google said you can expect to receive up to two updates automatically per month for the beta you're enrolled in. 

Is it safe?

Pocket-lint suggests waiting until the stable (or public) release this autumn or at the very least using a secondary device to run the beta. That's because beta software isn't finished and may introduce bugs.

What's new in the Android 13?

Dave Burke, vice president of engineering for Android at Google, detailed a long list of changes included in Android 13 on the Android Developer blog. The new features include more theming options and privacy features, new language preferences, and several under-the-hood upgrades.

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Theming options

Android 13 is bringing dynamic app icons to all apps, not just Google’s. The themed icons feature lets app icons have a colour tint that matches your wallpaper - but app developers need to offer a compatible app icon. This feature is coming first to Pixel devices, but Google said it’s working with other manufacturers to release it more broadly.

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Privacy features

Android 13 has new ways it'll handle permissions and security. A new photo picker will let you share photos and videos with an individual app without giving the app permission to see all the photos on your device. Google plans to bring this feature to all phones running Android 11 and up.

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New media controls

One of the few visual changes made so far is the new media control, which shows an animated wave during music playback, and also fills the control widget with the album artwork. 

Under-the-hood upgrades

There are a lot of changes in Android 13, so far, that are not easily detectable. For example, a new Wi-Fi permission will allow apps to find and connect to Wi-Fi points without requiring location permissions. Google also said it's continuing to develop Project Mainline, its effort to deliver more updates via Google Play rather than at the OS level.

Language preferences

Android 13 language preferences will now include the option to work on a per-app basis. This is useful for multilingual users.

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Permission to send notifications

When Google released the second Android 13 developer preview, it included a major new feature: Apps will have to ask your permission to post notifications. Keep in mind iOS has offered a similar feature for years. It ensures only certain apps send you notifications. According to Google’s blog post, asking for permission will be a requirement for Android 13 apps. "Apps targeting Android 13 will now need to request the notification permission from the user before posting notifications," said Dave Burke.

Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) Audio support

Another big feature uncovered in the second preview is Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) Audio support. The new standard uses an audio codec - called the Low Complexity Communications Codec (LC3) - that can transmit at lower bitrates in higher quality. This should equal less energy consumption and a better battery life.

Writing by Maggie Tillman. Editing by Cam Bunton.