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My first impressions of the Android 13 beta

Jack Wallen has installed the first beta of Android 13 and, although there’s not much to see yet, came away seriously impressed with what Google has done with the operating system.

Image: quietbits/Shutterstock

The first beta of Android 13 is now available to the general public. I installed it on a Pixel 5 to get an idea of what was coming for the next release of the platform. I knew, going into this, that Android 13 would feel like a massive let-down after how dramatically different the previous iteration proved to be. It wasn’t as if Google was going to pull out another Material You to push the platform even further ahead.

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Instead, I assumed Android 13 would feel like the tiniest step forward for Google’s mobile operating system, and I was not wrong. Much of what is coming to Android’s latest upgrade is focused primarily on the backend, where users won’t see much difference. Truth is, the difference between Android 12 and 13 is almost impossible to discern … unless you pay close attention.

A new level of smoothness

The first thing I noticed with Android 13 is that everything seemed slightly smoother. It’s probably not as noticeable if you’ve not been using the platform for as long as I have, but with Android 13 animations are seriously smooth. Everything seems to effortlessly glide over the display like liquid. There’s no jitter, stutters or skips when navigating the UI on any level. For me, that’s a big step forward. I’m running Android 13 on a lesser-powered device (compared with my Pixel 6 Pro running Android 12), and 13 seems much more polished than 12 (which was already a major step forward from 11).

That should bode well for anyone looking to see improvement in the Android visuals department.

Random thoughts on Android 13 as I dive in

Beyond that initial infatuation with the smoothness of the UI, the next thing I noticed was the addition of a QR code reader quick tile (Figure A).

Figure A

This has been a long time coming, but it's finally here in Android 13.
This has been a long time coming, but it’s finally here in Android 13.

No longer do you have to go through Assistant or install a third-party app to scan a QR code.

The next thing I noticed will be a very welcome addition for fans of privacy (which should mean everyone). When you install a new app, the first time you open it you get to decide if the app can send you notifications (Figure B).

Figure B

A step forward in Android 13 for those concerned about privacy.
A step forward in Android 13 for those concerned about privacy.

Although you can already control what apps have access to the notification system, being able to configure that on the first run of every app makes this process considerably easier (and easier to not forget). Kudos to the developers for adding this important privacy feature.

There’s a fun little addition to be found in the media playback card within the Notification Shade. As a song plays, you’ll see a squiggly indicator showing how far the media has played (Figure C).

Figure C

Sometimes it's the little things in Android 13 that make you smile.
Sometimes it’s the little things in Android 13 that make you smile.

As far as the look of Android, one handy update is the ability to adjust the display and text size at the same time. If you go to Settings | Display | Display Size and Text, you can conveniently change the size of the font and display (Figure D).

Figure D

Changing both the display and font size is now handled in one convenient location in Android 13.
Changing both the display and font size is now handled in one convenient location in Android 13.

One thing that came up missing is the Search your Phone feature that is configured in Home Settings on Android 12. This option no longer appears in Android 13, and I’m unsure if this option remains or where to find it. In Android 12 you could enable/disable Shortcuts, People, Settings and Pixel Tips in your search results. Android 13? Not so much.

Speaking of Home settings, if you open that section in Android 13, you’ll notice that Suggestions has returned (Figure E).

Figure E

Suggestions are based on your recently used apps, most-used apps and routines in Android 13.
Suggestions are based on your recently used apps, most-used apps and routines in Android 13.

You can enable Suggestions in all apps list and/or on the Home screen.

One of the coolest features I’ve come across with Android 13 is the new clipboard editor. Let me set the stage: You visit a website and you want to copy/paste the URL. However, when you paste the URL you notice that it includes a long string of random characters that probably includes information you don’t want to share. With Android 13, you can actually edit the contents of the clipboard.

After you’ve copied the URL, you’ll see a small indicator at the bottom of your screen that includes an edit button (Figure F).

Figure F

Editing the contents of what you've just copied to Android 13's clipboard is but a click away.
Editing the contents of what you’ve just copied to Android 13’s clipboard is but a click away.

Tap the edit button, and you can then edit the contents before actually copying the asset.

The Conclusion

OK, so Android 13 isn’t going to be a massive release filled with myriad new features to wow and excite users. However, everything that’s being done under the hood, combined with the few new features that have been revealed with the first beta makes me really excited for this release. Android 12 was already the finest release of the platform to date. That Google is only adding some serious polish to what Android already had made for one seriously exciting update. I think every Android user will be thrilled with what’s coming. And given this is only the first beta release, you can be sure there’s more excitement to come.

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