Android 13 has been in development for the past year as the next major upgrade for the best Android phones. Now the update is finally starting to roll out to select phones.
What’s New in Android 13?
Android 13 isn’t another design overhaul, like Android 12 was — instead, Google focused on smaller usability improvements and security upgrades. There are a few design changes, like an updated media player in the quick settings panel, and support for themed icons that match the wallpaper color. Device makers might change how each feature looks for their phones, though. The taskbar for large screens introduced in Android 12L has also been improved, with a built-in app launcher and other features.
Android 13 has many small changes throughout the operating system, which all add up to a better experience. You can now set different languages for individual apps, use Spatial Audio on supported devices and headphones, use Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) Audio, record HDR video in third-party camera apps, and more. Bluetooth LE Audio support is especially important for future wireless earbuds and headphones, as it can reduce battery drain and latency on Bluetooth audio on supported devices.
Google has also updated Android’s permissions again. Applications now must explicitly ask to send you notifications — just like on iPhone and iPad. You could already block notifications from apps on Android, but apps can’t send them by default anymore. Google is also introducing a new photo picker intended to replace the less-secure READ_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission.
Google said in its announcement, “Android 13 helps ensure your devices feel unique to you — on your terms. It comes jam-packed with new capabilities for your phone and tablet, like extending app color theming to even more apps, language settings that can be set on an app level, improved privacy controls and even the ability to copy text and media from one Android device and paste it to another with just a click.”
Even though Android 13 has many changes, some of them (especially design updates) won’t be present on all devices. Google allows device makers to customize Android, which is why using a Google Pixel and using a Samsung Galaxy phone can be vastly different experiences. Samsung’s version of Android 13 (One UI 5.0) will include stackable widgets, new sound options, more accessibility settings, and other tweaks in addition to Google’s changes.
When Will I Get Android 13?
As usual, Google Pixel phones are the first to receive Android 13. Android 13 is arriving on the Pixel 4 and newer, including the 4a budget series and newer. The Pixel 3a and 3a XL have officially been left behind, as they received a final update earlier this year, and support for the Pixel 3 and 3 XL ended in February.
Google said in its announcement, “later this year, Android 13 will also roll out to your favorite devices from Samsung Galaxy, Asus, HMD (Nokia phones), iQOO, Motorola, OnePlus, Oppo, Realme, Sharp, Sony, Tecno, Vivo, Xiaomi and more.”
Samsung usually takes a few months to complete its major Android updates after they are released from Google. There was a three-month gap between the release of Android 12 and the global rollout of One UI 4.0 (Samsung’s version of Android 12). However, this year’s rollout could be quicker if no last-minute bugs are discovered — last year’s One UI 4 beta wasn’t released until September, but the One UI 5 beta for Android 12 arrived earlier this month.
Besides Google’s own Pixel phones, we don’t know precisely which phones and tablets will receive Android 13, and which ones will be left behind. Samsung’s mid-range and flagship phones and tablets now get at least three years of major Android updates, starting from when the device was released, and select newer models get four years of updates.