Google announced the next set of features coming to Android, including a new password verification tool, a way to schedule text messages, along with other improvements to products such as its TalkBack screen reader, Maps, Assistant and Android Auto. This Spring 2021 release is the latest in a series of smaller update packages, similar to iOS “point releases,” that add new functions and features to Android outside of the larger update cycle.
On the security front, this update will integrate a feature called Password Verification on devices running Android 9 and above to alert you to passwords you are using that were previously exposed.
The tool works with Google’s AutoComplete, allowing you to quickly sign in to apps and other services on Android. Now, when using AutoComplete, Password Checkup will check credentials against a list of known compromised passwords, then notify if the credentials appear on that list and what to do about it. The message can also be directed to the Password Manager page in Google, where all other saved AutoComplete passwords can be reviewed for similar problems.
The new Messages feature implemented by this update could make text message users consider switching to Android, as it is one of the most requested features since SMS was invented: the ability to schedule text messages.
This Android scheduled sending tool will allow you to compose a message in advance and then schedule it to be sent later when the time is most appropriate. To use this feature, you simply type the text as usual, then press and hold the send button to select a date and time to deliver the message. The latest version of the Android Messages app will be required.
Another flagship feature arriving with this version of Android aims to make Android’s screen reader, known as TalkBack, easier to use for those users who are blind or visually impaired. TalkBack today allows users to navigate the device with their voice and gestures to read, write, send emails, share social media, place orders and more.
The updated version (TalkBack 9.1) will now include a dozen new multi-finger gestures for interacting with apps and performing common actions, such as selecting and editing text, controlling media or getting help. This will work on Pixel and Samsung Galaxy devices from One UI 3 and up, Google says.
Google is also responding to user feedback about TalkBack’s confusing multiple menu system and reverted to the single menu system that users wanted. This single menu will adapt to context while providing consistent access to the most common functions.
Other TalkBack enhancements include new gestures, such as swiping up and to the right to access more than 25 voice commands, and new reading controls that allow users to flip through a page, read headlines only, listen word-by-word or even character-by-character.
Users can now also add or remove TalkBack menu options or reading controls to further customize the interface to their needs. In addition, TalkBack’s braille keyboard added support for Arabic and Spanish. The update also adds minor improvements to Maps, Assistant and Android Auto.
Maps gets a dark mode that can be enabled as default. The Google Assistant update will allow the feature to be used when the phone is locked or further away by turning on personal results from the lock screen in Assistant Settings and then saying “Ok Google” as needed.
The new cards that appear when the phone is locked are intended to be easier to read just by looking at them, Google says. And finally, Android Auto will now include custom wallpapers and voice-activated games like trivia and “Jeopardy!” that can be requested via the “Hey Google” command.
There are now also shortcuts on the home screen to access contacts or use the Assistant to complete tasks like checking the weather or adjusting the thermostat, for example. Cars with larger screens will get access to a split-screen view with Google Maps on one side and media controls on the other.
Android Auto features will roll out in the coming days to phones running Android 6.0 or higher and will work with compatible cars, Google says.