What you need to know
- Google has rolled out a new beta release for Pixel phones running Android 13.
- The QPR1 Beta 1 build includes some changes to audio, additional eSIM support, and more.
- Some animations hint at Google’s upcoming Pixel Tablet with Google Assistant docking features.
After a brief break from the Android 13 beta after the stable version rolled out in August, Google is back at it with QPR1 Beta 1, out now for Pixel smartphones.
The update isn’t a major one but should provide a look at some of the new features set to arrive in upcoming Pixel Feature Drops. For the uninitiated, Feature Drops are quarterly updates that Pixel smartphones receive that bring a host of features to the devices. The next one isn’t expected until December, but the latest beta build should provide some insight into what to expect.
Mishaal Rahman, senior technical editor at Esper, dove into the update to show off some of the changes Google has made with the beta.
One of the more interesting changes with the update is the new Safety Center, which combines the security and privacy hubs. According to Rahman, this wasn’t initially live, but he was able to get it working, suggesting the feature is just about ready for prime time.
He also notes that the update comes with the October security patch, even though the September patch only just rolled out.
Android’s new “Safety Center”, ie. the unified security & privacy settings, wasn’t live for me after updating, but after manually enabling it, it seems it’s ready to go live! There’s no longer placeholder text (“no problemo maestro” in the scanner. pic.twitter.com/759yu60Qc0September 8, 2022
Rahman also points out a few new audio-related features. Spacial Audio and Bluetooth LE Audio appear to be present in the update, although they don’t appear to work reliably.
There’s also a feature dubbed “Clear calling” that will help make calls much clearer by reducing background noise. However, the feature has some limitations, as it will not work with Wi-Fi calling and will be available on “most mobile networks.”
Another interesting tidbit includes references to the Pixel Tablet Google teased earlier this year. While the company did not provide many details about the device, a new animation found in the beta appears to give us more clues about Google’s plans for the tablet.
The animation shows a tablet device charging when set on what appears to be a dock. Additionally, while set on the dock, a separate animation shows the Google Assistant logo, suggesting that the Pixel Tablet may double as the rumored detachable Nest Hub device.
Other changes include additional eSIM support (on the heels of the iPhone 14 launch), a new animation for split-screen mode, a setting to display your Pixel’s battery health, and the return of Unified Search. You can check out Rahman’s Twitter thread for a better look at these features as he digs through them.
Additionally, developer Kuba Wojciechowski has dug into the code and apparently found references to a possible foldable device and a “higher-end tablet” that may differ from the one Google is gearing up to launch early next year.
The camera HAL, however, seems to indicate something completely different. “Felix”, F10, includes multiple references to folded and unfolded states, as well as outer and inner cameras. pic.twitter.com/YrwJ482hdzSeptember 8, 2022
We can probably expect some of the user-facing changes to appear in the next Pixel Feature Drop, although not everything is guaranteed to show up. As we get closer to December, we may have a better idea of what to expect.
For those not on the beta, enrolling is fairly simple. However, if you do enroll, you won’t be able to unenroll for quite some time without having to completely wipe your phone. That also goes for users still enrolled in the beta program, who are able to effortlessly duck out now if they haven’t yet installed the new beta.
Eligible phones include the Pixel 4a series up to the new Pixel 6a. Of course, try the beta at your own risk, as there are bound to be bugs, as documented by the release notes.
The Pixel 6a is the latest in Google’s mid-range smartphone lineup. That said, the powerful Tensor chipset gives this small phone big performance, nearly matching that of Google’s flagships but for a fraction of the cost.