What’s new in Android 13’s March 2023 Feature Drop, now in beta

Google only just released Android 13’s first Feature Drop, but the company is already hard at work preparing the next update, which is supposed to come out in March 2023. Just like that, the first beta for this second Quarterly Platform Release (QPR) is now out. While Google hasn’t spilled too many beans on what’s going to be new, avid experts took a look at what’s happening behind the scenes and which new features are going to be released as part of it.

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Foreign exchange interface

Visual changes are always the most noticeable ones, and there are a few tweaks available in QPR2 Beta 1. The quick settings tiles in the notification shade were moved up ever so slightly and sit closer to the clock and date now. When you expand them by swiping down, you’ll also notice that the clock increases in size as you swipe, while the date is moved below the clock. The mobile service provider is also displayed on top of the status icons in the right rather than next to them.

1st image: New media player animation. 2nd: Big clock in the notification shade.

Google can’t seem to stop tweaking the media player that sits in the notification shade, and Android 13 QPR2 isn’t any different. The new version of Android adds a foggy overlay to the album art that’s used as a background for the media player that animates when you first view the player. The animation just disappears after you look at it for a while, and it doesn’t respond to current playback at all, which makes us believe that it’s still under development and not finished.

Another notable change (or bug) also comes to the notification shade. When you swipe down on the lock screen without first unlocking, it will show a black background (even in light mode) and hide silent notifications altogether. In previous versions of Android, silent notifications wouldn’t appear on the lock screen, but they would show up again once you swipe down.

First pair of images: Notifications on the lock screen. 2nd pair: Notifications on the home screen.

As spotted by 9to5Google, the QPR2 beta’s Pixel Launcher made tweaks to icon density and padding. In folders, app icons are now further apart from each other, making it harder to hit the wrong one by accident. App icons on the home screen itself have also moved slightly up compared to previous Android 13 versions, complete with more padding on the left and right. This is also the case for the app launcher that you can access by swiping up anywhere on your home screen.

Desktop mode and partial screen sharing

Esper Android expert Mishaal Rahman uncovered further changes under the hood. As he mentioned in his roundup about Android 13’s December Feature Drop, work is continuing on the currently hidden desktop mode that was originally only meant for developers testing multi-screen environments. When you use desktop mode on this version of Android, there is a floating bar overlaid on top of floating or freeform windows, which offers options to minimize, maximize, enter split-screen mode, and more. This makes it clear that the company is trying to get the mode ready for consumers.

Google is also continuing work on partial screen recordings, which Rahman first uncovered in the current December Feature Drop. The option will allow you to pick a single window to record or cast, similar to how you can choose individual tabs or windows for sharing in video conference calls. On Android, you will be able to choose between single apps and full screen sharing.

New Material You theme

Another tidbit spotted by Rahman is a new Material You theme called “MONOCHROMATIC.” It isn’t available for use right now, but it’s already visible in the code. Judging by its name, it will probably be one of the most muted options you can choose. It will likely be similar to the “SPRITZ” option that was introduced with the first version of Android 13, a desaturated option that already feels monochromatic itself.

Miscellaneous

A big update like this also fixes up smaller issues. Some people report that their Pixel 7 Pro scrolling issues have been resolved, which used to be inconsistent for them. Then there are people who lost access to the new unified Security & Privacy settings pane, which seems to be related to the way Google rolls out that option (using Google Play services rather than system updates). There are even more bits and pieces found by Mishaal Rahman, collected for your convenience below.

  • The Google Pixel 6 Pro has received a 1080p display option with this update, similar to what the Pixel 7 Pro already offers.
  • Spatial Audio has been re-enabled for all supported Pixels (Pixel 6 series through Pixel 7 series). You might be able to notice a difference when you listen to spatial audio sample videos on YouTube with Spatial Audio enabled.
  • A new adaptive alert vibration option could reduce the strength of notification vibrations when your phone is lying flat on a surface with the screen up, though this feature isn’t live or accessible just yet.
  • There is further evidence that Google is developing software for its rumored foldable Google Pixel Fold: A new setting will be available for devices with side-mounted fingerprint sensors (which the Fold is rumored to feature), allowing you to only unlock your phone with it when the screen is turned on.
  • Google is considering separating the ringer and notification volume. In old Android versions, this has always been the case, but Google combined these two options on Pixel phones a long time ago.

Join the Android 13 QPR1 beta program

If you have a Pixel phone, you can join the Android 13 QPR2 beta program over at the Android website. Here, you will have to select the “View your eligible devices” option to pick the phone that you would like to enroll in the beta. As always, be aware that there might be bugs that outright break the way you use your phone, so proceed with caution and only if you can do without your Pixel phone in an emergency. If you prefer to sideload the beta, be sure to learn how to install the Android 13 beta.

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