Android 13 Developer Preview 1 is here with themed icons, privacy changes, and more

Android 13 Developer Preview 1 is here with themed icons, privacy changes, and more

Android is the largest operating system in the world. It powers over 2.5 billion smartphones worldwide, and every year it receives a new upgrade with improvements over the previous version. Google’s first developer preview of Android 13 is now live, bringing along a number of changes that benefit developers and making improvements to privacy, Material You, language controls, and more.

As the title “Developer Preview” implies, these releases are intended for usage by developers only. It’s for testing out new features and making sure that their apps work on updated devices as they’re supposed to. There are going to be bugs, there are going to be other problems, and Google will be pushing for feedback from developers over the coming months. If you don’t mind running into problems, then by all means, give Android 13 a try. However, if you rely on your smartphone being consistently stable, then it might be worth waiting for the full Android 13 release that’s expected to launch in the latter half of the year.

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The most notable features of Android 13 developer preview 1 include:

  • Updated privacy features: a new system photo picker that allows users to share specific images and videos with apps and a new Wi-Fi permission which helps minimize location data usage.
  • Themed icons: the dynamic app icons found in Material You will be extended to all app icons in Android 13, enabling developers to have a dynamic app icon that responds to users Material You setup.
  • Language controls: Android 13 will introduce a new API that will help developers identify their users’ preferred language, helping improve user experience and reduce the amount of boilerplate code required from developers.
  • Developer tools: Android 13 DP1 starts the work of refreshing Android’s Core Libraries to support Java 11. Many of the opt-in features in DP1 are also toggleable, so developers can more easily understand how each change individually affects their apps.

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When will Android 13 release?

For Android updates, Google typically reveals a “platform stability” milestone so that developers can know when Google intends on delivering the final SDK/NDK APIs, along with final internal APIs and app-facing system behaviors. Google intends on reaching platform stability in June 2022, with several weeks at minimum planned before the official release. Android 12 hit platform stability in August of 2021 and the final version was released in October of that year. Google has released more details about the release timeline that you can check out.


Updated privacy controls in Android 13

Google knows that users want an operating system that they can trust with their data. After all, smartphones have reached the point where they are effectively an extension of ourselves and our own lives in a lot of ways. We use them for storing important photos, having private conversations with friends and family, and carrying them with us day to day with the trust that microphones or cameras aren’t recording every interaction. Android 12 did a lot for user privacy, and Android 13 expands on that.

Photo picker API

First and foremost, Android 13 adds a new system photo picker, a standard and optimized way to share both local and cloud-based photos securely. The system photo picker is an extension of Android’s document picker, which allows a user to share a document in an app without that app having access to all of the documents on the device. Likewise, the photo picker API can be invoked without requiring access to all photos on the device. Google also plans to bring photo picker to all Android devices running Android 11 and higher, excluding Android Go devices, through Google Play system updates.

Android 13 photo picker gif

Nearby device permission for Wi-Fi

In previous Android versions, apps that needed to connect to nearby Wi=Fi devices needed to request the location permission, even if they didn’t need the device’s location to function. Google is now splitting that functionality into a new runtime permission called NEARBY_WIFI_DEVICES, and it’s a part of the NEARBY_DEVICES permission group. Apps targeting Android 13 can request the NEARBY_WIFI_DEVICES permission with the “neverForLocation” flag instead.


Developer tools in Android 13

Android wouldn’t be what it is without developers, and every platform update usually brings updates that make the lives of developers easier. Some updates definitely make it more difficult, but Google generally tries to streamline the development process of apps with every iteration.

Quick settings placement API

Quick settings are a great addition to Android, as they allow you to quickly toggle some aspect of your phone from just above the notification drawer. The problem is that sometimes, you find a new one that you can add from an app that you didn’t know had a quick settings toggle. Android 13 aims to help with that, as the new tile placement API allows an app to prompt the user with a button to add a custom quick tile to the quick settings.

android 13 quick settings tile placement API

Themed app icons are now accessible by developers

Google started beta testing themed app icons in the Pixel Launcher in Android 12, though it was clearly labeled “beta”. They hook into “monet”, the Android 12 theming engine that’s currently present on Pixel smartphones. With Android 13, app developers are actively encouraged to provide compatible icons so that end users can have a consistent experience on their home screen if they enable the feature.

Android 13 material you themed icons

Per-app language preferences

For multi-lingual users, it’s often the case that you may want to use some apps in one language, and other apps in another language. Some apps offer a choice of language to the end-user so that they can use the app in another language separate to the language their phone is in. However, in Android 13, you can now do that with a new platform API to set or get the user’s preferred language. A similar API will also be added to a future Jetpack library.

Faster hyphenation

Typically speaking, when a word fills up to the edge of a container (say, your phone’s screen) and wants to continue being written on the next line, you’d add a hyphen to where the word gets cut off before continuing on the next line. While it has been possible to have Android handle this for you in dynamic text wrapping, it was never advisable thanks to the performance hit that you would take in using it. As a result, it’s off by default.

Now though, Google says that the feature is much improved and boasts up to 200% performance increases so that there’s almost no impact on text rendering performance.

Programmable shaders

Android 13 adds support for programmable RuntimeShader objects, with behavior defined using the Android Graphics Shading Language (AGSL). AGSL shares much of its syntax with GLSL, but works within the Android rendering engine to customize painting within Android’s canvas as well as filtering of View content.

OpenJDK 11 updates

Android 13’s core libraries are brought up to date to the most recent LTS version of OpenJDK 11. There are both library updates and Java 11 programming language support for app and platform developers. These core library changes will also be distributed to end-users via Google Play system updates, as part of an ART module for Android 12 and newer.


App compatibility in Android 13

As smartphones change, specific form factors (such as foldables) introduce a problem to developers. How can a developer make their app work and seamlessly switch between two entirely different form factors on the fly, for example? How can an app reliably predict where a camera cut out is? These are problems that Google has been trying to solve by making it as easy as possible for developers to query the system and find out those specific parameters.

Not only that, but the company has also been introducing specific responsive design guidelines that developers should follow in order to ensure maximum compatibility across devices.

Google Play system updates

Google is expanding upon Project Mainline in Android 13 to further modularise core parts of the Android system. Google has already demonstrated how core parts of the system can be upgraded, such as the introduction of the photo picker API through Google Play system updates to older devices. With Android 13, Google has added both a Bluetooth and an ultra wide-band module.

Tablets, foldables, and Chromebooks optimization

Building on the momentum set in place by Android 12L, Android 13 includes optimizations for large screen devices like tablets, foldables, and Chromebooks.

Easier testing and debugging

To make it easier for developers to test individual Android 13 changes, Google has introduced a number of toggles in the developer settings. These toggles allow developers to force-enable or disable changes individually.

android 13 compatibility toggles


How to download and install Android 13 Developer Preview 1 on your Google Pixel device

You can easily download Android Developer Preview 1, and be sure to check out our guide on how to install Android 13 if you’re unsure of how to do so.

Google is officially releasing this developer preview update for the Pixel 6 Pro, Pixel 6, Pixel 5a 5G, Pixel 5, Pixel 4a (5G), Pixel 4a, Pixel 4 XL, or Pixel 4. You can use the 64-bit system images with the Android Emulator in Android Studio, and you can also use a GSI too.


What are your thoughts on the latest Developer Preview build? Will you be installing it on your device? How has your experience been? Let us know in the comments below!

About author

Adam Conway
Adam Conway

I'm the senior technical editor at XDA-Developers. I have a BSc in Computer Science from University College Dublin, and I'm a lover of smartphones, cybersecurity, and Counter-Strike. You can contact me at [email protected] My Twitter is @AdamConwayIE and my Instagram is adamc.99.

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