Google might want to build smart displays with Android 13
Google’s software strategy for smart displays is currently all over the place. Most Nest Hub devices use a modified version of the Chromecast’s software (before the Google TV revamp), the original Nest Hub is running Fuchsia OS, and third-party displays with Google Assistant are powered by Android Things OS. Google might be looking to unify all those platforms under the umbrella of Android 13, based on new features appearing in the first two Developer Previews.
9to5Google reported on Thursday that Google is working on a new Nest Hub smart display with a detachable tablet mode, rather than a display that has to always be plugged into the wall. That’s not a far-fetched concept, given there have been other attempts at the idea (like Lenovo’s Smart Tab M10), and Esper’s Mishaal Rahman has pointed out some of the changes in Android 13 could be used for such a device.
Many of the features we’ve already seen pop up in Android 13 could be helpful for smart displays. Information overlays for screen savers would function like the Ambient Mode on the existing Nest Hub, new user profile features could be helpful in households with more than one person, and so on. There’s also a ‘hub mode’ in development that could improve how apps share data across profiles.
Perhaps the best evidence for the Nest-Hub-with-Android theory is a new feature for the SensorPrivacyManager API, which was added in Android 12 for apps to check if microphone or camera access is switched off. Google is working on an improvement for SensorPrivacyManager in Android 13 that will check the status of hardware toggles for the camera and microphone — which are non-existent on most Android devices, but present on every Nest Hub device.
There’s also a new “low light clock” in the code for Android 13, as seen above, which is shown when a device is docked and the ambient brightness is low. That’s more or less identical to the clock on Nest Hub devices.
We can’t know for sure that Google is working on an Android-powered smart display until it’s actually announced, but given 9to5Google‘s report and all the software features being added in Android 13, everything is lining up. Still, Google might just be building these improvements for third-party smart displays with Google Assistant, rather than a ‘Made by Google’ product.