These new features are coming to Gboard, Google Messages, Android Auto, and more!
Aside from Google I/O, it’s rare to see Google announcing new features for several of its apps and services at once. But that’s exactly what’s happening today. Google has just announced a host of new features for Gboard, Google Messages, Assistant, Android Auto, and more.
Starred messages in Google Messages
Let’s start with the Google Messages app, which is receiving the ability to star messages. We first saw this feature in an APK teardown in May this year, and it’s finally making its way to users. Starring a message will ensure you can access it quickly when you have to refer to it in the future. Other IM messages like WhatsApp have long offered the starring feature, so it’s good to see Messages finally catching up to them.
To star a message, simply long-press on the message. Starred messages will start rolling out to Android users in the coming weeks.
Contextual Emoji Kitchen suggestions in Gboard
Next up, Gboard will soon get contextual Emoji Kitchen suggestions. For starters, Emoji Kitchen is a feature in Gboard that lets users pick two different emoji and merge them into one to create unique stickers. For example, if you pick a snowman and cowboy hat, Emoji Kitchen will turn that into a sticker of a snowman wearing a cowboy hat. Meanwhile, combining Fire and “Smiling Face with Sunglasses” will depict the “This is fine” meme.
However, with this new feature, Gboard will now automatically display relevant stickers in Emoji Kitchen based on the context of your message. Contextual Emoji Kitchen suggestions are available in Gboard beta today and will be coming to the stable version of Gboard later this summer. It will work with messages written in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
“Hey Google” support for more apps
Back in October last year, Google added the ability to open and search within apps using the “Hey Google” command. Today Google is expanding this feature to more apps, including Captial One and Strava.
Users can now say, “Hey Google, pay my Capital One bill,” to jump straight to the relevant page into the app and complete the task. Meanwhile, saying “Hey Google, check my miles in Strava” will show your weekly progress right on the lock screen.
Voice Access: Gaze detection & enhanced password input
Voice Access, an app that lets users with motor impairment completely control their phone using just voice, is also getting some new improvements. With the new gaze detection feature, Voice Access now only works when you’re looking at your phone, allowing you to seamlessly switch between using your phone and talking to people.
Voice Access has also become a lot better at password input. You can ask it to capitalize certain letters and the name of symbols when inputting passwords.
Android Auto gets better messaging support and more customizations
Android Auto is adding more customization options. Now, you can personalize the launcher screen directly from the phone, manually set up dark mode, and browse content more easily with new tabs in media apps and a new A to Z button in the scroll bar. In addition, Android Auto now also supports EV charging, parking, and navigation apps.
Finally, you can now access all your instant messaging apps from the launcher screen and can send and read new messages hands-free using Google Assistant. These features will be available to all devices running Android 6.0 and above with a compatible car.
Android Earthquake Alerts System expands to more markets
Lastly, Google’s Android Earthquake Alerts System is now rolling out in more markets. The earthquake detection and alerts system, developed in partnership with United States Geological Survey (USGS), uses sensors of your Android phone to detect earthquakes around the world.
It first launched in the US last year and was expanded to New Zealand and Greece recently. Now, it’s going live for Android users in Turkey, the Philippines, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Users in these markets will receive automatic early warnings on their phones when there’s an earthquake in their area.