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Android update brings privacy features
© Tomasz Śmigla |
Smartphones & gadgets

Android update: New privacy feature, family reminders and more

The latest version of Android has been rolling out since October on Google Pixel phones and is now available for Samsung Galaxy devices.

Other users are still waiting for Android 12 to be available, bringing new security features such as a Privacy Dashboard. Tap or click here to check out new Android settings to protect your privacy.

Some new Android features are coming ahead of the widespread release of the next version of the OS. The focus is security and personalization. Read on to check out what’s coming.

1. App permissions privacy boost

App permissions dictate which phone features an app has access to. This can include the ability to read data, use storage or access your contacts list, camera or microphone.

You can grant or deny permissions for each app, though this may limit the app’s functions. For example, a camera app will need access to your camera, of course, but does that old mobile puzzle game need it?

Google is upping your Android phone’s privacy by automatically turning off permissions for apps you haven’t used in a while. You’ll get notifications after permissions are reset, and you can always turn them back on anytime you want through the app or phone settings.

The feature will soon expand to devices running Android 6.0 and higher along with Google Play services.

Related: 7 new Android 12 features to simplify your day-to-day

2. Android Auto updates


Android Auto mirrors some of your phone’s features onto your car’s dashboard displays. This includes apps for music, telephone messaging and navigation. With the holiday update, you can set Android Auto to automatically launch when you connect your phone to a compatible car.

Smart reply options will let you respond to texts more easily using Google Assistant. A single tap of the new always-on play button enables you to access your favorite music from the Home screen. You’ll also be able to use your voice to search for music by tapping the search icon and speaking the artist or song’s name.

You can use your Android phone to lock, unlock and start your compatible car. Digital car key is now available on Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro, and Samsung Galaxy S21 for compatible BMW vehicles.

3. Family Bell

Google’s Family Bell feature is a reminder system that sends bells and notifications to you and your family according to a schedule you set. This could be wake-up calls, dinner time, bedtime alerts or whatever you can think of. You can also set individual bells on your device for reminders.

Google suggests holiday-centric bells for watering the tree, gathering the family to watch a movie or volunteering for charity. We’re sure you can come up with others on your own based on your family’s holiday traditions.

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4. Memories in Google Photos


Google Photos is getting a new Memories function that shows a curated selection of photos and videos from holidays like New Year’s Eve and Halloween, along with other important dates like birthdays and graduations. Find these collections in your photo grid.

You can rename, personalize, correct or remove memories as needed.

Other updates

Widgets let you take a glance at the content and information from your apps right on your Home screen, and Google is adding three festive options for this time of the year.

  • The Google Play Books widget is a shortcut to your collection of books and audiobooks.
  • The YouTube Music widget gives you playback controls and recently played tracks on your Home screen.
  • A new Google Photos widget lets you choose pictures of people and pets from your library to display on your Home screen.

Emoji Kitchen lets you combine emojis into stickers to share with the special people in your life over the holidays. You can wrap a Christmas tree in a gift box, for example, or change a dog’s expression.

There are thousands of new additions with this latest update. You’ll need the Gboard virtual keyboard app to use this function. It may have come preloaded in your phone, but if not, you can get it for free from the Google Play Store.

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