Right on schedule, the first beta version of Android 13 has now been released by Google, but as usual this first release is a developer preview, so it’s not designed for consumers.
In fact, if you download it and you aren’t a developer then you probably won’t see much that’s new or different, as the initial changes are largely hidden features aimed at developers.
Highlights of this release include a photo picker tool, which allows users to select media files (such as photos) without having to grant the app they’re in access to their entire media library. So that’s aimed at maintaining your privacy and not giving apps more access than they need.
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There’s also a new ‘Nearby device permission for Wi-Fi’, which allows apps to discover and connect to nearby devices over Wi-Fi, without also needing access to your location. So again, this is a feature that has privacy in mind.
Another change is the ability for the color of all app icons to match your theme if you’re using a Pixel phone.
Currently, Google’s dynamic theming will change the color of app icons and other interface elements to complement whatever wallpaper you use, but it doesn’t work with third-party apps. With Android 13 it will, though developers will need to provide compatible icons. Google claims this support will eventually come to other phones too.
There are also other tools very much aimed at developers, like a simplified process for adding custom Quick Settings tiles, while one other user-facing change is a per-app language preference, so you don’t need to have all apps defaulting to the same language, which could be handy if you’re multi-lingual (or trying to be).
That’s about it. If you have a Google Pixel 4 onwards then you can grab this preview, but we’d strongly advise you don’t if you’re not a developer. It won’t be stable, and as you can see, there’s not much here for you. We’d expect more exciting features will appear in public betas.
Analysis: the Android 13 roadmap
Alongside this beta, Google has handily released a roadmap for its Android 13 plans, so we can see that the first public beta will probably land in April, with the software becoming stable in late June or early July. This might coincide with Google I/O, where the company typically reveals a bunch of big features for its upcoming OS version.
The final release then looks like it might land in September, though October is possible too, as that’s when Android 12 was released.
We wouldn’t really suggest grabbing any of the betas before Google reaches platform stability, but at a minimum you should probably wait for the first public beta in April.