Google releases new apps and widgets to assist Android users

Among the new features are an AI-powered assistant widget and an app that describes images to people who have trouble seeing them.
Written by Lance Whitney, Contributor
The home screen of the Google Pixel 7a.
June Wan/ZDNET

Android users who fire up their phones will be able to find a few new apps and widgets designed with productivity and ease of use in mind. In a blog post published Tuesday, Google described the new features now available for certain Android devices.

First on the list is an AI-powered widget known as Assistant At a Glance. Available only on the Google Pixel 3 and up and on Android 12 or higher, this widget aims to deliver useful information directly to your home screen. You can tap into precise weather alerts, travel updates, and reminders for upcoming events.

Also: Google just gave Android's most frustrating widget an AI facelift, and it's such a relief

The new widget will automatically be enabled for Android devices that meet the requirements. To customize or turn off the At a Glance widget, press down on the weather forecast displayed at the top of your home screen and then tap Customize. At the Home settings screen, tap the gear icon for At a glance. You can now choose the type of information you want to see, such as earthquake alerts, package deliveries, ridesharing updates, and fitness results.

Assistant at a Glance
screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Next up is a feature aimed at people who are sight-impaired. Scrolling through photos in your library, in a group chat, or on social media can be challenging without knowing the content of the image. To deal with this challenge, an app called Lookout – Assisted Vision attempts to describe images in detail.

Also: The best Android phones: Tested and reviewed

After installing and launching the app, point your phone's camera at an object in front of you or open an image from your photo library. In response, the app will describe the image for you. Even further, a special Q&A feature lets you ask follow-up questions to help you better learn what's in the image. The Lookout app currently supports 34 different languages in which you can hear the descriptions.

Lookout – Assisted Vision
screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

A third new feature is a photo import for Google Wallet passes. With this one, you can add passes with barcodes or QR codes to Google Wallet by snapping a picture of them. Download and install Google Wallet if you don't already have it. Tap the button for Add to Wallet and choose the type of item you wish to add. Select or type the name of the card. Scan the barcode or QR code and tap the button to add it. The card is digitally stored and available for you to use whenever needed.

Photo import for Google Wallet passes
screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

For people who use Android Auto behind the wheel, Zoom and Webex are headed your way. With either app, you'll be able to start and join conference calls (audio only) and check your meeting schedules. Using Android Auto, you can mute your microphone when necessary and end the call when it's time to go.

Android Auto with Zoom and Webex
screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Also: Satellite messaging could be coming to Android 14

Finally, you can get the details on your Fitbit or Google Fit activity and sleep data when you wake up in the morning. To try this, add the time you went to sleep and the number of hours slept to your Good Morning routine. Then say: "Hey Google, good morning," and you'll hear a summary of your sleep activity.

Details on your Fitbit or Google Fit activity and sleep data
screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET
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