These 11 new features are coming to your Android phone, smartwatch, TV, and more

If you're embedded with the Android ecosystem, these new features are about to improve how those devices function and how you work with them.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro
June Wan/ZDNET

Google is always working to make Android a more user-friendly and helpful ecosystem. From phones, tablets, watches, and even TVs, there's always something new to be found. 

Also: Google's new AI Core update for Pixel 8 Pro will boost its powers and performance

And with upcoming updates to those devices, you'll find 11 new features ready to simplify and expand your way of enjoying and using them. Let's take a look at these new features.

1. New emoji and Kitchen stickers

Once Gboard is updated, you'll find a new season of emojis and Kitchen sticker combinations to use. From the default Android keyboard, you'll be able to remix your favorite emoji and share them as stickers.

2. Voice Moods

There's a new beta feature in Google Messages, called Voice Moods. This feature adds a unique background and moving emoji theme to voice messages. When a recipient listens to a voice message in Google Messages, they'll also be able to view emoji you've added to help express how you feel at any given moment.

3. Better reactions in Google Messages

Are you prone to simply reacting with a thumbs-up in Google Messages? To me, that's always seemed a bit lazy. Fortunately, Google is doing something about that. Although this is another feature in beta, you'll be able to add a full-screen animate emoji as a reaction (instead of the worn-out thumbs up).

Android December feature updates

4. New free channels coming to Google TV

Google TV will soon be receiving 10 new free channels that offer content ranging from movies, sports, and game shows. This will be in addition to the over one hundred free channels already available (instead of serving as replacements).

Also: How to mirror your Android phone to a TV -- 3 easy ways

5. Control more smartphone devices from Wear OS

Wear OS will soon gain control over more compatible devices that you'll be able to turn on and/or dock. You'll even be able to control compatible vacuums and mops from your watch for a truly futuristic experience. As well, you'll be able to better set the mood by controlling light groups for dinner, focus time, or just about any occasion…all from your wrist.

6. Let your smart home devices know you're leaving or arriving

Have you ever wanted your smart home devices to automatically know when you're leaving or arriving, all from your watch? With these upcoming updates, Wear OS will be able to communicate to those devices that you've left or come back home and automatically turn lights off or on.

Also: Gmail comes to your Wear OS watch: Here's how to get it and which watches support it

7. Wear OS Assistant Routines

Another feature to be found on Wear OS is Assistant Routines. With simple voice commands, you'll be able to get more done while on the go. Once you've created a routine, you can say something like, "Hey Google, commuting to work" and Wear OS will enact whatever routine you've created for that command.

Google WearOS updates

8. More secure logins

You can now set a custom PIN on your FIDO2 security keys for websites or apps, which will allow you to log in without having to enter a complicated password. Because you've associated a PIN with the key, even if you lose that key, no one will be able to use it against you (unless they know your PIN).

9. Assistant At a Glance day management

The Android At a Glance feature (found on your Android home screen), shows you what you need, when you need it. With a Wear OS update, you'll be able to view that same information on your watch face.

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

10. AI image descriptions

The Android TalkBack tool will soon use AI to generate descriptions of images, to empower those with vision impairments. It doesn't matter if the image is a photo taken by the phone's camera, an image from an app, webpage, or social media…TalkBack will be able to describe it.

11. More features coming to Live Captions

If you use the Live Captions feature, over the next few weeks, it will not only have access to more languages, it will also be able to reply during phone calls (by texting a response), which will also enable users to take calls without needing to hear them or by responding via voice.

These new features will be rolled out at different times. You might even find some of them already available. For instance, my Pixel Watch 2 already has the Assistant Routines feature (and had it upon the first Wear OS update out of the box). When you receive these updates will depend on your device, operating system version, and location.

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