What’s new in Android 13’s March 2023 Feature Drop, now in beta

Google has only just released the first Android 13 feature drop, but the company is already hard at work preparing for the next update, which is scheduled to arrive in March 2023. So the first beta for this second Quarterly Platform Release (QPR) is out now. While Google hasn’t revealed too much about what’s new, enthusiastic pundits have taken a look at what’s happening behind the scenes and what new features are being released as part of it.

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interface changes

Visual changes are always the most noticeable and some optimizations are available in QPR2 Beta 1. The quick setting tiles in the notification shade have been moved up very slightly and are now closer to the clock and date. If you expand them by swiping down, you’ll also notice that the clock gets bigger as you swipe, while the date moves under the clock. The wireless service provider is also displayed above the status icons on the right instead of next to them.

1st image: New media player animation. 2nd: Large clock in the notification screen.

Google can’t seem to stop tweaking the media player that resides in the notification shade, and Android 13 QPR2 is no different. The new version of Android adds a foggy overlay to the album cover used as the media player background, which is animated when you first view the player. The animation just disappears after you’ve watched it for a while, and it doesn’t respond at all to the current playback, which leads us to believe it’s still in development and not finished yet.

Another notable change (or bug) also affects the notification shade. If you swipe down on the lock screen without unlocking it first, you’ll see a black background (even in light mode) and hide silent notifications entirely. In previous versions of Android, silent notifications didn’t appear on the lock screen, but they reappeared once you swipe down.

First pair of images: notifications on the lock screen. 2nd pair: Notifications on the home screen.

As spotted by 9to5Google, the QPR2 beta’s Pixel Launcher made changes to icon density and padding. In folders, app icons are now further apart, making it harder to accidentally hit the wrong one. The app icons on the home screen itself have also been moved up slightly compared to previous Android 13 versions, complete with more padding on the left and right. This also applies to the app launcher, which you can access by swiping up on your home screen.

Desktop mode and partial screen sharing

Esper android expert Mishaal Rahman more changes revealed under the hood. As he mentioned in his summary of Android 13’s December feature drop, work continues on the currently hidden desktop mode, originally intended only for developers testing multi-screen environments. When using desktop mode in this version of Android, a floating bar is placed over floating or freeform windows, offering options to minimize, maximize, enter split-screen mode, and more. This makes it clear that the company is trying to make the mode consumer-ready.

Google is also continuing to work on partial screen captures, which Rahman first revealed in the current December feature drop. This option lets you select a single window to record or broadcast, much like you can select individual tabs or windows to share in video conference calls. On Android, you can choose between single app and full screen sharing.

New material you theme

Another treat Rahman has discovered is a new Material You theme called “MONOCHROMATIC”. It cannot currently be used, but is already visible in the code. Judging by the name, it’s probably going to be one of the most subdued options you can choose. It will likely be similar to the “SPRITZ” option introduced with the first version of Android 13, a desaturated option that already feels monochromatic.

Other

A major update like this also fixes minor issues. Some people are reporting that their Pixel 7 Pro scrolling issues have been fixed, which used to be inconsistent for them. Then there are people who have lost access to the new unified security and privacy settings pane, which appears to be related to the way Google is rolling out this option (using Google Play services instead of system updates). There are more sundries found by Mishaal Rahman collected for you below.

  • The Google Pixel 6 Pro got a 1080p display option with this update, similar to what the Pixel 7 Pro already offers.
  • Spatial audio has been re-enabled for all supported pixels (Pixel 6 series through Pixel 7 series). You may notice a difference when listening to sample spatial audio videos on YouTube when spatial audio is enabled.
  • A new adaptive alert vibration option could reduce the strength of notification vibrations when your phone is flat on a surface, screen-up, although that feature isn’t live or accessible yet.
  • There’s more evidence that Google is developing software for its rumored foldable Google Pixel Fold: a new setting will be available for devices with side-mounted fingerprint sensors (which the Fold is said to have) that will only allow you to unlock your phone with it when the screen is on.
  • Google is considering separating ringer and notification volume. This has always been the case in old versions of Android, but Google combined these two options on Pixel phones a long time ago.

Join the Android 13 QPR1 beta program

If you have a Pixel phone, you can join the Android 13 QPR2 beta program on the Android website. Here you need to select the option “View Eligible Devices” to choose the phone you want to register for the beta. As always, be aware that there can be bugs that completely mess with the way you use your phone. So use caution and only if you can do without your Pixel phone in an emergency. If you prefer to sideload the beta, be sure to read how to install the Android 13 beta.

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