The first beta of Android 13 QPR2 (Quarterly Platform Release) is currently available for specific Google Pixel models, giving us a sneak peek at features and tweaks that should eventually come to more Android phones.
The phones are getting the beta, according to Google’s Android Developer page (opens in new tab), are the Pixel 4 (4a and 4a 5G), Pixel 5 (the base model and 5a), the Pixel 6 series and the Pixel 7 series. The release notes say nothing about what’s in the release, but notable Android expert Mishaal Rahman broke it all down in a long Twitter thread (opens in new tab). Everything in the beta can be split into two categories: design changes that all listed Pixel devices get, and features that are exclusive to a few.
For starters, desktop mode on Android 13 has “improved window options” via a new title bar that makes it easier to drag windows around the screen, go back to a previous page, or open a toolbar. However, it is quite buggy, like Rahman posted a video (opens in new tab) of him dragging through a window in desktop mode, only for it to crash for a few seconds.
Going into the other notable changes, Connecting health is now a pre-installed app that allows you to aggregate all your personal health data from multiple sources into one app.
A new “temporary taskbar” causes the navigation bar to appear on the Pixel home page in browsing apps (possibly others too) whenever you swipe up from the bottom. As the name suggests, the taskbar is temporary and pulls down quickly so as not to distract. Google is reverting to an older design where the call and notification volumes are now separate. For years you couldn’t adjust them individually, so it’s good to see this back.
Something not mentioned in the Rahman thread is apps on the home screen extra space around them (opens in new tab). This means there’s less space in the launcher and you may have to scroll further down to find the app you want, but the new padding makes the menu look less cluttered.
Some of the more interesting features may be exclusive to certain models. For example, the Pixel 6 Pro has an updated display driver that allows users to select a “1080p screen resolution option”, which is lower than the native 1440p resolution. This option can extend battery life. Spatial audio is also coming to the 6 Pro alongside the base model of the Pixel 6, the Pixel 7 and the Pixel 7 Pro to coincide with the feature coming on the Pixel Buds Pro next month (opens in new tab).
There’s more to the beta than this, but these are the most notable highlights. It is not known if or when these features will be officially launched, but Rahman claims that the beta will have a stable release sometime in March. If you want to try out the beta, you can join the Android Beta for Pixel Program (opens in new tab) on Google’s website and then install it from the settings. Google states in the release notes that the beta has some performance and stability issues, so keep that in mind when trying it out.
Be sure to check out TechRadar’s list of best Pixel phones for the year in case you’re still hesitating to pick one up.