Android 13 finally arrived this week, somehow both earlier and later than expected. For such a small upgrade compared to last year’s massive material you overhaul, it’s easy to feel disappointed. As the update makes its way out to more users — both on Pixel phones and once companies like Samsung launch their own updates in the coming weeks — we’re bound to see plenty of first impressions shared online. If you just can’t wait, I think this weekend is the perfect time to throw out some Android 13 hot takes.
On the one hand, Android 12 felt, at times, unfinished, and Google’s decision to focus on some much-needed improvements for the features it introduced a year ago is probably the right one. Material You is closer than ever to the auto-theming engine we all expected it to be, though third-party icon support remains an issue. Google has combined its search bars on Pixels to lead to the same UI — an obvious fix, though one that isn’t working properly in this week’s initial stable release. And that’s on top of plenty of privacy tools that should make Android more secure than ever.
The handful of visible new features here are great, too. I’m obsessed with the new media player; Its squiggly line dances across my lock screen or notification tray whenever I’m listening to something on my phone. Opt-in notifications have been a long time coming, and I’m happy to finally see them here. And although I won’t make much use of Google’s new per-app language settings — apologies to my many French teachers — it’s a great tool for anyone who speaks more than one language.
That said, it’s easy to feel underwhelmed with Android 13. As I said on this week’s podcast, I think Google has done a great job migrating the features that matter most to channels outside an annual launch. By relying on app and service updates, the company ensures more Android users than ever before are getting the tools they need without having to wait for the Samsungs and OnePluses of the world to roll out new software. It comes at the cost of Android 13 feeling a little less special, though — after all, when we’re a full year into a radical new redesign for the OS, all Google can really do is roll out the sorts of privacy and security changes we’ve seen this year.