Android 13 QPR2 preps desktop mode, taskbar revamp, and more
The beta version of the second quarterly Android 13 update includes work towards the desktop mode, a new swipe animation, separate ringtone and notification volume controls, and much more.
With each release of a new Android Beta, there are often quite a few new features that everyone can enjoy once the update is installed. Under the surface, however, Google keeps many upcoming features disabled, which our team can showcase with extra effort.
Typically, these features are left disabled because they are not quite ready to be tested. Since things are still in active development, it’s too early to know if it will launch with Android 13’s second quarterly update in March (or ever launch at all). If so, take these feature previews as interesting insights rather than a solid roadmap of Android’s future.
In some cases, it’s even easy for you to try out these work-in-progress features yourself. However, by doing so you accept the risk that your device may become even more unstable than the pre-release software already makes it.
If this is the case, we only suggest that you try it on a secondary device and only if you are already familiar with using Android’s ADB tool. To disable any of these features, run the same command shown but change “true” to “false.”
Revamped back gesture animation
Since Android phones got gesture navigation in 2019, the back gesture has remained essentially the same, with a simple arrow appearing on the side of the screen to show that your current swipe will bring you back. You can also cancel that swipe-back gesture by returning to the edge of the screen, which flattens the arrow into a line.
Inside Android 13 QPR2 Beta 1, our Dylan Roussel uncovered a completely redesigned back gesture indicator. Once activated, the simple arrow is placed inside a circular blob that stretches delightfully to match your gesture movement.
Should you choose to cancel the return gesture, the blob flattens slightly and sticks to the edge of the screen when it’s close enough. Another small detail in the animation is that the arrow no longer flattens, but instead folds in on itself.
The search bar of the Pixel Launcher is also getting some love with this latest Android Beta with the addition of a new “Quick Launch” feature. If you type the name of an app on your phone, you can press the Enter key (including on Gboard) to launch directly into that app.
While Gboard offers a decent experience with this particular tweak, Quick Launch looks like a great candidate for the upcoming Pixel tablet to us. Google hasn’t yet shared any plans to release a keyboard accessory for the Pixel Tablet, but we’ve seen signs of a Pixel Tablet “Pro” in the works that could be well suited for a keyboard.
You can easily try Quick Start on your own device with the command below. We’ve also included a second command that you’ll probably want to try, as it tells Gboard to show the Enter key when using Quick Launch.
adb-dop device_config set launcher ENABLE_QUICK_LAUNCH_V2 true
adb-dop device_config set launcher GBOARD_UPDATE_ENTER_KEY true
Separate ringtone/notification volume
Android has bundled the volume levels for your ringtone and notification sounds for years. However, there are many who do not want this to be the case, perhaps preferring to have a loud ringtone and soft notifications.
Android 13 QPR2 includes the ability to separate ringtone and notification volume, but it is disabled and hidden for now. Fortunately, this can be enabled with one simple command. Once enabled, the Volume section of the Settings app now lists ringtone and notification levels separately.
adb-dop device_config set systemui volume_separate_notification true
One of the biggest changes for Android tablets and foldables in recent years has been the addition of a taskbar to keep your favorite apps accessible. With the latest Android Beta, we get our first look at Google’s next iteration of the taskbar, the “transient taskbar,” which acts a bit like the taskbar on ChromeOS tablets.
Instead of an always-present bar taking up screen real estate on your tablet, you can do a small swipe up from the bottom of the screen to reveal the new taskbar. This can be a little difficult for some, as a swipe too big will simply return you to the home screen.
Just like the taskbar available on Android today, the revamped version only contains shortcuts to the apps you’ve pinned to the bottom row of the Pixel Launcher. To the right of this you will also find the usual button to open the full app drawer. Most importantly, all of this is now presented in a clean Material You style, complete with dynamic colors.
The revised taskbar isn’t the only big change afoot for Android tablet owners. Google has been working on a “desktop mode” for Android for a long time, and the Android 13 QPR 2 Beta includes our best look yet at the work-in-progress feature.
In desktop mode, all applications are treated as if they were placed in free-form windows and can be dragged around the screen. To help do this, each application window gets a new control bar with useful controls.
The main part of the control bar is a simple line that you can use to drag the window around, and to the sides you’ll find buttons to go back or close the window. Tapping the bar reveals another set of controls, although most of these don’t seem to work yet. Judging by the icons, they appear to be quick options for full screen, split screen and a few others.
From our little time testing it, we don’t think PC mode will start anytime soon also soon, but it’s still exciting to see the progress.
Home screen organization overhaul
It appears that Google is also working on an overhaul of the way Pixel owners reorganize the apps and widgets on their home screens. The revamp, called “Home Gardening,” is still early in development, but some notable tweaks are already in the works.
For starters, the “Remove” and “Remove” drag targets have moved from the top of the screen to the bottom. On Android 13 today, these options are out of thumb’s reach, making it a welcome change for one-handed use.
Additionally, with Homeization enabled, the home screen doesn’t move backwards and scale down like it once did. This might make placing an app or widget a bit easier as you can drag it exactly where it needs to go. We believe that this part of the home screen organization overhaul is unfinished for now, but it could shape into something exciting.
Grayscale Material You theme
When Material You and its dynamic color theme arrived for Pixel phones, Google went to great lengths to allow Android apps to use the same colors. Over time, this has made Android apps feel surprisingly consistent, even between Pixel and Samsung Galaxy phones.
However, the dynamic color system has some unfortunate drawbacks that need to be addressed. In particular, we have a first-hand account of a 9to5Google reader that the introduction of more color tones may be detrimental to someone prone to seizures.
With Android 13 QPR2 Beta 1, our team spotted the start of a new “monochromatic” (or grayscale) theme option. From what we can piece together, the theme is built from two colors — #666666 and #333333, a light and dark shade of gray, respectively. This should result in a less visually demanding experience throughout Android 13.
Although we were able to get the theme to appear in the list, it still doesn’t seem to work as intended.
Dylan Roussel contributed to this article.
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