Digital car keys arrive on Pixel 6 and Samsung Galaxy S21

A YouTube Music widget is rolling out on Android, along with updates for Google Assistant and Photos.


Google has revealed a slew of features and updates for Android. Starting today, the digital car key function that was announced at Google I/O in May is available on Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S21 for compatible BMW vehicles in select countries. You can use your phone to lock and unlock the doors, and start the engine. The feature is likely coming to other vehicles later — Google has been working with other, unnamed automakers on support for digital car keys.

There's now an option to open Android Auto automatically when you connect your device to a compatible car. In addition, the home screen will have an always-on play button, so you can fire up your favorite music with a single tap.

Smart reply options (which will arrive in the coming months) will offer more ways to respond to text messages while you're driving. You can tap to reply or create a custom message with the help of Google Assistant. Also coming soon, there'll be a faster way to search for music in your media apps. Just tap the search button and say the name of your favorite artist or song.

Other media-centric options are coming to the Android home screen. A YouTube Music widget, for instance, includes playback controls and recently played songs. Two other widgets are rolling out next week. One for Google Play Books offers access to your library of books and could help you keep track of where you are in audiobooks.

A Google Photos People & Pets widget, meanwhile, provides an easy way to bring your loved ones to the home screen. Select a few faces and a frame, and your family, friends and pets can take pride of place on the home screen.

Elsewhere in Google Photos, you'll start to see Memories in the photo grid. It's a curated selection of photos and videos from holidays and events like birthdays and graduations, which are displayed in a stories format. Along with renaming, personalizing and correcting them, you'll have the option to remove Memories from the grid.

Google is bringing Family Bell from smart home products to mobile devices. You can set up the feature to alert you and your family with bells and notifications when it's time to do certain things, such as picking up kids from school or getting to bed at a decent hour. Family members can set or customize as many bells as they like on their own devices to keep stay on schedule. Google will offer suggested bells too, including holiday-themed ones like volunteering for a local cause or watering the tree.

In Gboard's Emoji Kitchen, you'll see thousands more emoji mashups. They'll be available for Gboard Beta users starting today and for everyone in the coming weeks.

Last, but not least, Google announced another Android security measure. To help protect your privacy, your device will automatically turn off runtime permissions (which allow apps to access data or carry out actions for you) in apps you haven't used in a while. You can turn these permissions back on in the app or the device settings.

The permissions auto-reset feature will be available on Android 12 at first. Starting next month, Google plans to roll it out to devices with Google Play services running Android 6.0 or later. The other new features and updateds are coming to older versions of Android as well, not only Android 12.

Update 2/12 9:30AM ET: Clarifying that the features are coming to older versions of Android as well as Android 12.