The first Android 13 developer preview is here

More privacy controls and themed icons are coming.


Superstition schmuperstition. Google is unveiling the first Android 13 developer preview today and it's clear the company is not going to avoid the "unlucky" number. After all, Apple made a massive amount of money from iPhone 13s. The Android 13 preview is a glimpse of things we can expect from the next generation of Google's mobile OS, and developers can test their apps using the Android emulator or flashing a system image to the Pixel 4 or newer Pixel phones. Based on today's announcement, it looks like we can expect the next version of Android to at least offer finer privacy controls and more of Android 12's Material You design throughout the system.

One of the things this preview brings is a new system photo picker, which can let you share specific local or cloud-based photos more securely. It builds on the existing document picker function with lets you share specific files with an app without having to grant it permission to all media files on your device. The updated photo picker "extends this capability with a dedicated experience for picking photos and videos," Google's vice president of engineering Dave Burke wrote in an announcement post. Developers will need to use the photo picker APIs to enable this feature.

An animation showing the new photo picker in Android 13.

Android 13 also adds a "nearby WiFi devices" permission, which will be required for apps that look for the available WiFi devices in your surroundings. This will allow them to "discover and connect to nearby devices over WiFi without needing location permission." It should let apps that need to find WiFi devices in the area that don't need to know where you are get connected without asking for access to your GPS, which is better for your privacy.

Google is also expanding the Material You adaptive color palette beyond its own apps to all app icons. You'll be able to opt in and have the system apply colors it generated from your wallpaper onto your icons. Developers will need to submit monochrome versions of their app icons and tweak some code. This feature will roll out first on Pixels and Burke said "we’re working with our device manufacturer partners to bring them to more devices."

The developer preview also offers a new tile placement API that lets developers prompt users to add their custom tiles to the Quick Settings panel in the notification shade. With that, users don't have to hunt for these app-specific shortcuts by editing the Quick Settings shade and won't have to leave the app

A chart showing the release schedule for Android 13.

Other features in this developer preview include a way for apps to more easily set a different language from the system default, improved animations and effects, as well as more feature updates through Google Play. That last one will let Google "push new features like photo picker... directly to users on older versions of Android." Burke also gave a shoutout to Android 12L and devices of varying display sizes and form factors, saying "We’ll also build on some of the newer updates we made in 12L to help you take advantage of the 250+ million large screen Android devices currently running."

Google also shared a release timeline that shows the first beta release is expected around April, with platform stability targeted for June to July. That's in line with how previous versions of Android rolled out, and we're likely to keep hearing about Android 13 in the coming months.