Android gets auto-narrated audiobooks and expanded Voice Access

You'll also get Android auto in more countries.

Google is rolling out another pack of Android features, and one of the most notable might be one you can only hear. The company is teaming with US and UK publishers to introduce auto-narrated audiobooks in the Play Store — you won’t have to hope for a professional recording of a classic title to listen on your next walk. Publishers only have limited access to a beta auto-narration tool right now, but it should be available to any publisher in early 2021.

A pair of updates should also help ease navigation on the road. Android Auto is now poised to roll out to more countries in the “next few months,” either built-in for Android 10 and later or through an app on Android 9 and earlier. And if you’re using Google Maps before the drive, there’s an upcoming Go Tab (shown below, also headed to iOS) that will help you navigate to often-visited places. You can even pin public transportation routes to see departure and arrival times at a glance. Your device should get the tab in the “coming weeks.”

Google Maps Go Tab on Android

Other additions? In the weeks ahead, Nearby Share will let you send Google Play apps to other Android phones, even if there’s no internet connection. Accessibility will get a boost now that Voice Access is expanding beyond Android 11 to reach any phone running Android 6 or later through a Play Store app. And if you like Gboard’s emoji combinations, you’ll be glad to hear the unique combinations in the Emoji Kitchen have grown from “hundreds” to over 14,000.

You may end up waiting until 2021 to try many of these features. They’re still welcome, though, and it’s evident Google is focused on small but practical additions that aren’t limited to the latest Android hardware.