Android 13 Beta hands-on: It’s a little hard to get excited about

Android 13 has now officially entered the Beta, bringing it one step closer to its primetime release later this year. While there is still work to be done, the transition to beta means that Google has locked in a good deal of the features destined for the final version of Android 13. So let’s take a look at what it’s like to use the latest and best version of Android and whether you should dive straight in right away.

Android 13 Wallpaper Color options

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

In denomination, Android 13 in beta looks pretty much identical to Android 12. Google’s Material You theme is still big and bold, with large amounts of space dedicated to the icons for quick settings, white spaces in the settings menu, icons on the home screen and Google’s colorful widgets . Wallpaper color mapping works as before, though Android 13 selects a wider range of matching colors to thematize your handset. There are now sixteen variants to choose from, up from four with Android 12. The Themed Icon setting remains a beta feature as it is in Android 12. Annoyingly, it still does not apply themes to every third-party app icon.

Our opinion: Material Your one-color themes are doomed to fail

So customization options are marginally more powerful, but not game-changing. Unfortunately, those who have not been a fan of Material You so far will not find any consolation in Google’s continued investment in this particular interface design.

Google has made a few minor cosmetic changes to the beta’s user interface. The power and setting buttons have been moved from below the quick settings menu to the lower right corner. Fine, but their proximity to each other now makes it too easy to press the power button instead of the settings icon. The clock is also not fully left-aligned in the message shadow. These feel like changes for the sake of change rather than real improvements. There are equally marginal changes in the appearance of the media player’s notification area, and there is also an alternative lock screen setup to choose from.

Android 13 looks and feels like 12. Most of the changes are behind the scenes.

You will also see a few changes in the settings menu, provided you have the patience to trawl through them all. Screen size and text settings, for example, are now placed together, complete with a new preview screen that shows how changes affect the user interface in real time. Do not disturb has returned to its original name and drops the name Priority Mode. While it is definitely the best, the futility of such a change suggests that there are a few thumbs up just looking for something to adjust on Android HQ.

But overall, it’s hard to pick out any meaningful changes to how Android 13 beta works from day to day. A new, more powerful clipboard overlay allows you to edit and share both text and images that you copy. It appears in the same way as the bottom left of Google’s screenshot tool, complete with edit button. You can see it in action on the screenshots below. There’s not much in it, but it’s a nice little quality of life feature that most people will find useful, albeit only once or twice.

It’s the cosmetic character of Android 13’s first beta in a nutshell. Clips and tucks to fine-tune the existing formula, but no major changes to the user interface. However, this can be expected, as the big changes were already made with Android 12 and Material You will almost certainly continue for the next few years – or longer.

Focus on privacy and security

Android 13 New notification permissions

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

If you read Google’s blog post on the arrival of its Android 13 beta, you’ll no doubt have seen that the latest OS version is about building on the “core themes of privacy and security.”

Android 13 is flooded with pop-ups asking for permission to allow apps to display notifications, firstly. It’s nice that Google takes notification spam more seriously, but the popup itself is a bit of a nuisance as it pops up every time you open an app and apparently at random intervals to ask for your continued permission.

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Speaking of permissions, one of the new features in the latest beta is more detailed app access to your media files. Permission is now dedicated to access shared media files by audio, image, and video file permissions. Previously, there was only one general permission to access media files. This feels like a more organic change, and although it seems smaller, it helps keep important documents a little more secure.

Android’s biggest changes continue to focus on giving users better control over their data and privacy.

All of this follows Google’s latest drive to give users more control over their data and privacy. Android 11 and 12 have already renewed much of the permission area and introduced the Privacy Dashboard to help users keep a closer eye on permissions and automatically revoke permissions from apps you haven’t used in a long time. It feels like where we will see the majority of improvements in Android 13’s final release. While these may not be particularly exciting changes and could no doubt be added when features drop instead of waiting for a full OS upgrade, they are certainly welcome additions to the proven Android formula.

Android 13 early hands-on verdict: Yes … and?

Android 13 New media release

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

A few cumulative goodies are tucked away in the first Android 13 beta, including built-in support for better QR scanning, Bluetooth LE Audio, integrated Fast Pair and tweaks for smart home controls. To round off the add-ons, there is a new audio routing API that helps media apps predict how their media will be routed, plus improved bug reporting for Keystore and KeyMint. But again, these are mostly behind-the-scenes changes that users will not necessarily notice.

However, much is still missing. I have not been able to activate the new private photo selector or spot the rumors of changes in the handling of multiple users, and the Pixel 6 Pro face unlock feature that seems to be running is still not implemented. Many of Android 13’s other features are waiting for applications to also support the various new APIs.

Have you installed Android 13 beta?

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Based on my short time with the first Android 13 beta, it’s a nice OS upgrade, but not one of the more exciting changes that have come to the platform. Perhaps the more meaningful improvements will be noticeable with large-screen devices. Still, it runs great on the mid-range Pixel 5 I’ve installed it on, which bodes well for the full release in the coming months.

Android 13 is well on its way, but do not rush to install the beta yet.

With all this in mind, I would not recommend you run out to install Android 13 beta yet, especially if you are fond of Android 12. There is not much to discover and play with now, and Google still has work left before everyone else. the expected features are up and running. But things are looking up.

Continue reading: 5 Android 13 features we are really excited about