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New Android Updates Add Features to Boost Android Watches and Phones

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At MWC 2024 in Barcelona, Google announced it will ship new Android updates that deliver numerous new features to its Android ecosystem, including enhancements to navigation on Wear OS smartwatches and Gemini on Google Messages. Here's what these new features are about.

Transit directions and Google Wallet passes come to Wear OS

Google will improve navigation with Wear OS-powered smartwatches in the latest update. Google Maps on Wear OS supports public transit directions now. In other words, you can rely on your wearable when hopping on a train, bus, or ferry to get around. This also shows the schedule of departures in addition to guided navigation when using your preferred mode of transportation.

Google Maps on Wear OS
Google Maps on Wear OS adds public transport directions. / © Google / Edit by nextpit

Another Wear OS feature in Google Wallet on Wear OS would be the ability to add boarding passes. This lets users view and access boarding passes such as those of airplanes and trains, event tickets, loyalty cards and memberships. Trip details and notifications are available to depict the date and time while prompting you of your upcoming trips, all on your smartwatch.

Google Wallet features on Wear OS
Google Wallet on Wear OS gets boarding passes, tickets, and additional card access. / © Google / Edit by nextpit

New Android features for mobile

AI on Messages and Android Auto

On the mobile level, there are new updates to introduce Gemini in Google Messages on Android. The chatbot will be available in a dedicated chat section where you can compose and draft messages and let Gemini refine or modify these. In addition, you can also plan events or perform other usual prompts like asking Gemini questions.

Gemini for Messages is available in the messaging app's beta version which you need to enrol beforehand. It is compatible with the Google Pixel 6 and later models and Pixel Fold, Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold and Z Flip series, and Galaxy S22 and later models, including the recent Galaxy S24 series. Currently, only the English language is supported while those living in Canada will have the French language supported.

Google will also add AI to its car infotainment platform. When you connect your handset to a vehicle, Android Auto can summarize long messages and multiple messages from group chats and subsequently suggest smart replies. You can send recommended replies as well as your ETA or perform a call with just a tap.

Accessibility tools

There are updates to Android's accessibility tools as well. Firstly, the Lookout app enables users to listen to AI-generated captions of photos and pictures from the web and messages.

In Google Maps for mobile, a new accessibility feature is added to Lens on Maps. When you point your camera using Google Maps, it will read the name and details of the point of interest aloud via the screen reader. For example, it can tell you the name of a restaurant, the types of dishes served, and the distance from your current location.

Output switcher now works with Spotify

Pixel phones and tablets have been able to take advantage of the device or output switcher on their home screen when using YouTube and YouTube Music. Now, the update will expand this feature to Spotify, which lets you select which speakers or headphones to connect and play your media with just a tap along with a useful slider for volume control.

Google's new Android updates improve Messages, Spotify and Fitbit
The latest Android updates add Gemini to Messages, a switcher for Spotify, and a new Fitbit app. / © Google

Other new features: Google Docs and Fitbit app

If you've been using Google Docs for work or school, adding handwritten annotations is now possible. It works on Android smartphones and tablets and markups can also be performed using a stylus or pens.

Google is overhauling the Fitbit app on Android by giving a more in-depth view of your health and wellness data from connected apps and devices. Tapping the You tab presents the list of devices while the Today tab shows recorded vital statistics including the number of steps taken, calories burned, and distance from these devices and apps.

The February Android updates are already rolling out to compatible devices. As usual, its availability for non-Pixel devices would depend on the individual manufacturers.

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Jade Bryan

Jade Bryan
Junior Editor

I still remember how amazed I was when I first got hold of the Nokia 3210 back when I was a kid, and it was during that time I developed my love for technology, particularly for mobile phones. I started sharing my knowledge through writing in different blogs and forums back in Nokia Nseries era. I even make videos before where I put different phones side-by-side. Today, I'm still an avid enthusiast of smartphones, but my interests have evolved into smart devices and electric vehicles.

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