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Google plays Santa with sackful of new Android features

Google is bringing in the festive season with a stocking full of new features for Android users, including a new reminder to keep the Christmas tree watered!

The new features, broadcast on the Google blog, include new suggestions for the Family Bell feature, which helps you kind stay on top of each other’s busy schedules and plan activities together.

The suggested seasonal additions include the aforementioned reminder to give the greenery a drink, plan the annual family Home Alone screening, or support your local charitable cause.

Family Bell Android feature

Elsewhere, there are three new widgets that have a sort-of shoehorned festive theme. New Google Books, YouTube Music and Google Photos People & Pets widgets can, of course, can customised to show whatever you want. Meanwhile, Google Photos Memories from occasions like Halloween and New Years eve will start to appear, as well as birthdays and graduations.

“And because everyone has their own special traditions,” Google says, “specific controls allow you to rename, personalise, correct or even remove these Memories from your photo grid.”

Google is also promising an Android Auto update that’s long overdue. It can now be set to launch automatically when you connect your phone to the car. There’s also a bunch of new forthcoming features, including smart replies and message composition options via Google Assistant.

The company is adding a new always-on play button for music, and voice search for media apps. “Just tap the new search icon and say your favourite artist or song for easy listening,” Google adds.

Finally, Google is has announced Android will now automatically turn off runtime permissions on the apps you haven’t used in ages. That means those apps will no longer have access to the data unless you reenable those permissions farther down the road.

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