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Major Android feature drop brings Maps, Auto, Assistant and password boosts

Google has announced a number of new features for Android devices. Many are available today, including the expansion of the company’s Password Checker.

The update also includes the ability to schedule the sending of text messages, as well as an updated version of the TalkBack screenreader. Google Maps is getting an always-on dark mode, Android Auto is receiving a boost and there are new lock screen cards for the Google Assistant.

While the Android 12 Developer Preview is out in the wild, this slew of improvements is coming to existing handsets for a much wider range of devices.

Password Checker

Let’s start with Password Checker, which started life within the Chrome browser and is now automatically on Android 9 and above. The tool can be used to analyse your saved passwords to ensure they haven’t been exposed as part of a data breach.

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“When you enter a password into an app on your phone using Autofill with Google, we will check it against a list of known compromised passwords,” Google explains in a blog post. “If there’s a match, we’ll alert you. That way, your data stays safe and your accounts secure.”

Scheduled texts

Schedule Send in Messages does exactly what it says on the tin. If you’re hoping not to wake a friend, but would like to send a text while the subject is on your mind, this feature could come in handy. It’s now available within the latest version of the Messages app for Android 7 and up.

Talkback updated

The new version of TalkBack encourages users to “harness the power of your Android without looking at the screen.” The revamped accessibility feature is designed for blind and low vision users. Just update the Android Accessibility Suite in the Play Store for the new version.

Now, as well as speaking out notifications, Google says “you can control your device with new, more intuitive multi-finger gestures. Plus, explore additional reading controls, a Braille keyboard and customizable menus. Making it easier for you to use your phone, however you use it.”

New Assistant lock screen features

Google is making the Assistant more useful when you’ve got your hands full. The company is adding new glanceable cards to make the Assistant easier to use when you’re beyond touching distance. You’ll be able to send texts, play music and more, even when the handset is locked.

Google says: “We want to give you more ways to use your phones hands-free — so you can do things like use your voice to make calls, set timers or alarms and play music. Now, the latest updates to Google Assistant make it easier to get things done on your phone without needing to be right next to it.”

Users will need to head to Assistant Settings > Personalisation and turn on Lock Screen Personal Results in order to get the most from the feature.

Google Maps dark mode

Google Maps already had a dark mode, which automatically updated depending on the time of day. Now it can be set to Always On, which is a boost for those looking to give their retinas a breather while plotting their course on foot or by car. This feature is coming soon.

Android Auto update

If you have Android 6.0 or higher you’ll soon see an enhanced Android Auto experience, with voice-activated games, a split screen view and shortcuts to features like the Google Assistant and your contacts list. The company is also adding new wallpapers.

Google Android Auto Play Game

“Android Auto’s new features help you enjoy the drive more. For longer drives, you and your passengers can stay entertained with voice-activated games like trivia and “Jeopardy!” Just say, “Hey Google, play a game” to get started,” Google says.

The Android Auto update will roll out this spring.

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