Five new Android features coming this winter

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Google is rolling out five new Android features in the weeks ahead that enhance Maps navigation, Gboard emoji mashups, Voice Access, Google Play audiobooks, and Nearby Share file sharing. Google is also making Android Auto available in 36 more countries.

To start with, Google is giving Maps a new Go tab that lets you quickly navigate to favorite places without entering the address. Pin driving destinations to school or work, for example, and the Go tab will show directions, live traffic and disruptions, and an estimated arrival time. You can also pin your favorite public transport route to see departure and arrival times and any delays right from the tab. Google suggests pinning both driving and public transport options to the same destination to see which will get your there faster. The Go tab will start rolling out to Android and iOS devices “in the coming weeks,” according to the company.


Quickly access pinned destinations in new Go tab.

Next up, Google is expanding those custom emoji sticker mashups available on Gboard from a few hundred unique combinations to more than 14,000. The so-called Emoji Kitchen now lets you tap two emoji to see suggested combinations, or double a single emoji to see “more intense” variations. Available already on Gboard beta, Google says the new Emoji Kitchen will be available on Android 6.0 and above “over the coming weeks.”


Make mashups with Emoji Kitchen.

Google is also making a change that could result in more audiobooks in the Play Store. Google says that it’s providing publishers in the US and UK with a new auto-generated narrator tool than can be used to create audio versions of books that currently lack them. The tool is currently in beta, and should be coming to all publishers in early 2021.


An audiobook created with new auto-narrator tool for publishers.

Next up, Google is bringing its enhanced Voice Access navigation, already available in Android 11, to all devices globally running Android 6.0 and above. With the help of machine learning, Voice Access allows UI elements such as buttons and labels to be more easily manipulated by voice.


Navigating Maps using Voice Access.

The Nearby Share functionality will also soon support the direct sharing of Play Store apps with nearby Android users. The apps are sent via whatever method your two phones deem the fastest: Bluetooth, Bluetooth Low Energy, WebRTC, or peer-to-peer Wi-Fi. To share an app from Google Play you’ll need to head to the “Share Apps” menu in “Manage Apps & Games” and select the app to share. Your friend must then accept the incoming app. This particular update will start rolling out in “the coming weeks.”

Lastly, Google says that it’s expanding Android Auto support to 36 more countries over “the next few months,” bringing Google’s apps and services to the dashboard of compatible cars for anyone running Android 10 or above (Android 9 users can download the app).

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