Google has announced seven new features for Android to help improve accessibility, and expanded the number of countries covered by its Earthquake alert and detection system.
However, the most noteworthy Android announcement concerns the fact that one-on-one RCS chats sent through the Messages app will now be end-to-end encrypted.
The feature was rolled out in beta last November, but Google is now releasing it for everyone who has access to RCS.
Another Google product that uses the Rich Communication Services (RCS) standard is Google’s ‘Chat’ app , which was launched back in April 2018, as a replacement for the humble SMS and indeed the MMS messaging services.
However not all conversations on ‘Messages’ will enjoy end-to-end encryption by default.
When a message will be encrypted, the send button will have a padlock icon on it It can only work if both parties have turned on and have Wi-Fi or mobile data.
Also, group chats will not be getting the feature at this time.
WhatsApp, Skype etc already offer encrypted messages.
Until recently earthquake alerts have only been available in certain countries, but now it is being rolled out globally.
“Last year, we embarked on a mission to build the world’s largest earthquake detection network, based on technology built into Android devices,” said Google. “With this free system, people in affected areas can get alerts seconds before an earthquake hits, giving you advance notice in case you need to seek safety.”
It recently launched the Android Earthquake Alerts System in New Zealand and Greece, but is now introducing the Android Earthquake Alerts System in Turkey, the Philippines, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Google is prioritising launching Earthquake Alerts in countries with higher earthquake risks, and aims to launch the service in more and more countries over the coming year.
Other Android developments include ‘Emoji Kitchen stickers’ so the user can quickly get back to the ones they use most frequently.
Users will also soon start to see contextual suggestions in Emoji Kitchen once they have typed a message. These will help the user discover the perfect emoji combination at the exact moment they need it.
Another development is that more apps now have the ability to opened with just the user’s voice.
And for people with motor disabilities, Android will now give increased control via a voice. For example Voice Access will work only when the person is looking at the screen.
Voice Access also now has enhanced password input. When it recognizes a password field, it will let the user input letters, numbers and symbols.
The Android Auto experience has been tweaked as well, with new features including personalising a launcher screen directly from a user’s phone and manually setting dark mode.
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