Google Maps is getting a new trick (plus 5 other Android features coming)
Google is rolling out several new features to Messages, Google Maps and Password Checkup and more. Here's what you need to know.
Jason CiprianiContributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Google recently announced it's rolling out updates to six different Android apps, from the TalkBack screen reader to Android Auto. The updates add useful new features, like the ability to schedule when a text message will be sent in the Messages app. Google Maps is also receiving an update of its own that adds a true dark mode throughout the entire app, not just when you're using navigation.
There's also an update to Google's password autofill tool that will tell you if your passwords have been leaked and let you know it's time to change it.
Keep in mind, these are rolling updates. That means you may not have access to them right away. The best advice I have is to keep checking the Play Store for app updates.
Below I'll walk you through the new features and how to use them.
Watch this: Android's useful new features
Password Checkup now works across Android apps
If you use Google's Password Manager to autofill your usernames and passwords in Chrome or Android apps, then this update is for you. Google will now check all of your login credentials to see if they've been leaked or exposed in a hack. If it finds your information, a prompt will let you know you need to change your password.
The new Password Checkup tool is rolling out to Android devices running Android 9 or higher. You can check if you're using Google's autofill service by opening the Settings app, then go to System > Languages & Input > Advanced and tap Autofill Service. If that path doesn't take you to the right place, since every Android phone is a little bit different, you can use the search tool in the Settings app to look for Autofill. (For example, on the Galaxy S21 Ultra the setting is under General Management in the settings app.)
Once you navigate to the Autofill section, you'll want to make sure Google is selected.
If you haven't been using Google's autofill tool, then start saving your credentials when it prompts you. If you have been using it, then keep using it as you have been. The tool will let you know when it finds your information was leaked -- you don't have to do anything special to trigger it.
Google is finally adding a true dark mode throughout the entire app. Huzzah! Prior to the latest update, Google Maps only offered a dark mode when you were actively using navigation mode. It was better than nothing, sure, but it wasn't ideal.
Once Google Maps updates on your Android phone or tablet, you can turn dark mode on all the time by going to Settings > Theme and then select Always in Dark Theme.
Schedule a text message
If you're not already using Google Messages as your default text messaging app, this might finally get you to make the switch. Google is rolling out an update that adds the option to schedule when a message is sent. Scheduling messages is especially useful if you don't want to bother someone at the wrong time because they're in a different time zone, or you know they're busy at work. Or you can use it to schedule a message canceling plans that you regret even making.
Once your Messages app receives the latest update, you can start to compose a message just like you always do, but instead of tapping on the send button -- long-press it. A menu will pop up, asking when you want it sent. It's as easy as that.
TalkBack is getting easier to use
Google's TalkBack accessibility feature is getting a big update to help blind or low vision users navigate and use their Android devices. There are new gestures, navigation options, spoken feedback and menus.
We have more information about the TalkBack update here. If you want to check it out for yourself, make sure to check for app and service updates in the Play Store.
But wait, there's more
Google is also adding new features to Android Auto and Google Assistant. They're relatively minor updates, but worth taking note of.
Android Auto users are getting the ability to set custom wallpapers that are displayed on their vehicle's screen. Google is also adding voice-activated games that your passengers can play during long road trips. One of the games Google mentions is Jeopardy, which is always a hit. Finally, Google is adding shortcuts to the Android Auto launch screen that will make it easy to check the weather or quick access to contacts for messaging and calls.
Google Assistant is getting improvements when you use voice commands to interact with the digital assistant when your screen is off and the device is locked. Google says that the cards that show information are now bigger, making it easier to read responses from across the room. To ensure the feature is working as expected turn on Lock Screen Personal Results in your Google Assistant settings page.