Six new Android features improve voice controls, messaging and more

Updates to Google's mobile operating system include contextual emojis, earthquake alerts and a customizable experience for Android Auto.

Andrew Gebhart Former senior producer
2 min read

Google's latest updates to Android will let you find important messages more easily, customize your experience with Android in the car and access more apps with your voice. The tech giant announced six new updates to its mobile operating system on Tuesday in a blog post. The updates are expected to roll out in the coming weeks. 

My favorite of the bunch is the ability to star messages in Google's messaging apps. You can mark specific texts with a star to quickly find them later if your friend texts you an address or password you need to remember. 

Another update to Messages will apply specifically to those who use Google's Gboard to type on their phone. You'll get contextual suggestions of Emoji Kitchen stickers to insert into your conversation. 

As far as things that are actually helpful, Google is expanding the coverage of its earthquake alert system to include several new countries, including Turkey and the Philippines. Tech within Android devices can sense an earthquake a few seconds before it hits and give users a little extra time to get to safety. 

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For those with motor disabilities, Google is improving its Voice Access program with an optional setting to only work when you're looking at the screen, allowing you to hold a conversation and navigate your phone without accidentally misleading your device. Google will improve password input with Voice Access as well, to more easily recognize special characters and capital letters.

Aside from Voice Access, Android will broadly allow you to access more apps with a voice command.

Finally, the search giant is bringing more customization to Android Auto -- the company's operating system for vehicles. You'll be able to search for content more easily, browse tabs, switch to dark mode, access more apps and use messaging apps like WhatsApp from your launcher screen.