Compared to the major overhaul that was Android 12, it's a relatively light release as far as new, user-facing features go, but it features a lot of tweaks to existing features—and not all of them are for the better. Here are seven tips and tricks for navigating the latest Android release on your Pixel.
Android 12 introduced us to Material You, Google's exceedingly colorful, playful new software design language. One of the key components of Material You is dynamically generated themes that feature colors based on your phone's wallpaper. In Android 13, that feature gets a major improvement. In Android 12, there were only a handful of color palettes available to choose from, but now you'll see as many as 16 different theme options, depending on the wallpaper you have applied. If you still can't find one you like, there are also more "basic" palettes to choose from.
Material You also lets you change the color of your home screen icons to match the rest of your theme. The feature was introduced in Android 12 in beta. It's still labeled as a beta feature now, but Android 13 officially extends support for these color-changing app icons to third-party apps.
Android 13 tweaks the way the home screen search bar works. Tapping the bar at the bottom of the home screen will open an interface that lets you search for results on the web or for apps on your phone. In Android 12, typing part of an app's name and pressing the search button would open that app, but in Android 13, it instead searches Google for what you've typed. So if, for example, you previously opened the YouTube app by tapping the bottom bar, typing "yout," then pressing search, there'll be a learning curve here—and a lot of accidental searches.
You've long been able to block notifications from selected apps on Android, but Android 13 introduces a change that streamlines the process considerably. The first time you open an app, it has to ask you whether you want it to be able to send notifications. Don't be afraid to deny permission to apps you don't think need it—games, for example. If you find you're missing valuable information without a given app's notifications, they're easy to turn back on: Long-press the app's icon on your home screen or in your app drawer, tap the little i icon, then Notifications. From here, you can customize the app's notifications to your heart's content.
Running apps in split-screen gets a little more difficult in Android 13. Like in Android 12, you start split-screen multitasking by tapping an app's icon in your recents menu (the one that pops up when you swipe up on the navigation bar and hold). But while Android 12 gave the option to select a second app from your home screen or app drawer, in Android 13, you can only choose the second app from the same recents view; navigating home cancels split-screen altogether. Effectively, you have to make sure you've recently opened both apps you want to use in split-screen. It's not a huge deal, but it's a bizarre change that almost seems like an oversight. We hope to see this changed in future updates.
In Android 13, copying text to your clipboard generates a pop-up like the one that appears when you take a screenshot on Android 12. Tapping this pop-up opens a text editor view where you can make changes to the copied text before saving it to your phone's clipboard. This is particularly handy for apps that attach additional text to generated links (looking at you, Zillow)
Your Pixel's camera app can already interpret QR codes, but Android 13 introduces an additional way to scan the increasingly ubiquitous visual links in the form of a quick settings tile. It's not visible by default; to expose it, you'll have to fully expand your notification shade, then tap the pencil icon near the lower right corner. From here, you can drag the QR code scanner tile up to your active tiles. Tapping the tile will open a simple viewfinder interface. Just line it up with a QR code and tap Open.