Android phones and Wear OS watches are getting a great free upgrade

Google unveils a host of new features to make your phone a better partner and your wearable more wonderful

Google MWC 2023
(Image credit: Google)

It's mobile tech Christmas, or MWC 2023 as it's officially known, and we're already inundated with new phones and new features for our existing ones. If you've got one of the best Android phones or best WearOS smartwatches, Google has some good news for you: it's adding some useful new features to both Android and Wear OS.

As ever with Google announcements, these updates are rolling out around the world so don't worry if they haven't reached you just yet: they're coming.

So what's new?

What's coming to your Android phone, Chromebook and Wear OS watch

There's a lot of activity around Google Keep, which is getting some significant upgrades. There's a new Google Keep single note widget that enables you to tick off your to-dos and manage notes from your Home Screen, and it'll display reminders, backgrounds and images for easy visual identification. It'll also sync with your Wear OS watch.

On Wear OS, Google Keep is getting some improvements too. There are two new shortcuts designed to make it easier to create notes and to-do lists straight from your watch face. This doesn't sound like much but it's important: the quicker you can access your app, the more likely you are to use it. And Wear OS 3+ will add two new sound and display modes for improved accessibility: mono-audio and colour correction/grayscale modes can make your watch display easier to read.

Google Drive enables you to annotate PDFs with a stylus, S Pen or just your finger, and it offers different ink strokes for different kinds of annotations as well as a highlighter to save selected text to your tablet or phone. 

There are some audio improvements too. Google Meet now has noise cancellation for clearer conversations, and Fast Pair is coming to Chromebooks for instant connection of new Bluetooth headphones. 

There are some fun things too, including new emoji combinations in Gboard, new tap-to-pay animations in Google Wallet and a new option to increase the size of everything in Chrome, which is handy for those of us whose eyesight isn't what it used to be. It's in the Chrome Beta already and will roll out to everyone next month.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series; her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, was shortlisted for the British Book Awards. When she’s not scribbling, Carrie is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind (unquietmindmusic).