Free Android 13 upgrade enhances smart home control

The Android 13 beta is out, and you can install it today on compatible phones

Google Pixel 6 Android phone being held by an human male
(Image credit: Google)

Google is gearing up for the launch of Android 13, the next generation of its mobile operating system, which will come pre-installed on the best Android phones and available for older Androids later this year. One new feature will be great news for impatient smart home users like me. 

The smart home controls that Android 11 brought to the sleep/wake button menu were handy, but you have to unlock your phone to use them. First world problems, I know, but it’s still pretty annoying. So the news that the first beta of Android 13 enables you to do the smart home stuff without unlocking is great news. 

The new feature is disabled by default, so you don’t need to worry about the kids playing with your Hue bulbs or a Nest or Hive settings if you don’t want them to. And it’ll also require apps such as Google Home to support it, which isn’t currently the case.

Faster smart home control isn’t the only new feature in the Android 13 beta. And if you have a Pixel phone and you’d like to try the next Android for yourself, you can install it today.

Android logo

(Image credit: Google)

What’s new in Android 13 so far

Unlike the previous builds of Android 13, which were purely for developers, this beta is public – so you can install it on your phone if you want to try it out, although as ever we wouldn’t recommend installing a beta OS on a phone you rely on for anything important. A beta release is an unfinished work in progress, and part of its function is to help people find and report the bugs before the final version ships.

So what’s new? Android 12 was a pretty big change from previous releases, and while Android 13 isn’t dramatically different there are some useful improvements here. There are improved privacy features and quick settings options, more control over app permissions, a new photo picker, Bluetooth LE audio and support for MIDI 2.0 over USB. None of these are must-upgrade-now features, but if you’re curious and have a spare compatible phone it’s always interesting to have a poke around. If you do you’ll find some new display settings and stylus support, more wallpaper colours and various interface tweaks too. 

The final version of Android 13 will roll out later this year, most likely at Google I/O in the summer.

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. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (