Google just dropped a bunch of cool free upgrades for all Android phones

New Android phone features for all

Google Android update march 2022
(Image credit: Google)

The best Android phones just got better. Google has been working on a suite of updates to the apps you use most, solving some little irritations and making Android even more fun.

My favourite new feature is the support for iPhone emoji, which solves a small but painful problem: previously if someone on an iPhone used an emoji reaction, it'd show up on your Android phone as a block of text. Now you get proper emoji, which makes talking to iPhone users considerably smoother.

Another messages change is really handy: when you send a video to someone in a chat from your Google Photos library, it's sent in the same resolution. Google will be bringing this feature to photos soon. In addition to this there's a new organised inbox, automatic deletion of one-time password messages after 24 hours, nudges to follow up on messages and reminders so you'll never forget your friends' birthdays.

Autocorrect and accessibility

Gboard now gets a really useful feature for more formal messages: grammar correction, which keeps an eye on your typing and offers suggestions to help you get your message across more clearly. And for less formal messages there are more than 2,000 new emoji mashups available as Gboard stickers. Pixel users running US English will also get a feature to convert words into stickers made from your text.

Live Transcribe is brilliant, and now it works offline too. It provides real-time text-to-speech captioning for people with hearing issues, and its offline mode means you no longer need to get a signal to get its help. 

Prettier portraits and paying for parking

The same Portrait Blur feature that's currently available to Pixel users or Google One members is rolling out to everyone, enabling you to take DSLR-style photos on your phone. I love portrait mode in phones so this is a really big upgrade, I think: whether you're taking photos of people, plants or pets being able to blur the background makes your portrait subjects really pop. And brilliantly, you can apply the feature to existing photos you took long before you got your current Android phone. And the improved Nearby Share makes it easy to share with multiple people, not just one person.

For US users there's another useful feature, albeit a bit more practical than fun: you can now use Google Assistant to pay for your parking by saying "Hey Google, pay for parking". It works in over 400 cities in the US. 

It's all very impressive, and it'll be rolling out to Android phones in the next few weeks. You can find out more on the official Google blog.

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).