Google is pushing out a handful of last-minute Android updates before the end of the year, including a huge update to its delightful Emoji Kitchen feature in Gboard.
Earlier this year, Google released Emoji Kitchen as part of Gboard, allowing people to essentially remix or create new emoji “recipes” by combining a range of existing emoticons. So if you wanted to create a ghost with a cowboy hat, you could simply combine the standard cowboy hat emoji with the ghost emoji, and voila: Now you have a spooky undead cowboy emoji.
With Emoji Kitchen’s newest update,which will begin rolling out this week, Google is expanding the range of unique combinations from hundreds to more than 14,000, giving you the freedom to potentially create the perfect emoji for every situation.
Google’s other Android updates include upgrades to Google Maps, Android Auto, Nearby Share, Google Play Books, and Accessibility. In Google Maps, there will be a new Go Tab that will provide directions to your most frequently visited places; all you have to do is tap on a location from within the tab.
For any places you have pinned, the Go Tab will also provide info about those locations including a shortcut to directions, traffic info, and estimated arrival time. Google Maps will even let you pin various routes for different modes of transportation, so regardless if you’re driving or taking public transit, you can have your route and navigation planned out ahead of time. While there isn’t a specific timetable for when the Go Tab will be available in Google Maps on your device, Google says it will become available on both Android and iOS devices in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, for those who rely more on Android Auto, Google is expanding support to 36 additional countries, including Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Indonesia, and Namibia.
For Nearby Share, which Google launched earlier this year as a replacement for Android Beam and as an alternative to Apple’s AirDrop sharing system, you’ll now be able to share full apps from the Google Play store with others, even if you’re not connected to mobile data or wifi. All you have to do is go into the My apps & Games tabs in the Google Play app and then look for the Share Apps option. Like the Go Tab in Google Maps, sharing apps with Nearby Share is expected to roll out over the coming weeks.
As for books, by partnering with a number of publishers in the U.S. and U.K., Google Play is getting the ability to create auto-generated narrators, turning standard ebooks into audiobooks automatically. However, it’s currently unclear which ebooks will get this functionality, and right now, the tool to create auto-narrated audiobooks is still in beta before the feature rolls out to all publishers sometime in early 2021.
Finally, to help improve accessibility of Android phones, Google is expanding support of its Voice Access app to older version of Android. Previously available only on Android 11 devices, Voice Access allows people with paralysis, injuries or limited motor function to use and control their Android devices using their voice. Voice Access allows users to voice commands to interact with their phone. It’s also capable of reading UI buttons and more to help facilitate navigating, and with this latest update, Voice Access will now be available (initially as an open beta app) on any Android device running Android 6 (Marshmallow) and above.