The first beta version of Android 13 QPR2 (quarterly platform release) is currently available for specific Google Pixel models, giving us a preview of features and tweaks that will eventually come to more Android phones.
The phones in beta, according to Google's Android developer page (opens in a new tab), are the Pixel 4 (4a and 4a 5G), Pixel 5 (the base model and 5a), the Pixel 6 series, and the Pixel 7 series. The release notes say nothing about the content of the release, but renowned Android expert Mishaal Rahman has broken it all down in a lengthy Twitter thread (opens in a new tab). Everything in the beta can be divided into two categories: design changes that all listed Pixel devices will receive, and exclusive features for a select few.
For starters, desktop mode in Android 13 got "improved window options" via a new title bar that makes it easy to move windows around the screen, go back to a previous page, or open a toolbar. It's rather problematic though, as Rahman posted a video (opens in new tab) of him dragging a desktop-only window only to crash a few seconds later.
As for other notable changes, Health Connect is now a pre-loaded app that allows you to consolidate all your personal health data from multiple sources into a single app.
A new “transition taskbar” will make the navigation bar appear on the Pixel home page in navigation apps (possibly other ones as well) whenever you swipe up from the bottom. As the name suggests, the taskbar is temporary and retracts quickly so as not to be distracting. Google is going back to an earlier design with now separate ringtones and notification volumes. For years I couldn't adjust them individually, so it's good to see this return.
Something not mentioned in Rahman's thread is that apps on the home screen have extra space around them (opens in a new tab). This means there will be less space in the launcher and you may have to scroll further to find the app you want, but the new padding makes the menu less cluttered.
Arguably some of the coolest features are exclusive to certain models. The Pixel 6 Pro, for example, has an updated display driver that allows users to select a "1080p display resolution option," which is lower than the native 1440p resolution. This option may increase battery life. Additionally, Spatial Audio is coming to the 6 Pro alongside the base model Pixel 6, Pixel 7, and Pixel 7 Pro to coincide with the feature coming to the Pixel Buds Pro next month (Opens in a new tab).
There's more to the beta than that, but these are the highlights. It's unclear if and when these features will be officially released, but Rahman says the beta will have a stable release in March. If you want to try out the beta, you can join the Android Beta for Pixel program (opens in a new tab) on Google's website, and then install it through settings. Google says in the release notes that the beta version has performance and stability issues, so keep that in mind when testing it.
Be sure to check out TechRadar's list of the best Pixel phones of the year in case you're still on the fence about picking one up.