Incoming: Five new features landing in Android this winter

©Agence France-Presse

Google has announced a series of new features rolling out to Android in the coming weeks. These include new emoji combinations, greater audiobook availability, enhanced voice navigation for the UI, faster access to directions in Maps, and app sharing with nearby users ... even when there's no internet connection.

More emoji combinations

Thanks to a new function called "Emoji Kitchen" on the Gboard virtual keyboard, Google plans to boost the choice of emojis. Users will be able to discover various versions of an emoji when selecting certain ones, as well as combine two emojis to create a new one, making a sticker to share in chats with friends or on social media. Google promises no fewer than 14,000 possible combinations.

Audio-narrated books

Faced with the growing success of audiobooks, Google is working with various publishers in the USA and the UK in an effort to offer automatically generated audio versions of books that aren't yet available in this format. The tool should be available to publishers in early 2021.

Voice Access for smartphone navigation

Originally designed to boost accessibility for users unable to operate the touchscreen, the enhanced Voice Access app will let anyone and everyone control their smartphone UI by voice, using simple commands like "open Chrome," "scroll down," "reply," etc. It promises to make hands-free navigation easy.

Get directions, fast

Google Maps will simplify navigation between previously saved locations (home, work, school, stores, favorite places) with its new "Go" tab. The idea is to pin favorite destinations for fast access to directions to and from those spots, plus live traffic and disruptions, without having to enter the address. Similarly, users can save preferred public transport routes to see departure and arrival times, as well as delays, directly in the "Go" tab.

Sharing applications, even without an internet connection

It's already possible to share multimedia content with nearby users of Android smartphones. Soon, it'll also be possible to share one or several applications with them via Google Play -- even when there's no internet connection. For that, select the "Share Apps" menu in "Manage Apps & Games" then pick the app you want to share. Just ensure the devices are relatively close together.