Android 13 is several months away from its formal debut, but Google has opened up the first previews for its latest mobile operating system today with new features and more. If you’re on a Google Pixel smartphone, you can install Android 13 now. Here’s how, and why you should probably wait.

Is your Pixel compatible with Android 13?

Google supports Pixel smartphones for three major Android updates, meaning that only the most recent Pixel phones are eligible to test out Android 13. As of February 2022, the only Pixel devices eligible to test Android 13 are the following.

  • Pixel 4/XL
  • Pixel 4a
  • Pixel 4a 5G
  • Pixel 5
  • Pixel 5a
  • Pixel 6
  • Pixel 6 Pro

Google is doing away with the Pixel 3 series, which lost updates earlier in February, as well as the Pixel 3a series which will see its final update in the next few months.

What’s new in Android 13?

Where Android 12 was a massive revamp to the platform, Android 13 is a smaller, more focused update. New features include a system-wide photo picker, per-app language settings, optimizations for big-screen devices such as foldable, and more. You can read our coverage of everything that’s new below.

How to install Android 13 on Google Pixel

During the developer preview stage, you can only sideload Android 13 builds on Pixel devices. The update is not available through over-the-air updates. That functionality is reserved for the later beta releases. If you are not familiar with sideloading updates manually, we strongly encourage you to wait for the final release. But, if you just can’t wait to get your hands on the latest and greatest, here’s how to install it.

  1. Download the needed files
  2. Boot into Recovery mode
  3. Navigate to ADB sideload
  4. Connect the handset to a computer with ADB tools installed
  5. Enter the sideload command
  6. Reboot your phone

1. Download Android 13

The first step in how to install Android 13 on your Pixel is to get the files. There are two ways to do so. First, you can install a Factory Image, which wipes your phone and starts everything from scratch. Alternatively, and the way we’ll detail here, there’s an OTA file, which installs over your current version of Android without wiping your phone.

You can download the beta OTA file from Google’s Full OTA Image hosting site. That site contains OTA downloads for sideloading different updates, including Android 13, on every Pixel and Nexus device ever made, so you’ll need to scroll down to ensure you are downloading the file that associates with your device. OTA downloads are available here.

For the Android 13 developer preview, only Pixel 4/XL, Pixel 4a, Pixel 4a 5G, Pixel 5a, Pixel 5, and Pixel 6/Pro are available. You won’t be able to install it on the original Pixel/XL, Pixel 2/XL, Pixel 3/XL, or Pixel 3a/XL.

2. Boot into Recovery mode

Next, you’ll boot your Pixel into Recovery mode. To do this, fully power down your handset. Then, hold down on the Power button and the Volume down button at the exact same time until you get to the Bootloader page. You will know you’re in the right place when you see an Android figure lying down on the screen.

Using your volume buttons, scroll down to Recovery mode. Select this by clicking the power button. Alternatively, if you’re already connected to a computer with ADB, you can use the reboot recovery command.

Now, you should see a smaller Android lying down with an exclamation mark over it. From here, press the Power button and the Volume up button for about a second to fully enter Recovery mode. Releasing the Volume up button will send you into Recovery.

3. Navigate to ADB sideload

Using the volume buttons, scroll down to Apply update from ADB and select it with the power button. This will launch a mostly blank screen with text near the bottom directing you on how to sideload an OTA, such as this one for the Android 13 developer preview.

4. Connect the handset to a computer with ADB tools installed

This step is important as it’s the only way to transfer the downloaded OTA file to your handset. You’ll need to have ADB and Fastboot tools in a handy place. You can download ADB tools from the Android Developers website (or the SDK tools only here). You can also use the Universal ADB Drivers from ClockWorkMod, which can make the process a bit easier on Windows devices.

5. Enter the sideload command

As long as everything is in place, you can now sideload the OTA file. On Windows, ensure your Command Prompt is directed to the ADB tools folder and type in adb sideload. If you’re on macOS or Linux, do the same thing in Terminal (use “cd” and “ls” commands to make sure your Terminal is pointed at the right folder, Google it if you need help) but type in ./adb sideload. You’ll then need to insert the file name of the .zip folder you downloaded from Google and hit enter to start the process.

If everything is working properly, you should see some dialog on your computer and handset that shows the process of the sideload and installation process.

6. Reboot your phone

Once the OTA is done installing, you will be taken back to Recovery Mode. The last step to jump into the new update is to select the Reboot now option with your power button.

Note: This process won’t wipe your device, but it’s good practice to backup any irreplaceable data in case something goes wrong.

How to go back to Android 12

If, after you’ve installed Android 13, you’re not a fan of it or if it isn’t stable enough, you can go back to Android 12. We have that process detailed here.

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Ben Schoon

Ben is a writer and video producer for 9to5Google.

Find him on Twitter @NexusBen. Send tips to schoon@9to5g.com or encrypted to benschoon@protonmail.com.