Google’s December Play System Updates ready a beta test for keeping a digital driver’s license in your Android phone’s Wallet app while also preparing for next year’s Pixel Tablet.

Update 2: Google is readying the launch of an expanded “Find My Device” feature for Android, along with expanded support for digital car keys.

Google launches monthly Android security updates to keep your phone safe and bring new features, but these aren’t the only way that improvements can arrive. As of late, Google has put a strong emphasis on Play Services, the Play Store, and Android’s Play System Updates, referring to the trio as the “Google System.” Each month, Google outlines what’s new across these three avenues, offering a sneak peek at new features for the month ahead.

The easiest way to check whether you need to update Google Play Services on your phone is to follow a direct link to the app’s Play Store listing and update from there, if available. To update the Play Store, tap your avatar in the corner, then “Settings.” Under the “About” section, you’ll see an option to “Update Play Store.” Meanwhile, Google Play system updates can be found through the Settings app, under About phone > Android version > Google Play system update.

In the first batch of Google System updates for the month of December — arriving before the new month has even begun — we learn that Google Wallet is readying a beta test for securely storing your driver’s license on Android phones. For now, Google Wallet’s digital driver’s license beta is limited to the United States, and even then only “select” states are going to be supported.

No details are yet available about which states are included in the test or how one can enroll in the beta test when it launches. It’s possible that the beta test may simply be for those enrolled in the Play Services beta via the Play Store.

Meanwhile, the same Play Services update is also set to include some additional preparation for the Pixel Tablet. One particular Pixel Tablet feature we’ve been tracking is the ability to receive “Casts” just like any other Chromecast or Nest Hub. However, it seems the Pixel Tablet may not always be ready to accept an incoming Cast, and you’ll now see a warning of some sort if you need to “interact” with the tablet before the Cast will go through.

On a minor note, Nearby Sharing should also work a little bit faster for discovering your friends’ devices after this same update.


Update 12/8: With the month of December now well underway, Google has continued to tweak its patch notes for the various Google System updates, including new changes for the Play Store and Wallet.

As spotted last week by our APK Insight team, the Google Play Store is preparing to launch a download progress bubble which will allow you to keep an eye on the download as you browse other apps. According to Google’s patch notes, this feature should be officially launching sometime this month.

Meanwhile, Google Wallet is seemingly shaping up its support for managing what cards and payment methods are loaded onto (supported) Fitbit watches and trackers. Originally launching last month as a “Google Wallet” app for Fitbit OS, the experience is only available for Fitbit Sense 2 and Versa 4 today, with other watches continuing to use Fitbit Pay.


Update 12/14: After over a year of preparation and speculation, Google appears to be finally launching the first of hopefully many enhancements to Android’s “Find My Device” experience. According to the latest patch notes, Google Play Services version 22.50 — set to become available on December 15 — will include a new way to locate Android devices using Find My Device. The new “privacy centric framework” will securely send the last-known-location of a lost Android device.

Android Find My Device network
Google’s “Find My Device network” as seen in mid 2021

The public information about this new feature is still limited, but from past research we believe that Google will be leveraging the billions of Android devices in used today to help locate a phone or tablet that’s been lost or stolen. Should you prefer, it should be possible to opt out of participating in the new tracking features.

Another new addition is that Android’s digital car key features, which up to now were only available on Pixel and Samsung Galaxy phones, are becoming available on Xiaomi phones. For now, though, very few cars actually support using your phone as a car key for unlocking or ignition.

Meanwhile, the Google Play Store is set to launch a new way to automatically “archive” applications when your phone runs out of space. Crucially, your phone will store your data from an archived app, allowing the reinstall process to be smooth and seamless, as though nothing had changed. Our APK Insight team was previously able to demonstrate app archiving in the Play Store, as shown below.


Google Play System updates for December 2022

Critical Fixes

  • [Auto, Phone, TV] Bug fixes for Account Management, Security, Stability and Updatability related services.

Device Connectivity

  • [Phone] Update Cast related settings.
  • [Phone] Reduce delays in discovering contacts via Nearby share.
  • [Phone] Inform the user when casting to a Tablet device needing user interaction.

Google Play Store

  • New Features to help you discover the Apps & Games you love.
  • Optimizations allowing faster and more reliable download and installation.
  • Continuous improvements to Play Protect to keep your device safe.
  • Various performance optimizations, bug fixes and improvements to security, stability and accessibility.
  • [Phone] You can now view the installation progress of multiple apps and games as you navigate through Google Play.
  • [Phone] Automatically archive apps when you need more storage space while preserving your data.

Security & Privacy

  • [Phone] Find My Device now supports encrypted last-known-location reports for Android devices, using a new privacy centric framework.

Support

  • [Phone] New feature enabling users to enter feedback description using voice input. Voice input will be enabled and transcribed only when users shows explicit intent to enter voice by clicking on the input button.

Wallet

  • [Phone] Beta feature to allow users from selected US state(s) to digitize their state ID/driver’s license into the Google Wallet for convenient, private and secure presentation.
  • [Phone] With Wallet, you can now manage payment cards on your Fitbit device.
  • [Phone] An internal feature that allows checking the quality of ID images during customer identity verification for Google products.
  • [Phone] Enable Digital Car Key (DCK) feature on Xiaomi.

Developer Services

  • New developer features for Google and third party app developers to support Device Connectivity, Location & Context, Maps, and Utilities related developer services in their apps.

System Management

  • Updates to system management services that improve device performance, and stability.

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About the Author

Kyle Bradshaw

Kyle is an author and researcher for 9to5Google, with special interests in Made by Google products, Fuchsia, and Stadia.

Got a tip or want to chat? Twitter or Email. Kyle@9to5mac.com