Android 12: Everything you need to know about Google’s new big update to the popular OS!
Android is the world’s most popular smartphone operating system, running on over three billion smartphones. As a result, even the tiniest of changes in the OS has the potential to affect millions of users. But because of the way Android updates are delivered, it’s debatable whether these changes actually make a difference. Despite that, we’re always looking forward to the next big Android update in the hope that it brings significant change. Speaking of which, Android 12 is now official in its stable form starting with the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. In case you missed our previous coverage, here’s every single thing we know about Android 12.
Navigate this article:
- Is Android 12 really called “Snow Cone”?
- When did Android 12 release?
- Will my device get Android 12?
- Android 12 Custom ROMs
- Where do I download Android 12 from?
- How to install Android 12?
- What’s new with Android 12?
- Android 12 Developer Preview 1
- Android 12 Developer Preview 1.1
- Android 12 Developer Preview 2
- Android 12 Developer Preview 2.1
- Android 12 Developer Preview 2.2
- Android 12 Leaked Developer Build
- Android 12 Developer Preview 3
- Android 12 Beta 1
- Android 12 Beta 2
- Android 12 Beta 2.1
- Android 12 Beta 3
- Android 12 Beta 3.1
- Android 12 Beta 4
- Android 12 Beta 4.1
- Android 12 Beta 5
- Android 12 Developer Preview 1
- What’s new with Android 12L
- Features leaked but not yet live in Android 12
- Anti-tracking Features
- Android’s Runtime Resource Overlay (RRO) Improvements
- Letterbox Feature
- Restricted Networking Mode
- API for connected Bluetooth controllers
- Game Controller Rumble Support
- Ultra-Wideband API
- “Install Hints” to speed up the installation of important apps on new Android phones
- WireGuard VPN support to Linux kernel
- Automatically Translate Apps to Native Language
- Let user’s manage hidden Recycle Bin
- Saving Screenshots in Pictures > Screenshots instead of in DCIM
- Google “Live Translate”
Is Android 12 really called “Snow Cone”?
Android 12 is called…Android 12. Google ditched the dessert-themed names with Android 10. So what we get is just Android 12. Plain, simple, and easy to follow.
With that being said, Google continues to use dessert-themed names in its internal codebase. Android 10 was internally known as Quince Tart, Android 11 was Red Velvet Cake, and we know that Android 12 is internally called Snow Cone.
When did Android 12 release?
Google had shared a broad timeline for the Developer Previews, Beta, and Stable releases of Android 12 earlier. On 4 October 2021, Google officially launched Android 12. However, it was available to install on Pixel phones starting from 19 October, the same day as the Pixel 6 launch. The best way to experience Android 12 currently is via a Pixel device. If you’re looking to get a new one, you can take a look at our Pixel 6 Pro review to see what Google has to offer on its flagship phone for 2021.
The Android 12 Developer Preview program ran from February 2021 until the final public release to AOSP and OEMs on 4 October.
Android 12 Developer Preview
Android 12 made its first appearance via the first Developer Preview release, which started rolling out on February 18th, 2021. Google subsequently released a minor patch that addressed several bugs and issues that users had been experiencing while using the first Developer Preview build. Android 12 Developer Preview 2 went live on March 17th, 2021, while Android 12 Developer Preview 3 went live on April 21st, 2021.
As the name implied, the Android 12 Developer Previews allowed developers to begin platform migration and start the adaption process for their apps. Google detailed all of the major platform changes in the previews to inform the entire Android ecosystem of what’s coming.
Developer Previews remain largely unstable, and they’re not intended for average users. Google also reserves the right to add or remove features at this stage, so don’t be surprised if you see a feature in the first Developer Preview missing in the following releases. Developer Previews are also restricted to supported Google Pixel devices.
Android 12 Beta
After a couple of Developer Preview releases, we made our way to Android 12 Beta releases, with the first one on May 18th this year as part of the Google I/O 2021 announcements. These Beta releases were a bit more polished, and they gave us a fair idea of what the final OS release looks like. There were also some minor releases in between Betas, mainly to fix any critical bugs. The second beta arrived on June 9th, the third beta on July 14th, while the fourth beta landed on August 11th.
Alongside supported Google Pixel devices, Android 12 Beta 1 was also made available in the form of a GSI that can be flashed on a much wider range of devices. OEMs have also joined the party, and you can flash Beta 1 on the following phones:
- ASUS ZenFone 8
- iQOO 7 Legend
- OnePlus 9
- OnePlus 9 Pro
- OPPO Find X3 Pro
- Realme GT
- TCL 20 Pro 5G
- Xiaomi Mi 11
- Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
- Xiaomi Mi 11 Pro
- Xiaomi Mi 11X Pro / Mi 11i / Redmi K40 Pro+
The first Beta builds were based off AOSP. OEMs then start migrating their UX skins to the Beta version of Android 12 and subsequently began recruitments for their own “Preview” programs later on. Again, bugs were to be expected in these preview programs, and as such, they were recommended only for developers and advanced users.
We tested out the beta builds of Android 12 for multiple custom UIs from different brands. You can read our first impressions of Realme UI 3.0, ColorOS 12, OxygenOS 12, and One UI 4. We will keep adding to this list as and when more brands release beta versions of the custom skins based on Android 12. If you have a Samsung or OnePlus device, you can also keep a tab on our Samsung Android 12 update tracker and OnePlus Android 12 update tracker to know when new versions of the UI are being rolled out.
Android 12 Beta with Platform Stability
After about three beta releases, Android 12 achieved Platform Stability status, co-existing alongside the Beta status with the release on August 11th. Platform Stability means the Android 12 SDK, NDK APIs, app-facing surfaces, platform behaviors, and even restrictions on non-SDK interfaces have been finalized.
As a result, no further changes happen in how Android 12 behaves or how APIs function in the betas that follow. At this point, developers could start updating their apps to target Android 12 (API Level 31) without being concerned about any unexpected changes breaking their app behavior.
Android 12 Release Candidate
The Android 12 Release Candidate build was available to download on September 8th in the form of Beta 5. This build was as close as possible to the stable build, but not completely the stable build. This build was essentially be aiming to catch any critical problems that had gone undetected so far before the build begins rolling out to consumers.
Android 12 Stable
After the Release Candidate builds, Google rolled out the first Android 12 stable release on October 19th. Google’s Pixel devices were the first to get the Android 12 stable release.
For non-Pixel phones, we expect to see wider public betas at this stage. The exact timeline for the same will depend upon your phone and its OEM’s plans. A good rule of thumb is that flagships will be prioritized for the update, so if you have a phone that’s lower down the price range, you can expect to receive the update a few weeks or months down the line.
Will my device get Android 12?
The answer to the question “will my device get Android 12?” largely depends on which device you have.
Google has officially provided the update to these devices:
These supported Google Pixel devices have got the Android 12 update on day one across the release cycle. The Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro also launched with Android 12 out of the box.
The answer is fairly complicated for unsupported Google Pixel devices and non-Pixel devices. Unsupported Pixels won’t get these updates from Google, but they should be in a position to install the GSI right at launch. A non-Pixel device is entirely at the discretion (read: mercy) of the OEM and how it exists within their product lineup. It’s logical to presume lighter UX skins like ASUS’ Zen UI will be first in line to upgrade their flagships to an Android 12 base. In comparison, heavier UX skins like Samsung’s One UI and Xiaomi’s MIUI tend to take longer to re-base their skins.
However, this isn’t always the case, as lighter UX skins have been equally slow at adoption, if not slower. Thus, predicting the Android 12 update timeline for non-Pixels is very difficult at this stage. You can check some of our update trackers below for more info:
- Samsung Android 12 Tracker: Here are all the official One UI 4.0 stable and beta builds to download and install
- OnePlus Android 12 Tracker: Here are all the official OxygenOS 12 builds to download and install
Android 12 Custom ROMs
If your phone isn’t officially supported, or your OEM isn’t rolling out the Android 12 update for your smartphone, you can always check if there is an Android 12 custom ROM out there for your device on the XDA forums. Custom ROMs are a great way to experience the latest Android version if an official update isn’t available for your smartphone. This generally happens when your phone is slightly older or if it’s a mid-range or budget-oriented smartphone that the manufacturer doesn’t want to provide extended software support for.
Where do I download Android 12 from?
For supported Google Pixel devices and GSIs, Google provides official packages hosted on their website. You can find the latest download links for Android 12 in our dedicated article.
How to install Android 12
We have installation instructions available for Android 12 for common installation routes such as Recovery, ADB, and Fastboot for the above-mentioned supported Pixel devices, and through GSI for all other unsupported Project Treble devices.
What’s new with Android 12?
Go ahead and grab something to eat, a snow cone perhaps, because there are a lot of changes, both big and small, that are coming with Android 12. All Android version bumps bring along major changes. While changes over the past few years have been less radical than the sweeping changes in the early life of Android — which is a sign of the platform maturing over the years — Android 12 is an exception. This version of Android is being described as the biggest UX change for the OS since Android 5.0 Lollipop.
We’re focusing on all new changes that are coming with every Developer Preview and Beta release, and then highlighting the changes we’ve seen in leaks and code commits, but not yet seen in live builds.
Information on previous Developer Previews. Click to expand section.
What’s new with Android 12 Developer Preview 1
You can find all of our Android 12 Developer Preview 1 coverage below:
- Android 12 Developer Preview 1: Announced changes for developers
- Android 12 Developer Preview 1 Hands-On
- Android 12 Developer Preview 1 — In-development features:
- New Lockscreen and Notifications UI
- Pixel Exclusive: Custom Lockscreen Clocks
- “Silky Home” for further improvements in One-Handed Usability
- “Monet” Wallpaper-based Expanded Theming System
- Dedicated One-Handed Mode
- Scrolling Screenshots
- Improved Widgets:
- Swipe Down Gesture for Notification Shade
- Better Split Screen Multitasking with App Pairs
- Machine Learning for Side-swipe Back Gesture
- Game Mode and Gaming Toolbar
- Pixel 5 Specific: Double Tap Back Gesture
What’s new with Android 12 Developer Preview 1.1
As mentioned earlier, Developer Preview 1.1 is more of a bugfix update. Apart from addressing a few bugs present in the initial release, there don’t seem to be any major changes in terms of functionality. The build also bumps up the Android security patch level. For further information, head on over to this article.
What’s new with Android 12 Developer Preview 2
You can find all of our Android 12 Developer Preview 2 coverage below:
- Android 12 Developer Preview 2: Announced changes for developers
- Android 12 Developer Preview 2 New Features: Lighter dark theme, one-handed mode, and more!
- Android 12 Developer Preview 2 Hidden Features Changelog: New Search widget, Taskbar, and more!
What’s new with Android 12 Developer Preview 2.1
Android 12 Developer Preview 2.1 is another bugfix update. Apart from addressing a few bugs present in the initial release, there don’t seem to be any major changes in terms of functionality. For further information, head on over to this article.
What’s new with Android 12 Developer Preview 2.2
Android 12 Developer Preview 2.2 is another bugfix update. There don’t seem to be any major changes in terms of functionality. For further information, head on over to this article.
What’s new with Android 12 Leaked Developer Build
We got our hands on a leaked build that’s newer than Developer Preview 2.2 but was unreleased. You can read all about the new changes in this build in our dedicated coverage of the upcoming features spotted in the leaked build.
What’s new with Android 12 Developer Preview 3
You can find all of our Android 12 Developer Preview 3 coverage below:
What’s new with Android 12 Beta 1: All the announced features
Android 12 Beta 1 is the latest Android release from Google and is a closer representation of what we can expect to see from the next version of Android as compared to the previous Developer Previews.
Google’s official announcement is scant on the exact details, but we’ve seen far, far too much at this stage. Fun fact — Google even had an inside joke on XDA’s Editor-in-Chief Mishaal Rahman chancing upon a leaked Android 12 build and discovering a lot more than Google had intended to reveal at that time.
Material You is one of the biggest changes on Android 12. Leaked in the past as Material NEXT, Material You is the next iteration of Material Design. This design language isn’t going to be restricted to Android and will be seen across a wider variety of Google services. But for Android, this forms one of the bigger visual overhauls the OS has seen in several years. There’s a lot of focus on color and customization, allowing users to choose their own color swatches, contrast, element sizes, line widths, and more.
Wallpaper-based UX Theming
Going hand-in-hand with Material You is the new wallpaper-based UX theming engine in Android 12. This feature was leaked previously as “monet”, and is a culmination of the years of work on OMS and RRO on the Android platform.
Android 12 now automatically chooses a set of correlative color palettes across the system UI based on the colors used in the phone’s current wallpaper. The colors will apply uniformly across elements such as the lockscreen, quick settings, notifications panel, and even the newly added adaptive widgets.
Google says the color extraction system uses a clustering algorithm with Material color targets to determine the dominant and less dominant colors and then applies hues that match your wallpaper. A rich palette of 5 colors — 2 neutral and 3 accent colors — and 12 shades of Material color can be used to determine the closest hues to the user’s wallpaper. Apps can then grab Android’s system color from an index into the color palette and use it in many different, subtle ways. Widgets can even use the color extraction feature to harmonize with the user’s theme on the home screen.
The feature is not currently readily available to end-users, but you can enable it with some fiddling around as it’s present within the build. The feature is readily available with Beta 2, however.
Google is refocusing on Privacy with Android 12’s Privacy Dashboard and other related changes. The Privacy Dashboard will show you a timeline of when apps access your phone’s camera, microphone, or device location. Android 12 will also include new indicators to show when your phone’s camera or microphone is in use.
For apps that require location data, Android 12 will also offer a new setting that will let you share your approximate location with the app instead of your precise location. This setting will show up within the location permission pop-up you’re probably already familiar with.
Android 12 will include new toggles in the Quick Settings to help you quickly disable camera and microphone access for all apps with a simple tap. These toggles will initially be limited to Pixel devices, but they’ll make their way to other phones soon.
Note these features were a part of the announcement of Beta 1 (and were included in the code and could be enabled with software tricks). They were enabled for the public with Beta 2.
Private Compute Core
Android 12 will also feature a Private Compute Core that will keep your information private for several AI-driven features, like Live Caption, Now Playing, and Smart Reply. The Private Compute Core will be a safe partition within the operating system, similar to the ones used for password and biometric data, for these machine learning features.
Having a separate partition for the data will make it easier for the operating system to keep it safe, while still keeping it available for system-level functions. This means sensitive audio and language processing for the features mentioned above will happen exclusively on your device.
Android 12 also introduces a new feature called App Hibernation. App hibernation allows you to put apps into a “hibernation” state if they’re not actively being used. Apps that are put into a hibernated status will optimize their storage usage, and their permissions will be revoked.
Apps that aren’t used for several months will be put into this “hibernation” state, although users can quickly toggle this feature on and off if they don’t want their unused apps to go into hibernation. To get an app out of hibernation, you just need to run it normally.
Unlock your car from your phone
Google announced it’s partnering with several smartphone companies to establish an industry-wide standard that will help you unlock your car using your phone.
One of the ways the car key feature in Android 12 works is through NFC, and you can simply tap your smartphone on the car’s door to unlock it. For phones with UWB, like the Samsung Galaxy S21 series, you’ll be able to unlock the car without taking your phone out of your pocket. The feature will also allow users to share these virtual car keys with friends and family members when they borrow the vehicle.
Smoother Audio Transitions
Android 12 will introduce smoother audio transitions between apps. When an app loses audio focus, its audio is automatically faded out, providing a smoother transition between apps that play audio, and preventing apps from playing over each other. This is particularly relevant in foldable and multi-screen Android environments.
Device Performance Class
There are a wide variety of Android devices out there. For app developers, this variety means there’s no quick and reliable way to estimate what level of performance a particular device may offer. This means app developers may not be able to tune their app performance to match the expected level of device performance, turning off certain settings for devices that may not be as good of performers as flagships, but may not be entry-level either.
Android 12 introduces “Performance Class” for devices, which is essentially defining a set of capabilities that go beyond Android’s baseline requirements. Devices that meet the performance class requirements can support more demanding use-cases and deliver higher quality content. App developers can check what performance class a device is part of at runtime and then tailor the app to deliver an experience that takes full advantage of the device’s performance.
Each version of Android has its own corresponding performance class. The performance class will be defined in the Compatibility Definition Document (CDD) for that particular Android OS version (note: Android 12’s CDD isn’t public yet) and whether or not a device actually meets that performance class is enforced by the Compatibility Test Suite (CTS).
While the concept of a performance class is being introduced with Android 12, Google says it will also define a performance class for Android 11.
Although Google hasn’t shared exact details about what requirements entail in the performance class for Android 12, we did a bit of digging and found some of the requirements. They include:
- At least 6GB of RAM.
- At least 400dpi and 1080p resolution.
- At least 150MB/s sequential write, 250MB/s sequential read, 10MB/s random write, and 40MB/s random read speeds.
- Other requirements for a maximum number of concurrent video decoder and encoder sessions, low codec initialization latency, low amount of playback frame drops, and more.
What’s new with Android 12 Beta 1: Unannounced changes
In addition to the main announcement, several other changes have also been spotted. These are either on Beta 1 or are introduced publicly to the platform with Beta 1.
Google is finally overhauling widgets on Android by reworking the Widgets API to enhance the user experience across different platforms, Android skins, and launchers. We now see a consistent spread of the Google Sans font, flat icons, and cohesive color palettes, all of which together give widgets a more modern look.
Widgets in Android 12 get new dynamic controls allowing you to interact with checkboxes, radio buttons, and switches without entering an app. The widget picker will now also offer responsive previews for widgets of different sizes. The new API also adds support dynamic coloring as part of the Material You theming engine, allowing widgets to adapt to the wallpaper, like other visual elements.
Clipboard Access alerts
Google is introducing a setting in Android 12 to show a popup every time an app accesses your clipboard — even if it’s in the foreground.
AV1 Codec for Video Recording
Google has long recommended the use of the royalty-free AV1 codec for video encoding, but few hardware products support hardware acceleration for encoding in AV1. On the other hand, there’s H.265/HEVC, a video codec that isn’t royalty-free but which most high-end Android devices released in the past few years support encoding in with hardware acceleration.
Compared to H.264/AVC, ie. the video codec that most camera apps on Android smartphones record in by default, Google says that H.265/HEVC can record videos at the same quality but with half the bitrate, resulting in significant file size reductions.
Beginning with Android 12, Google says more OEMs will adopt HEVC as the default format for video capture. By making HEVC the default video capture format, users can reduce how much space video recordings take on local or cloud storage. Furthermore, smaller file sizes will reduce upload times on social media and other platforms where users can upload videos.
Location-free Bluetooth Scanning
Before Android 12, the ability to scan for nearby Bluetooth or Wi-Fi devices was tied to Android’s broader “location” permission. The reason this was the case makes sense. You can definitely track a device by inferring what Bluetooth devices or Wi-Fi networks are nearby or are currently connected to. So even if an app just scans for Bluetooth devices and doesn’t utilize GPS or other tracking technologies, it still needed the same location permissions nonetheless.
Now in Android 12, Google has added new dedicated Bluetooth permissions distinct from the location permissions that apps can request. After being granted these permissions, an app can scan for nearby devices without needing the location permissions. Only apps targeting Android 12 can declare these permissions, however.
Updates from Alternative App Stores
In response to mounting pressure from Epic Games and government regulators, Google had promised to make changes in Android 12 that would make it easier for people to use other app stores on their devices without compromising safety measures.
With Android 12, Google is making it easier for alternative app stores to provide a good experience on devices. Google has updated Android’s PackageInstaller.SessionParams class with a new method called setRequireUserAction. This method indicates whether or not user action should be required before an app install is allowed. It defaults to ‘true’ for any app that holds the REQUEST_INSTALL_PACKAGES permission, which is required for any app before they can initiate an install session to sideload an app outside of Google Play or whatever preinstalled app store is on the device.
Shortcuts API for Google Assistant
App Shortcuts have been part of Android for a while, allowing users to surface some popular actions when they hold down an app icon. With Android 12, Google is introducing new APIs for Shortcuts that will allow users to find all the Google Assistant queries that are supported with apps. If a developer builds an Android Shortcut, it will automatically show up in the Assistant Shortcuts gallery, so users can choose to set up a personal voice command in your app, when they say “Hey Google, shortcuts“. Google is also introducing a new variation of Android shortcuts, called dynamic shortcuts, designed specifically for Google Assistant.
Bluetooth LE Audio API
Android 12 is adding in an API for Bluetooth LE Audio, which is a significant announcement that will greatly enhance the end-user experience when using Bluetooth earphones and other audio devices. While Bluetooth LE Audio’s new LC3 codec won’t do much to improve audio quality per se, it will help with improving battery life and signal robustness. This will translate into a better user experience for a large majority of users.
Concurrent Peer-to-Peer and Internet Connection
Starting with Android 12, devices that support concurrent peer-to-peer and Internet connections can maintain both connections. In other words, your phone shouldn’t get disconnected from your home Wi-Fi when setting up a smart home device. This feature will only be enabled for apps targeting API level 31 and higher. Apps targeting earlier versions of Android won’t be able to take advantage of the concurrent connection and will be subject to the legacy behavior, meaning your device will be disconnected from your Wi-Fi network before connecting to a peer-to-peer device.
Blocking third-party apps from replacing the share sheet
Android Sharesheet is the menu that pops out from the bottom when you hit the share button within an app, listing out all the possible sharing options. But as you might have noticed, the UI of the Android Sharesheet can look wildly different from app to app. That’s because Google doesn’t enforce UI consistency for the share sheet, allowing third-party apps and OEMs to customize it to their heart’s content.
One of the ways Android users can bypass the Android Sharesheet altogether is by using a third-party app like Sharedr, which offers a more consistent and simpler UI that also does away with Direct Share, which can be quite slow to populate on some devices — despite receiving a significant performance boost in Android 11. But as it appears, using a third-party sharesheet as a replacement for the Android sharesheet won’t be as easy in Android 12.
In Android 12, Google no longer allows third-party apps to set themselves as the default share sheet. Google has confirmed this is intended behavior as they never actually intended to allow apps to replace the share dialog.
Splash Screen API
Android 12 introduces automatically generated Splashscreen for every app by default through the Splashscreen API. Developers can further customize this by animating elements of the splash screen. In order to make it easier for developers to make a custom splash screen, Google also released Core Splashscreen Version 1.0.0.
This is a new Jetpack support library that lets developers add a splash screen to their app that’s not only compatible with the new Splash Screen APIs in Android 12 but also backward compatible all the way back to API level 23, or Android 6.0 Marshmallow.
What’s new with Android 12 Beta 2: All the announced features
Android 12 Beta 2 was released on June 9th, and the highlight of this release was the privacy and UX features Google had announced in the main event in Google I/O. They’re now finally available for users to freely access. This includes features like:
- Privacy Dashboard.
- Microphone and camera toggles and indicators.
- Clipboard read notification.
- Wallpaper-based UX Theming.
- New notification panel design.
- Conversation Widget.
Updated Wi-Fi UX Experience
The second Android 12 beta has added a “simpler and more intuitive connectivity experience across the Status Bar, Quick Settings, and Settings.” There’s a new Internet panel that pops up when you long-press on the Internet Quick Setting tile (this tile was previously named ‘Wi-Fi’ in earlier releases). This panel helps you quickly switch between networks and troubleshoot issues without diving into settings.
What’s new with Android 12 Beta 2: Unannounced changes
Alongside all the announcements, Android 12 Beta 2 also brings along a few unannounced changes.
Revamped power menu
The power menu has been overhauled in Android 12 Beta 2. Rather than taking up the entire screen, it now appears as a much smaller floating window. Three options are shown by default — “Emergency,” “Power off,” and “Restart,” although you can add a fourth –“Lockdown” — under the “Face & Fingerprint Unlock” settings. While the options themselves are unchanged, they now have rounded icons instead of squares.
Since this power menu is much smaller, the “Device Controls” and “Quick Access Wallet” module have been removed from the Power Menu, and their settings are no longer part of Settings > System > Gestures > Power Menu.
In Android 12 Beta 2, the power menu can now be called by telling Google “Power off.” Lastly, Android 12 Beta 2 also lets you access the power menu by pressing the power button and the volume up button simultaneously, but this conflicts with the “prevent ringing” gesture if that’s enabled.
New shortcuts for Wallet and Device Controls
Since the “Quick Access Wallet” and “Device Controls” features have been nixed from the power menu, Android 12 Beta 2 added Quick Settings tiles for them so they’re still accessible. Furthermore, you’ll see a floating button for “Quick Access Wallet” appear on the lockscreen if you’ve set it up.
Quick Tap gesture
The double-tap on the back feature, which has been in the works since Android 11, is now finally live in Android 12 Beta 2. Originally known as double-tap, Android 12 Beta 2 renamed the feature to Quick Tap, and it can be found under Settings > System > Gestures on certain Pixel phones running the Beta 2 release. The feature seems to only be live for the latest Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 though, as the feature isn’t accessible unless you search for it on other Pixel devices.
Once activated, Quick Tap lets you double-tap on the back of your phone to trigger Google Assistant, take a screenshot, play or pause media, or open an app of your choice.
Slimmer volume panel
Many users weren’t happy with the oversized volume control panel of Android 12 Beta 1, and that’s being addressed in Beta 2 with the introduction of a new volume panel that’s slimmer and taller.
Consolidated battery optimization settings
Android 12 Beta 2 also puts the “background restriction” and “battery optimization” settings into one page. This is accessible from an app’s info page and then going to “Battery.” In earlier versions, “don’t optimize” and “optimize” options appeared on a separate page than the “restricted” setting, which was only accessible under the “special app access” page.
Streamlined media player design
One of the more prominent changes introduced with Android 11 is the media player in the Quick Settings panel. This feature is still present in Android 12, but Google has tweaked the design a bit since the last beta. Compared to Beta 1, the media player in Beta 2 is slimmer by moving the app icon from the top-left to underneath the album art and moving the media controls to the bottom right instead of underneath the title/album. The media player’s background also inherits its color from the palette generated by “money.”
Status Bar indicator for ongoing calls
Android 12 Beta 2 brings in a new chip indicator in the status bar for ongoing calls. This feature is a work-in-progress and not user-accessible yet, but we managed to enable it to give users a look.
As you can see in the screenshots above, when a call is going on, and the user leaves the main calling screen, Android 12 will show a prominent chip in the status bar that shows the duration of the call. Android 11 currently doesn’t show the duration of your ongoing call in the status bar. To check the call duration, you have to either return to the main calling screen or pull down the notification tray.
Background Changing Conversation Widget
The Conversations widget in Android 12 Beta 2 shows a contact’s profile picture, name, and either an icon for or the contents of the last message. But it was found out that certain text in messages can trigger a change to the background of the Conversations widget. When the user received a message that contained two or more exclamation marks, the widget’s background suddenly became filled with semi-transparent exclamation marks.
We confirmed the Conversations widget indeed changes its background when a message contains two or more exclamation marks. We also discovered the background can change when two or more question marks are contained in the message or if there’s a mix of question and exclamation marks, and there’s a change when there is repeated emoji use.
Digging into the SystemUI of Android 12 Beta 2, we learned the PeopleTileViewHelper class uses regular expressions to check the message for certain patterns. If there are two or more exclamation marks, two or more question marks, a mix of question and exclamation marks, or two or more of the same emoji, then that text/emoji gets applied to the widget’s background.
New x-axis transition animation for Settings App
While analyzing the Settings APK, Mishaal discovered that Google has gated a new page transition animation behind a feature flag. This flag, once enabled, changes the transition animation to use the shared x-axis animation detailed in Google’s Material Design guidelines. This animation currently only applies to the Settings app and not any other system or third-party apps installed on the device.
Smaller changes within Beta 2 include adding in the key layout file for the Sony PlayStation 5, live preview of apps in the recent apps preview, and more. You can check out all the changes in our dedicated coverage of Android 12 Beta 2 features.
What’s new with Android 12 Beta 2.1
Android 12 Beta 2.1 was released on June 23, and as is the case with point releases, the highlight of this release was bug fixes for the most part.
What’s new with Android 12 Beta 3: All the announced features
Android 12 Beta 3 was released on July 14th, and the highlight of this release was the focus around practical and usable features, like:
- Scrolling screenshots.
- Better, faster auto-rotate.
- On-device search.
Play as You Download aka Incremental
“Play as you download” is a new service offered by Google Play that “will allow users to get into gameplay in seconds while game assets are downloaded in the background.” There’s a simple reason Google developed this new “play as you download feature.” “Users want to start playing right away, but as game quality keeps improving, their size increases, leading to long, dull downloads,” explains Google.
Google says that “play as you download” is available to all developers who publish apps and games through the Play Store and that, once implemented, games are “ready to open at least 2 times faster” than before. The improvement can be quite dramatic in some instances, with Google stating that 400MB-sized games can take as little as 10 seconds to load instead of several minutes.
Only devices running the latest version of Android can take advantage of this new feature, and the reason is the feature is “built into the core of Android 12.” Google confirmed to XDA that, under-the-hood, “play as you download” makes use of Android’s Incremental File System, a “special-purpose Linux virtual file system that allows execution of a program while its binary and resource files are still being lazily downloaded over the network.”
Google is also encouraging launcher developers to add support for Incremental, the internal name for “play as you download”, by showing a promise icon and download progress indicator on the home screen while the app is being incrementally downloaded. If the user taps on the icon but it’s not ready to launch yet, then the launcher should navigate the user to the app’s landing page on the Google Play Store.
Once the partially downloaded app is ready to launch, the launcher should replace the promise icon with the regular app icon but should show the download progress indicator reflecting the download state of the app. Clicking on the app icon should now launch the app, and when the app download has been completed, the download progress indicator should be removed.
Native 4K UI and Refresh Rate Switching for Android TV based on Android 12
This isn’t a feature for phones, but for TVs instead. The most significant new features with Android 12 Beta 3 for TVs is the introduction of native 4K UI rendering and dynamic refresh rate switching.
While Android TV has always supported 4K content playback, Android 12 will be the first time the UI itself will be rendered in 4K. Previously, the UI was rendered at 1080p maximum and then upscaled to fit your 4K TV. This should hopefully make the home screen interface, Settings, and other system surfaces look much sharper.
With dynamic refresh rate switching, Android TV now supports seamless and non-seamless refresh rate switching. Apps can integrate these settings for playback of content at optimal frame rates and can check whether a TV supports seamless frame rate switching. NVIDIA’s SHIELD TV has had its own version of this feature for a while now, but it’s nice to finally see it added at a platform level for all Android TV devices to use.
What’s new with Android 12 Beta 3: Unannounced changes
Alongside all the announcements, Android 12 Beta 3 also brings along a fair few unannounced changes.
Settings no longer uses colorful icons
The colorful settings menu icons have been muted. The icons used to look like this in older Android OS versions, so it may seem odd to see them return in Android 12. However, Google probably wanted to make the icons more consistent so they won’t clash with whatever theme “monet” generates from your wallpaper.
Material You’s dynamic theme is now customizable
On a more colorful note though, Android 12 Beta 3 makes “monet” more customizable. In Beta 2, once you picked a wallpaper, “monet” would automatically generate a theme for you, but you couldn’t change what palette to use. Google teased this palette-picking feature at Google I/O, and now, Beta 3 has added the updated WallpaperPicker app which adds this functionality.
After you apply a wallpaper in Android 12 Beta 3, you can go back to change the system theme colors. You can either go with the palette options that Material You dynamically generated from your wallpaper, or you can pick a “basic” color to theme the entire system. Depending on how complex your wallpaper is, you can pick from up to four palette options.
Interestingly, before you even apply a wallpaper, the wallpaper preview screen itself changes to reflect what palette Android 12 will generate from your wallpaper. This will let you see what theme Android will dynamically generate without needing to change your wallpaper. Of course, if you don’t like the palette Android generated, you can change the system theme colors as we previously mentioned.
In the Wallpaper & Style app (AKA WallpaperPicker), there’s a new “themed icons” toggle. This toggle exposes the functionality that was hidden in Beta 2. When you enable this option, the icons for most Google apps will follow your system theme. Not every Google app is affected by this — on our devices, the icons for Chat, Find My Device, Play Games, and Tasks weren’t dynamically themed — but the vast majority of Google apps are supported by this.
Unfortunately, it looks like the list of app icons that get dynamically themed is hardcoded. No third-party apps follow the theme right now, although developers will be able to change their own app’s icon once the Material You libraries are released. Themed app icons also only show up on the home screen and not in the app drawer, Settings, or recent apps overview. This is certainly a neat feature, but it’ll be really jarring if just one icon on your homescreen doesn’t follow your system theme while the rest do.
Quickly copy links from the recent apps overview
The Device Personalization Services app on Pixel phones provides a handful of nifty features. Notably, the app uses OCR to extract text and images from the tasks in the recent apps overview.
Starting in Android 12 Beta 3, a new action has been spotted in the recent apps overview. When you focus on a task that contains a URL — such as Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge — Android displays a link icon that, when tapped, lets you copy or share the URL.
We haven’t determined exactly how this feature works, but it doesn’t seem to be OCR-based. It’s able to pick up the full URL even if the entire URL isn’t shown in the recent apps overview. One user told us it worked for them on Reddit, so it may be pulling the URL somehow from the WebView.
Disable swipe to invoke assistant gesture
If you’ve ever accidentally invoked the Google Assistant by swiping up from the bottom of your phone, then you’ll be glad to know that Android 12 Beta 3 introduces a toggle to disable that gesture. It can be found in Settings > System > Gestures > System navigation > Gesture navigation (tap the cog icon.)
In Android 11, Google moved the media player from the notification panel to a dedicated space underneath the Quick Settings panel. In Android 12, this media player has been refined and now looks much more integrated than before. Whenever the user pauses media playback, Android continues to show the media player under the Quick Settings panel so the user can quickly resume playback. The user can disable this behavior by going to Settings > Sound & Vibration > Media.
Now in Beta 3, this “Media” settings page has added another option: “show media recommendations”. This feature doesn’t actually work yet because it’s tied to the upcoming “Live Space” feature. Once it’s live, the “Live Space” widget will show media suggestions whenever an audio accessory like headphones are connected.
“At a Glance” is now “Live Space”
Speaking of “Live Space”, in Android 12 Beta 3, Google has renamed the “At a Glance” widget to “Live Space.” Right now, this is just a rebranding as no new functionality has been added. However, the new “Live Space” widget is set to gain a few new features that currently aren’t found in the “At a Glance” widget. These features include an “at a store” toggle to surface shopping lists and Google Pay rewards cards when you’re at a store, a media recommendations toggle, and information related to stocks, sports, and birthdays.
The first screenshot on the left is from Beta 3, while the two screenshots on the right are from our previous article covering the “Live Space” widget.
Storage settings show trash storage use
Your phone’s storage settings will now show you how much storage your phone’s trash is taking up. Well, technically it tells you how much storage all the files marked as trash are taking up on your device, as Android technically doesn’t have a single trash directory.
A few months ago, we learned Google may be finally letting users manage their phone’s recycling bin, and this addition seems to be related to that. Trashed items on Android are currently hidden from most file managers as they’re prefaced with a ‘.’ in their filename, which is how Android understands a file should be considered hidden. These hidden trashed files are stored in the same directory where they were originally located rather than being moved to a system-wide Recycle Bin/Trash folder. When you tap on the “Trash” item in storage settings, you’re redirected to the Trash activity of the Files by Google app.
You can turn off Wi-Fi from the “Internet” panel now
The second Android 12 beta simplified the connectivity experience by combining both the Wi-Fi and mobile data tiles into one tile called “Internet.” When you tap on the new “Internet” tile in Quick Settings, it launches the “Internet” panel at the bottom of your screen, letting you change your Wi-Fi network or toggle mobile data. However, the simplification went a bit too far, as you couldn’t turn off Wi-Fi without tapping the Settings cog on your current network to dive into Settings.
In Android 12 Beta 3, however, you no longer need to dive into settings to turn off your phone’s Wi-Fi, as there’s now a toggle called “turn off Wi-Fi” in the bottom left of the Internet panel.
Turning off Wi-Fi in Android 12 Beta 3 still requires one more step than in Android 11, so if you want the ability to turn off Wi-Fi straight from the Quick Settings panel, you can make your own Wi-Fi toggle using an app like Tasker.
Bubbles and PIP windows have a redesigned closing experience
When you drag a bubble or picture-in-picture window in Android 12 Beta 3, you may notice a few changes. First of all, the close target (the “X” at the bottom) is now much larger. Second, there’s a neat snap animation for when the bubble or PIP window are near the close target. You can see both of these in action in the screen recording embedded below.
A revamped setup experience
If you factory reset your phone or buy a new Pixel, you’ll be greeted by the SetupWizard app. This app guides you through connecting to the Internet, adding your Google account, and setting up a few features, and in Android 12 Beta 3, it has a much more pleasant design that’s in line with the other Material You-themed system apps.
At the Google for Games Developer Summit, Google finally unveiled the long-awaited game dashboard feature for Android 12. Once this feature rolls out, you’ll be able to access a dashboard with key utilities like a screen recorder, screen capture shortcut, FPS meter, and Do Not Disturb toggle. The dashboard also has a shortcut for YouTube Live streaming, a Google Play Games widget, and a game optimization menu.
In Beta 3, the game dashboard technically isn’t live for users yet, but we spotted a new “Game settings” page where you’ll be able to globally toggle the game dashboard and Do Not Disturb for games features.
Consolidation of one-handed mode and “swipe for notifications” gestures
In Android 12 DP2, Google added a new “swipe for notifications” gesture that lets you swipe down near the bottom of any screen to pull down the notification bar. This conflicts with Android 12’s one-handed mode that was also added in DP2 because both gestures are triggered the same way. In Beta 3, Google got rid of the standalone settings page for the “swipe for notifications” gesture and instead moved it to the page for one-handed mode.
- The “Text and display” submenu under accessibility settings has added an experimental section. There’s nothing actually new here — it’s just more rearranging on Google’s part.
- An optional feature flag enables location indicator alerts, much like camera and microphone. However, given how frequently apps like Google Play Services accesses the location to provide location services for other apps, the indicator is more annoying than informative.
- A hidden “Advanced Security” activity lists various settings from the Security settings page. It seems Google may be cutting down on what’s shown in the main Security settings page by moving some of the less frequently used options to a dedicated page.
- The power menu settings page can now be found under “System” rather than “System > Gestures.”
- Since the device controls and quick access wallet feature are no longer part of the power menu, Android 12 Beta 3 displays a tip for the user telling them where these features have been moved to when they first open the power menu.
- A major overhaul to widgets is happening in Android 12, though most of the revamped Google app widgets haven’t been rolled out yet. To educate users about the new widgets, the Pixel Launcher will now display a help tip when the user first opens the widget picker.
- Notification settings have been rearranged. The general section is now up top, and “app settings” lets you quickly get into managing notifications for your apps.
- Pixel phones ship with Google Camera 8.3.252, which supports Material You’s dynamic theming.
While work is on to decouple new emoji updates from system updates, Google has also updated nearly 1,000 emojis in Android 12. All apps that support the Appcompat library will automatically get the latest emojis from Google. No matter how old your phone is or how long it takes your apps to update, starting with Android 12, you’ll get the latest emojis in apps that use Appcompat.
What’s new with Android 12 Beta 3.1
Android 12 Beta 3.1 was released on July 26, and it primarily includes bug fixes.
What’s new with Android 12 Beta 4: All the announced features
Android 12 Beta 4 was released on August 11th, and it marked the Platform Stability milestone. This means Google has finalized APIs and app-facing behaviors for Android 12. So the developers are free to start their final compatibility testing and get their apps and games ready for the final release. Otherwise, the release mainly includes bug fixes and implements an advertising ID change promised earlier in the year.
Google Play services advertising ID
Google Play services creates an advertising ID for users who opt-in for ad personalization or interest-based advertising. This ID helps Google push relevant ads to the users and is also helpful for analytics and fraud prevention. Earlier, when a user opted out of ad personalization, Google Play services simply stopped using the ID for ad personalization but left it as it is for other purposes. The third-party apps could still see the advertising ID.
But with Android 12 Beta 4, Play Services will replace the advertising ID with a string of zeros when users turn off ad personalization and inform all apps that have access to the ID to remove any existing data.
What’s new with Android 12 Beta 4: Unannounced changes
In addition to the main announcement, one exciting change has been spotted.
Android 12 Easter egg
Google includes an Easter egg in every major Android release, and the Android 12 Easter egg was leaked in July this year. The company has finally made it live with the Beta 4 release. Android 12’s Easter egg is a clock widget that you can spin until both hands hit 12. Once you do that, colorful bubbles burst out and fill the screen. Your current wallpaper determines the colors of these bubbles. It is a nifty way to showcase Material You and its dynamic colors.
— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) July 26, 2021
What’s new with Android 12 Beta 4.1
Android 12 Beta 4.1 was released on August 25th, and like the previous point releases, it mainly included a bunch of bug fixes.
What’s new with Android 12 Beta 5
Android 12 Beta 5 was released on September 8th and is essentially the final Beta release, more commonly known as the Release Candidate for Android 12. What this means is Beta 5 will now be followed by the final stable release of Android 12. As with every Beta release, Beta 5 brings some bug fixes along with new features and changes. Since this is a Release Candidate, the first stable release will also be practically the same, presuming no showstopper critical bugs.
Here’s everything that’s new with Android 12 Beta 5.
- Fixed an issue where the media controls sometimes wouldn’t appear after rotating the device.
- Fixed an issue that caused Android System Intelligence to crash intermittently.
- Fixed an issue where the Settings app would stop responding when the preferred mobile network type was changed.
- Fixed an issue that prevented the device from switching between a physical SIM and an eSIM in certain cases.
- Fixed an issue where, in some cases after updating a device to the next Beta release, Google Maps crashed whenever it was launched by a secondary user.
- Fixed an issue for devices with multiple users, where, in some cases after updating the device to the next Beta release, the device crashed and rebooted when trying to switch to a secondary user.
Google Clock and Calendar with Material You redesign
Material You is Google’s new design language going forward on Android. Material You adds a theme to your device’s UI elements and apps based on your wallpaper. It picks out the dominant color from the wallpaper and creates a color palette that’s then used to theme your apps. The Clock and calculator apps are the latest ones to get the Material You redesign with Android 12 Beta 5. The redesign also brings with a host of new widgets that look modern and much better than the older clock widget.
Device Control Shortcut on Lockscreen
On Android 12 Beta 5, you can quickly access all your connected devices right from a shortcut on the lockscreen. While this option was present in the power menu on Android 11, it’s now been moved to the lockscreen which is a welcome addition and helps keep the power menu clean.
Faster Search Bar on Pixel Launcher
The search bar present on the bottom of Pixel Launcher now shows all your search results much more quickly than it used to previously. It not only lists your apps but now functions as a universal search bar that can show your contacts, settings, shortcuts, etc.
Private Compute Core
The Settings > Privacy page on Android 12 Beta 5 has now been renamed to Private Compute Core. You can turn off your keyboard suggestions from here or even disable other features that use on-device Machine Learning.
Priority Conversation Widgets
When you mark a conversation as Priority on Beta 5, the Pixel launcher asks if you want to add a widget to the homescreen that points to that conversation with that particular contact.
Google “Live Translate”
Android 12 has an all-new “Live Translate” feature that works in real-time and on-device to translate spoken sentences from one language to the other. What exactly does this “Live Translate” feature do? Basically, it’s like an extension to Live Caption, which currently only transcribes speech into text of the same language. The Google Translate app is already capable of real-time translation, but this implementation on Android 12 is even better.
Before this feature was officially announced, we’d got an exclusive look at Google’s Live Translate features on the Pixel 6 including screenshots of the setup process.
Android 12L has been announced with improvements for foldables
Google has announced Android 12L, the next iteration in the series after Android 12. Android 12L brings some major improvements to usability and optimizes Android for foldables, tablets, and Chromebooks. Could this possibly mean Google is working on a foldable Pixel?
Hopefully, we’ll know soon enough! Unfortunately, we’ve been hearing reports of the Pixel Fold being canceled so we’ll probably have to wait longer for Google’s foldable phone.
Android 12L Features
Meanwhile, we’ve now detailed all the features as well as UI changes in Android 12L courtesy of Esper, and here’s a summary of what the new update to Android 12 will bring to your smartphone. The Android 12L update is expected to arrive sometime in early 2022.
Redesigned System Elements
Android 12L is specifically being made for foldable phones and tablets. Essentially, devices with large screens. As a result, Google’s stock apps like Files, Gmail, Messages, etc. have been updated to show a split-screen view. This can also be seen in other UI elements like the homescreen, notification shade, recent apps, etc. Android has been poorly optimized on foldables which means one can’t really take full advantage of the large real estate. Android 12L aims to fix that by displaying more information on such devices.
Homescreen and Lockscreen Customizations
The default clock on the lockscreen on Android 12L will occupy the center of the screen just like it does on Android 12L. However, if the user has pending notifications, the clock will shift to the left side of the screen and make way for notifications to populate on the right edge. If more than three notifications are present, they will be clubbed into an overflow card. The notifications banner seems quite similar to the way incoming notifications are displayed on a Mac.
Users will also have the option to display additional buttons on the lockscreen. You can switch between multiple profiles, access Google Pay, or control connected devices. The PIN input screen will also shift according to the area where the user swipes on the lockscreen to access it. This will make it easier to handle the device one-handed.
As for the homescreen, Android’s open-source launcher — Launcher3, will be able to display two homescreens at the same time to make use of the larger display. Most OEM stock launchers are based on Launcher3 so this should apply to devices from various manufacturers.
Revamped Notification Center and Quick Toggles
Instead of displaying the notification area on the entire width of the screen, Android 12L will show you both your notifications and quick toggles simultaneously across two panes. The number of toggles displayed is also more and the size of each individual toggle is larger making it easier to tap.
A New Recent Apps Screen
Unlike previous versions of Android, the size of every window in the recent overview is not uniform in Android 12L. Only the most recent app will be shown in an enlarged view with other apps displayed as smaller windows. The recent overview has now been converted into a grid with two rows, similar to what we’ve seen on iPadOS. There’s also a new Split button to make split-screen multitasking easier.
Taskbar for better Multitasking
Samsung introduced a persistent taskbar on the Galaxy Z Fold 3 to make multitasking easier on the large screen. Well, looks like Android 12L will also feature something similar. On screens with above 600dp, a dock that can house five apps and remain persistent across other apps can be seen. It’s almost like a floating dock from where you can drag and drop apps to launch them in split-screen view.
Split-screen through Notifications
When you receive a new notification on Android 12L, you will be able to perform a gesture to open the app through which you receive the notification in split-screen view. This is helpful for when you’re watching a video or movie, or you’re playing a game and you receive a notification that you need to reply to. You can open the app in split-screen view without interrupting what you’re doing. However, it’s worth noting that this feature isn’t enabled by default and you’ll need root access to enable it. This might change as we get closer to the official release.
Dynamic Colors in Bootanimation
Material You is one of the highlighting features of Android 12. However, it’s exclusive to the Pixel lineup and isn’t a part of AOSP. With Android 12L, Material You and dynamic colors are now a default part of AOSP. Essentially, changing the wallpaper on your phone will also change the color of the UI elements accordingly. Additionally, Android 12L also enables dynamic colors for the boot animation which sounds pretty cool!
Power Button Long-press Duration
Android 12L will give you the option to change the long-press duration of the power button to trigger an action. Currently, you have the option to either long-press for an assistant or to trigger the power menu. However, this is for a fixed duration. Android 12L now gives you the ability to change that duration. This is quite helpful since a lot of people find the current duration to be annoyingly long.
Wallpaper Previews on Homescreen
If you want to change the wallpaper currently on any version of Android, you’ll have to press and hold a part of the homescreen and then go to the wallpaper picker. With Android 12, pressing and holding a portion of the homescreen will bring up a contextual menu where you will be able to choose from a selection of 5 quick wallpapers without having to open the wallpaper picker.
37 New emojis
Unicode 14.0 will bring 37 new emojis to Android 12L with plenty of new characters. This should roll out at the same time as Android 12L ideally.
Override Orientation Preferences
Certain apps require a specific orientation while launching on the current versions of Android. From android 12L onwards, manufacturers can override these orientation preferences which can be useful on alternate form factors like foldables.
Audio Spatializer API
Spatial audio is getting quite popular of late thanks to APple. However, there are several Android phones too that support spatial audio. Audio Spatializer API is being implemented in Android 12L to provide a uniform way of including the feature. This will help apps to determine whether a phone has support for spatial audio or not and then trigger the immersive audio experience based on the response.
Features leaked but not yet live in Android 12
We already had a fair idea of what to expect with Android 12 even before Android 12 Developer Preview 1 made its way into our hands. But OS development is a complex cycle, and what’s often leaked may or may not make it back into the release. We’re still in the beta days of Android 12, so there’s a chance a fair few of these leaked changes will make their way into the stable release eventually — or they may not. It can go both ways.
While this feature has not been revealed in a leak, Google did express an intention to build a “less stringent” version of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature. Google is looking to balance privacy with an ad-supported ecosystem. Hence, Google’s version of the feature will likely be less strict and may not require developers to get permission from users to track their data.
The approach Google could take for Android may be similar to the one planned for the Chrome web browser. Google previously announced plans to phase out third-party cookies in Chrome within two years. Instead, the browser will use an alternative that allows some ad targeting with less specific data collection. Advertisers will be able to target groups of people with similar interests, but not individuals.
Android’s Runtime Resource Overlay (RRO) Improvements
Android’s Runtime Resource Overlay (RRO) feature is getting a major upgrade. RROs have traditionally been APK packages that need to be installed on the device before they can be activated, but Android 12 should be able to generate non-APK RROs on-the-fly. It’ll be interesting to see how this is used, but we’re guessing this will open up the ability to generate lots of custom themes that don’t need to be installed as system-level apps.
Currently, most theme packages that use the RRO/OMS API are installed as static packages in read-only partitions. Generating RRO packages on-the-fly could be what makes Android 12’s new “monet” theming system (mentioned above) a possibility.
We are seeing mentions of a “letterbox” feature Google is experimenting with. These “letterboxes” seem to be a new way to put apps into a frame/window, and they’ll have adjustable rounded corners and configurable background colors. We’re not entirely sure what this will be used for though.
Restricted Networking Mode
Google was spotted working on a new restricted networking mode feature for Android 12, though it may not be the system-level firewall you’re probably wishing it to be.
When this new restricted networking mode is turned on, only apps that hold the CONNECTIVITY_USE_RESTRICTED_NETWORKS permission will be allowed to use the network. Since this permission can only be granted to privileged system applications and/or applications signed by the OEM, network access will be blocked for all applications installed by the user.
Effectively, this means you’ll still receive push notifications from apps using Firebase Cloud Messaging (FCM), as these notifications are routed through the privileged Google Play Services app that holds the requisite permission. Still, no other app — excluding a handful of other system apps — can send or receive data in the background.
There’s no indication Google will be opening up the feature to let users make their own allowlist or blocklist of apps.
API for connected Bluetooth controllers
Google is also merging a new Bluetooth API into Android 12 that will let games detect the battery level of connected Bluetooth controllers. This will let the game inform you when your controller is about to die, giving you time to find a place to pause and then recharge your controller.
Game Controller Rumble Support
Android right now provides only minimal support for vibrating connected input devices, restricting them to on and off, and with no way to control the amplitude of vibrations or generate custom vibration effects. But this could change with Android 12, as improvements to input device rumble support are on the cards. Code submitted to AOSP adds in support for amplitude control and paves the way for generating custom vibration effects.
However, keep in mind these commits haven’t been merged. So they might not make it in time for the final Android 12 release.
Samsung was the first Android OEM to incorporate Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technology to aid in precise indoor positioning of smart home devices and high-speed peer-to-peer data transmission. Xiaomi also planned to get onboard with UWB, and we can surely expect many other Android OEMs to also jump on board. To deal with this new technology, Google added an API to AOSP to support UWB.
The Galaxy S21+ and Galaxy S21 Ultra support ultra-wideband for finding and unlocking select cars.
The API has been added in time for inclusion into Android 12, but it remains to be seen if it actually does get incorporated. Keep in mind the UWB APIs are marked as SystemAPIs right now, so they won’t be accessible to third-party apps, although we aren’t sure why this restriction is in place.
“Install Hints” to speed up the installation of important apps on new Android phones
Migrating to a new Android phone is a pain that has only been marginally relieved in all these years. Google was spotted working on “install hints” as a feature to let app stores decide which compiler filter to use when bulk installing new apps, making it quicker to set up a new phone. This feature is primarily intended for the app store, namely the Google Play Store in this context, to get the ability to prioritize the most-used apps from the older device and install them quicker on the new phone.
WireGuard VPN support in the Linux kernel
WireGuard is a next-gen VPN protocol that features modern cryptography standards and has a secure, auditable code base. After its inclusion in Linux Kernel 5.6, Google has added support for the protocol to Android 12’s Linux Kernel 4.19 and Linux Kernel 5.4 tree. This means kernel acceleration for WireGuard will be supported in Android 12 on devices with Linux Kernel 4.19 and 5.4. However, it remains to be seen whether Google will add APIs to interface with the kernel module.
Automatically Translate Apps to Native Language
This is one of the more exciting changes we spotted in the Android 12 leaked build between the Developer Preview 2 and Developer Preview 3. This leaked build contains many clues towards a feature that we presume would automatically translate apps to native languages. Piecing these clues together, we believe the feature will aim to directly translate text within the UI of the app, replacing the text in-line to make the translation feel more native.
This feature would massively benefit users and developers alike. Users of less popularly used languages are more likely to encounter apps that are missing the requisite translation, so a feature like this would make the app usable for these users. Similarly, developers who don’t have the resource to translate their app across multiple languages can now rely on the OS to provide machine translation. While the result will be imperfect, it would still be better than no translation.
Let user’s manage hidden Recycle Bin
The leaked Android 12 build also offers hints that Google could be surfacing Android’s hidden Recycle Bin feature. Apps that make use of the MediaStore API can make use of the trashing feature added to the API with Android 11. Trashing is similar in concept to the famous Windows “Recycle Bin”, where the files are removed from view but can still be recovered for a certain period of time before they get deleted permanently. Android 11 lacked a system-wide view of this Trash Bin though, but clues suggest that apps with edit access to trashed files or apps that request user consent can show items from the hidden recycle bin.
Google is working to add a new entry to Settings > Storage to show how much storage space all trashed items take up. Tapping this entry will launch a fragment that shows the number of files that have been trashed and also lets the user empty the trash, but the entry point is normally inaccessible since Google hardcoded it to false. Although users can empty the trash from here, we don’t know if users will also be able to restore them through this entry point. The feature may also be coming to Files by Google.
Saving Screenshots in Pictures > Screenshots instead of in DCIM
Android devices have two folders for storing photos and videos. The ‘Pictures’ folder is where apps store media they’ve downloaded (for example, images saved from Twitter go in Pictures > Twitter), and by default, Android stores screenshots in Pictures under the ‘Screenshots’ subfolder. There’s also a ‘DCIM’ folder in the root directory of Android’s internal storage, which stores any photos you’ve taken or videos you’ve recorded. The ‘DCIM’ name comes from design standards for digital cameras, and it stands for ‘Digital Camera IMages.’
Some OEMs like Samsung, Xiaomi, OPPO, Realme, and others, however, store screenshots within the DCIM folder. This causes apps like Google Photos to back them up alongside camera images. With Android 12, Google could make it mandatory at the OS level to store screenshots in Pictures > Screenshots and not within the DCIM folder. Note the Android 12 CDD has not yet been finalized, so the inclusion of this requirement is not yet set in stone.
What are your thoughts on Android 12? What features are you most excited about, and what would you like to see other than the features mentioned above? Let us know in the comments below!