Android 12 Beta 1 Hands-on: A Radical Redesign comes to Android
With the Android 12 Beta 1 launch, Google (alongside a number of other partner OEMs) has released the first installable Beta version for Google Pixel smartphones. While it’s far from a finished product (and lacks quite a lot of features that will be added in future beta versions), it gives us a taste of what’s to come in the future – and with the final release to come later in the year. I set up Android 12 on my Google Pixel 5, and here are my first impressions from using it.
We have a handy article with information on how to download and install Android 12 Beta 1 on your Google Pixel or on other Android devices if you’re interested, though we’ve gone to the trouble of installing and trying it out if you’re on the fence!
With Android 12 Beta 1, the UI has seen a massive overhaul
The Android team believes that Android 12 is the biggest redesign since Android 5.0, and honestly, I can see why. Everything is different. This is what Google has dubbed “Material You” – an iteration upon Material Design that is built, aptly, for you. It’s a complete redesign more or less from the ground up. The lockscreen is different, notifications and quick settings are different, and even the settings app is different. There’s also a new pattern and pin unlock screen too.
Animations are also a big part of Android 12, as new ones have been added throughout the UI. For example, tapping certain UI elements generates an animation that flows outwards, creating a sort of “ripple” effect.
Scrolling to the bottom of lists (like in the settings app) will also create a bouncing effect.
There’s a new volume control slider on the side too, with a new animation for switching between do not disturb, vibrate, and ring.
Finally, there’s even a new screen-on and screen-off animation.
Delving deep into the settings, I came across a couple of sections that haven’t been redesigned yet, but given that this is a beta, that will certainly change in the future. I also noticed that the UI elements don’t change color yet to suit the wallpaper. The color extraction feature is one of the biggest aspects of the new “Material You” redesign, and it’s coming to Pixel phones later this year (and hopefully other phones afterward).
It’s only a beta, and betas aren’t perfect
Going through each of the menus, it’s clear that the system has some form of One UI influence behind the design changes, with a huge focus on one-handed usage. Dark mode is also no longer black on the Pixel 5, but a rather bright kind of gray. I’m hoping that Google will, at the very least, darken it, as it’s quite bright at the moment as is and can be uncomfortable to look at in the dark. There is a new accessibility option though that allows you to dim the screen further than what your lowest brightness already is, which sort of makes up for it. Once opened, it adds a screen dimming option to the quick settings that you can enable from anywhere.
In terms of removed features, it seems that Google has removed the ability to view the screen on time in the battery settings, though it may resurface in a future update.
However, the biggest takeaway I have from using Android 12 on my Google Pixel 5 is that most features aren’t even here yet. New features like the Privacy Dashboard and redesigned widgets aren’t present yet, though you can disable “use precise location” on apps that request the location permission. Google says that the new Privacy Dashboard and camera/microphone access blocking will make their way to Android 12 in the second beta update, which is expected to come in the next couple of months. A notification saying when an app reads your clipboard will also be coming in the second beta. Google also mentions that the quick settings will house controls for your home and for Google Pay, though that isn’t present yet either. Google says it has added app hibernation in beta 1, which will automatically remove temporary files from unused apps in order to save on storage space. They’ve also added the ability to hold down the power button to trigger the Google Assistant, and the same with a double-tap on the back, however, that doesn’t work yet. Finally, they’re missing the long-awaited scrolling screenshot feature, though it’s thankfully coming soon as it was mentioned in the official blog post.
All of these features will be present in the final Android 12 version that will come to Google Pixel phones in the Fall, but for now, we can’t play with them yet. It seems that this first beta is all about getting the new Android version into the hands of developers and debuting the new UI as well. It makes sense because I have already seen someone complaining about how Twitter crashes on their Google Pixel 5 on Android 12. While I didn’t experience quite the same behavior, I noticed that the UI looks quite strange in the Twitter app. I also posted a photo to test, and the Twitter app refused to launch for five minutes after I did. If you’re an avid Twitter user (like I am!) then it’s worth staying away just because of that. The UI jumps around a lot because of the overscroll animation, and the animations on the bottom look strange thanks to the ripple effect.
Overall, Android 12 Beta 1 on the Google Pixel 5 is usable, but it’s nowhere near perfect yet. While I toyed with the idea of using the Pixel 5 as my new daily driver, I decided against it as the number of features added isn’t enough to put up with the potential issues that I will run into. I already know that Twitter is borderline unusable, and I’m expecting that other apps will likely end up being the same. As a result, I wouldn’t recommend installing it unless you really want to mess around with it, or if you have a secondary device that you don’t mind using instead. I love how it looks though, and I’m looking forward to testing out all the new features in the future!