Hands-on with Android 12 Developer Preview: Here are the new features

Hands-on with Android 12 Developer Preview: Here are the new features

Google just dropped the first Android 12 Developer Preview a few hours ago. Even though Android 12 “Snow Cone” is still a good six months away from the stable release, the Developer Preview reveals a good deal about what stock Android is likely to look like with this iteration. The recent Android 12 leaks and the long list of expected Android 12 features have kept us excited. And now, we are actually getting to use those features.

As the leaked documentation and screenshots had suggested previously, Android 12 gets a major design overhaul in terms of the user interface with the new Material NEXT design. Google is taking a more focussed approach towards human communications and prioritizing them over push notifications from apps. There are many more changes that improve privacy and performance, and we will be discussing those in this article.


Here are the prominent Android 12 changes that have caught our attention instantly:

New Material NEXT design

Over the years, we have observed a pattern with Android updates. Google brings drastic changes to the user interface with one version and focuses on functional improvements and under-the-hood changes with the next. This year appears to be dedicated to UI changes as Google brings a host of meaningful visual upgrades.

Here is everything we have spotted in this limited time using the Android 12 Developer Preview:

New Accent Color

Since Android 5 Lollipop, the stock Android interface has predominantly had a white background through the UI. With Android 10, Google added a Dark Theme and developer options to change the accent colors. Although it was spotted before the Android 10 stable release, Google decided to wait until Android 11 to bring the accent colors picker to the front as a full-fledged feature until Android 11.

With Android 12, the UI takes up a bluish tint visible in both light and dark themes. Unlike the leaked Android 12 screenshots that suggested that the UI adapt to the background with custom colors, we don’t see any option upfront to change this color. We will be exploring the Developer options to see if we can find something similar.

The light blue accent follows through the System UI within system apps, including Settings. The dialog boxes that show are also in this color.

Lock Screen

Just like the Notifications shade, the lockscreen now has a translucent layer in the background. Furthermore, the animation for the pattern unlocks also appears slightly bouncier. Take a look at this video:

Notifications and Quick Settings

With Android 11, Google slightly tweaked the notifications panel by adding spaces between conversations, app notifications, and silent notifications. That continues with Android 12, but instead of a completely transparent space separating the different categories, we see a translucent background with a lighter overlay in the background.

The inactive Quick Settings tiles now show a light blue color instead of gray, but there’s no visible change in the icons. The Quick Settings tiles’ default order has changed, and Android 12 brings the DND and Battery Saver toggles to the first card while pushing the mobile data toggle to the second card and the location toggle out of the default Quick Settings.

Interestingly, Android 12 brings a “Reduce Bight Colors” option, and Quick Settings toggle that we also reported earlier. This is an accessibility feature that reduces the screen brightness in addition to the standard brightness control. You can also swipe up from the navigation bar at the bottom with two fingers for quicker access.

Accessibility Settings

The Accessibility settings menu also gets a facelift in Android 12. While the primary options are easily accessible from the main page, other less commonly used options like Font Size, Display Size, Color Correction are now grouped under categories such as Text and Display. Other than this reorganization, the horizontal lines meant to divide different menu options have been removed, giving this page a cleaner look.

Bigger Toggles in Settings

For category-wide controls, Android 12 is getting a bigger and more elaborate toggle at the top of the page that distinguishes it from other toggles below it. Other than emphasizing the hierarchy of controls, we do not see any other use for these controls. We may see more features to customize the shape, size, and/or color of the toggle in future builds.

Performance Enhancements

One-Handed Mode

With phone sizes getting out of hand, Google has brought a solution that Samsung implemented with One UI — and OnePlus adopted with OxygenOS 11. The Android 12 interface appears ready for easier one-handed usage. With large empty spaces towards the top of the display, you can access most of the options while using your phone with a thumb.

Google has also added a Feature flag called “Silky Home” for the native One-handed mode that pushes the items on a page further down to make them more easily accessible. The above screenshot should give you an idea about the feature.

Scrolling Screenshots

Scrolling screenshots have long been available on third-party Android skins like MIUI and OxygenOS but stock not on stock Android. That changes today with Android 12 as Google has finally added the support for scrolling screenshots. The feature was earlier spotted as an “unimplemented” feature in the Android 11 Developer Preview. It was later dropped from the final list of features making a cut to the stable build.

While the feature is still hidden, our Editor-in-Chief, Mishaal Rahman, has managed to get it to work. The feature is still janky and may not work seamlessly just yet, but it’s exciting to know that it is finally working.

Improved Widgets

Widgets in Android have principally remained the same. Although they were initially meant for users to quickly access actions in apps without having to navigate through the app to find that specific function. While users have always strongly felt that widgets make Android superior to iOS, Apple introduced dynamic widgets with iOS 14 last year and put Google behind in a race it was running — and therefore, winning — alone. Apple’s widgets are not only dynamic but are also smarter; the Smart Stack is an active widget that changes based on your planned activities for a particular day.

With Android 12, Google is trying to match up to iOS 14’s widgets by adding what appears to be widget stacks where you can scroll left or right on similar widgets. This feature is hidden for now but should be available in the future. Take a look:

In addition, the Conversation widget from the Android 12 leak may still be under development.

Emojis on Screenshot markup

The screenshot markup menu lets you add annotations to the screenshots you take in Android. The markup menu is adding an option to let you add emojis alongside other notes or doodles.

Android 12 markup emojis

Edit in Share Sheet

Along with the option to add emojis to screenshots using the markup menu, Android 12 also brings the option to edit and/or annotate any image file that you may be sending this. The option is available in the Android 12 share sheet, and it brings up similar markup options as the screenshot editor.

Notifications Snooze

Android 12 gets a new button to snooze unimportant notifications. In older Android versions, you could access the feature by half-swiping the notification to the right or the left side and then tapping on the snooze button. You can also choose between snooze durations of 30 minutes, 1 hour, or 2 hours. The feature was first added in Android Oreo, but the half-swiping has limited its usage. Notably, the feature is disabled by default, but you can enable it under Settings>Apps and notifications>Notifications>Allow notification snoozing.

In addition to making notification snoozing more accessible, Google might get rid of half-swiping on notifications with this version of Android.

Reset Notification Ranking

In Developer options, you can also turn on the Adaptive Notifications Ranking and Adaptive Notifications priority to let Android rearrange your notifications based on how you interact with different apps. With Android 12, you now get the ability to reset this ranking now if it is not according to your liking.

Android 12 reset notifications importance (1)

Media Controls

Android 11 added persistent media controls in the Notifications shade for easier media controls. With Android 12, these media controls are getting more refined. Firstly, the media player occupies a slightly larger space than earlier with a bigger media artwork and just an icon for the device without its name.

Secondly, you can now select which apps show in the media controls and which ones don’t. You can find the option in Settings>Sound and vibration>Media.

Picture-in-Picture improvements

While the Picture-in-Picture (PiP) feature has been available since Android Oreo, it has been fairly limited in terms of usability. With Android 11, Google finally added the ability to resize the PiP window by holding and dragging one of the right corners, but the experience has still been very jarring. That may be fixed with Android 12 as it gets new pinch-to-zoom functionality for PiP, as we predicted earlier.

Besides easier resizing, you will also be able to “stash” the PiP window on the side of the screen for unhindered usage. You can see the functionality in the videos posted by Mishaal above. This feature is not enabled by default and has to be enabled manually. However, since it works by enabling a flag, we hope Google makes it accessible in the upcoming Developer Previews and Android 12 beta builds.

Nearby Share for Wi-Fi Passwords

Android lets users connect to the same Wi-Fi as others easily by scanning a QR code. While this feature was introduced in Android Q beta, Android 12 makes password sharing easier. As we reported earlier, you can share Wi-Fi passwords using Nearby Share. This makes the process of connecting to a new Wi-Fi network almost effortless.

Redirect Vibration to Gaming Controllers

We were hoping to see a native Game Mode on Android 12 but that isn’t present just yet. However, Android 12 does offer the ability to redirect haptic feedback data from the smartphone to a gamepad or a gaming controller in case you are using one. While this appears to be an attempt to promote Stadia on Android, you should also be able to use the functionality with third-party controllers that feature a vibration motor.

Android 12 gaming controller vibration

Privacy & Security

Privacy indicators

While we have yet to see the visual indicators for camera or microphone usage that were first spotted in the Android 12 leak, Google is preparing to add explicit warnings to turn on microphone and camera usage, even in system apps Camera and Recorder. The feature is currently in an experimental phase and disabled by default.

Permissions Dialog

Google introduced a much more suggestive permissions management feature in Android Q. That is very useful if you wish to remain cautious about how apps use your phone’s sensors and other accesses. Now with Android 12, the permissions dialog box that shows up has been slightly tweaked. For some apps that need to access the microphone or location, you now get a shortcut to allow always access in settings.

Android 12 permissions dialog box

Safety Features

Google introduced the Car crash detection feature in the form of the Pixel 4’s Personal Safety app. As the name indicates, the feature is intended to detect accidents and automatically call for emergency services. In Android 11, the feature evolved and was brought to other Pixel devices. On Android 12, we see this feature get promoted as a top-level setting, i.e., it can be accessed directly from the first page of the Settings app.

While the Crash Detection feature remains limited to certain countries, a new Emergency SOS feature will call an emergency helpline if you press the power button five times. (Notably, the three-tap emergency SOS has long been available in India following a government order). The feature also allows you to add a custom SOS helpline number other than the standard ones such as 911 or 112.

In addition to the SOS calling feature, you can also set off an alarm so that you can be easily spotted when help arrives.

Android 12: How to get it on your Google Pixel device

While the Android 12 Developer Preview is suggested is not suitable for end-users as it may not be stable, you can give it a try if you have any of the following devices:

You can follow these guides to download and install the Android 12 Developer Preview:

About author

Tushar Mehta
Tushar Mehta

I am a Senior Editor at XDA. I have been reviewing gadgets for over five years and gained experience by working for prominent tech publications in India before joining XDA. I enjoy fiddling with all smart objects and my love for software customization dates back to the Symbian S60 days. I like to devote my spare time idealizing the romantic union of technology and philosophy or spacing out on Pink Floyd. You may email me at [email protected]

We are reader supported. External links may earn us a commission.