Hands-on with Android 12 DP 2 on the OnePlus 9 Pro: OxygenOS makes way for ColorOS
Android 12 is likely only a few weeks away, and the latest developer preview for the OnePlus 9 series has just been released. It has a few visual changes and additional features in preparation for Android 12’s official release, though we’ll almost certainly be seeing it released a good while after Android 12 drops for the Google Pixel series, anyway. I set up Android 12 Developer Preview 2 on my OnePlus 9 Pro, and I had a lookout for any visual changes and other features. While the company hasn’t officially unveiled its Android 12-based operating system as “OxygenOS 12″, it says OxygenOS in the system settings, and it’s usually tied to the Android system version.
Android 12 Developer Preview 2 for the OnePlus 9 series brings along a plethora of bug fixes and optimizations, including improved auto-brightness behavior, better frame rate performance in graphics-heavy games, optimized zoom performance, and so on. In addition, the update also adds new widgets that display essential information from apps at a glance and optimizes the page layout and the presentation of text and color to put more prominence on important details.
As expected from a developer build, there’s a long list of bugs. For example, the camera app doesn’t support the recently released XPan mode, the scrolling screenshot feature is missing, and the Google Phone app doesn’t support call recording. Still, it’s always worth trying out these test builds to see what the company is working on, especially as it gives us a sneak peek into the future when the future of OxygenOS is so… confusing.
Android 12 on the OnePlus 9 Pro — ColorOS, or not?
We’ve all heard about the OxygenOS-ColorOS merger, and turns out, it’s a pretty complicated situation. Android 12 on the OnePlus 9 Pro clearly has ColorOS influence, but unlike on the Nord 2, it’s not fully ColorOS based — yet. It’s definitely getting there, but so far, it’s not quite it. It’s not quite OxygenOS, but it’s not quite ColorOS either, nor is it close to the Android 12 beta that we see on the Google Pixel series. It is visually in between all three if that makes any sense, even though the base here is ColorOS.
Will it move closer to what we’re expecting from the likes of ColorOS 12 in the future? Almost certainly. It’s already moving in that direction, though I can tell that some things are different. For example, “convenience tools” as a menu on the OnePlus Nord 2 is ripped straight from ColorOS, but that doesn’t exist on the OnePlus 9 Pro even now. However, the camera app is definitely ripped from ColorOS on Android 12, as the settings cog is taken straight from an OPPO phone.
Visual differences and new features in OxygenOS 12
Access the OnePlus Shelf from anywhere, along with OnePlus Scout
The biggest change that I’ve spotted is the ability to access the OnePlus Shelf from anywhere. All you need to do is swipe down from the right-hand side of the status bar, not unlike the MIUI control center. From there, you can access Shelf widgets like notes, step counting, the weather, and a calculator.
What’s more, OnePlus Scout appears to be rolling out globally, as it’s enabled in this North American build of Android 12. Initially released as an India-exclusive, OnePlus Scout allows users to easily search for anything on their devices from a single unified search bar. It can easily be used to lookup contacts, files, music, and more from the search bar in the app drawer. The feature will also let you find locations, restaurants, or places nearby and it will even solve simple math problems or queries by tapping into the Calculator app. Additionally, the feature will let you find news and weather information from apps installed on your device or directly from the web. It’s not clear if this feature remains enabled later on, but it’s here now.
There are a lot of visual differences in OxygenOS 12
Android 12 on the OnePlus 9 Pro has a lot of overall visual differences: some big, some small. From the About page, to the Quick Settings, to even a slightly changed multitasking menu, there’s a lot of differences here. Some are clearly ColorOS-influenced, such as the quick settings at the top of the notification shade. Even the icons at the top have been slightly tweaked.
Many changes here are subtle, but they won’t go unnoticed by a lot of people. Obviously, some are glitchy too, like the expanded notification for music that’s playing. The “close all” button in the multitasking menu is also a lot easier to see and interact with, and the settings menu has been changed to split up options that may not be wholly related to each other. The about page has also been completely redesigned (and, for some reason, identifies my OnePlus 9 Pro as having a Snapdragon 855).
The future of OxygenOS
OxygenOS 12 is probably what we’re going to hear is releasing on the OnePlus 9 Pro, though a unified OS between ColorOS and OxygenOS is what’s going to be released for the next flagship that the company releases. If so, this may well be the last OxygenOS version that’s released for OnePlus smartphones, before the switch to whatever is launched next year occurs. There are a few ways OnePlus and OPPO can execute this, so we will have to see how it finally pans out.
Android 12 for the OnePlus 9 series will likely arrive a few months after the official launch of Android 12 stable from Google, which we expect will come next week. Once it does, OnePlus will probably begin to test more beta releases, and then release the full version later on in the year or next. The OnePlus 8 series got its first major update to Android 11 about a month after its unveiling for Google Pixel smartphones last year, and it’s likely that we’ll see a similar timeline play out here.