Android 12L is Google’s latest attempt to optimize Android for tablets, foldables, and Chrome OS devices
A month before Google officially announced Android 12, we spotted some evidence within the AOSP Gerrit suggesting that Google would release an incremental update after Android 12. Soon after that, we got our first look at this interim update and learned that it would pack a couple of new features optimized for foldable devices. Previously, we referred to this update as Android 12.1, but Google has now confirmed that it will be called Android 12L.
Android 12L feature drop
At the Android Dev Summit today, Google officially announced Android 12L — a feature drop for Android 12 purpose-built for large screen devices. As we spotted previously, Android 12L will pack new APIs, tools, and guidance to help developers optimize their apps for large screen devices like foldables, tablets, and Chromebooks. It brings several UI refinements to make Android more usable on large screens.
For instance, on devices with screens above 600dp, the notification shade, lockscreen, and other system surfaces use a new two-column layout to make the most of the extra screen real estate.
Google has worked on making multitasking more powerful and intuitive in Android 12L. As you can see in the attached GIF, the update introduces a new taskbar on large screens that lets users easily switch to their favorite apps, like they would on a desktop. The new taskbar also helps users easily view two apps in split-screen mode. In addition, Android 12L automatically enables all apps to enter split-screen mode, even if they’re not resizeable.
Furthermore, Google has improved compatibility mode with visual and stability improvements in Android 12L. These improvements offer users a better letterboxing experience and help apps look better by default on large screens. Google is also giving OEMs tools to customize letterboxing, allowing them to set custom letterbox colors or treatments, adjust the position of the inset window, apply custom rounded corners, and more.
It’s worth noting that Android 12L likely includes a few more changes than what Google revealed today. You can check out our previous coverage to learn about some of the other features that might go live with the feature drop.
Android 12L Developer Preview
Google plans to release the Android 12L feature drop early next year, in time for next-gen Android 12 tablets and foldables. The company is already working with OEM partners to bring these new features to large-screen devices. If you’re an app developer, you’d be glad to know that Google has already released a developer preview build of Android 12L.
You can try the Android 12L Developer Preview by downloading the Android 12L Emulator system images and tools from the latest preview release of Android Studio. Make sure you review all the features and changes to test your apps ahead of the stable rollout, and check out the preview overview for the timeline and release details. If you encounter any bugs, you can report them here.
Interestingly, Google says that Android 12L “is for phones, too, but since most of the new features won’t be visible on smaller screens, for now we’re keeping the focus on tablets, foldables, and ChromeOS devices.” However, the company plans to open up Android Beta enrollments for Pixel devices later in the preview, and you can expect to see some new phone-specific features too.