Hands-on with ColorOS 12 based on Android 12: Here’s everything new in the latest update for OPPO smartphones
The beauty of Android lies in its customization capabilities and open-source nature. As a result, we’ve seen multiple custom skins and UIs from brands over the years. There’s MIUI from Xiaomi, One UI from Samsung, OxygenOS from OnePlus, ColorOS from OPPO, etc. With each new Android version, OEMs like to update their custom UI with new changes incorporated by Google as well as some additional thoughtful features.
With Android 12 now being official, brands are working on updating their custom skins with the latest version of Android as the base. We saw OnePlus roll out a beta version of OxygenOS 12 for the OnePlus 9 earlier this week, Samsung roll out One UI 4 for the Galaxy S21 series, and we now have the first build of OPPO’s ColorOS 12 on the Find X3 Pro.
ColorOS is one of the most improved custom UIs in recent times. OPPO has taken user feedback over the years seriously and has fixed all the small niggles we had with the software. With the OxygenOS codebase now merged with ColorOS, it’s more important than ever for ColorOS 12 to deliver on all fronts, given how loved OxygenOS was.
We got to spend some time with a pre-release build of ColorOS 12 on the OPPO Find X3 Pro. Having used the software for the past week or so, we have some thoughts about it, including what’s changed and what hasn’t. Here’s our hands-on experience with ColorOS 12 based on Android 12.
Design and UI Tweaks
Android 12 is big on design updates with Material You and Dynamic Colors, but it seems like that’s unfortunately limited to the Pixel series only. ColorOS 12 brings some minor design and UI changes that aren’t very apparent. Text within some apps like Contacts has now been made bolder with an improved framework which results in a cleaner look.
The UI throughout the phone remains more or less similar to what it was on ColorOS 11. The Settings menu has changed slightly and looks more modern. It’s now easier to find and navigate through the different options within Settings.
The final change in the UI is the ability to choose from three types of Dark Mode options – Enhanced, Medium, and Gentle. Enhanced gives you a pitch-dark background ideal for OLED displays, while the Medium and Gentle modes have a slightly grey background.
Wallpaper-based System Theming
As mentioned earlier, one of the key features of Android 12 is Material You theming which changes the System theme based on the color of your wallpaper. OPPO has introduced a similar feature on ColorOS 12 where you can pick the theme based on the dominant colors on the wallpaper. While this isn’t as seamless as Android 12’s default implementation, it’s surely nice to have. It also does not integrate with Google’s Material You applications.
Portrait Silhouette Always-on Display
We first saw this feature on OxygenOS for OnePlus devices and it has now made its way into ColorOS 12 on OPPO phones. More commonly referred to as Canvas AOD, the portrait silhouette feature basically outlines the main subject in a portrait image and creates a sketch effect that can then be used as an Always-on Display image. It’s a pretty cool way to customize the look of your device when the display is turned off.
Android 12 Easter Egg
Going into Settings > About Phone > Android Version and tapping on it a few times brings the Android 12 Easter egg with the new clock widget. When you set the hands on the clock to 12 o’clock, it leads to the new Android 12 screen.
ColorOS has had a sidebar on the edge of the display for quite some time now. The sidebar is used to display frequently used apps and shortcuts that can be launched from any screen. There’s a new option that’s been added to the sidebar on ColorOS 12 and it’s called Screen Translate.
As the name suggests, Screen Translate is a one-click solution to translate the entire contents of a page you’re on. Open any page you want to translate to a different language and then select this button to have the entire page translated. This feature works with the help of Google Lens and is a convenient way to translate text.
Here’s another new feature added to the sidebar. Background Stream enables a smart feature on your phone that lets you continue playing something in the background even if you’re not on that screen. Let’s say you want to listen to a song on YouTube but don’t want the track to stop when you quit the app or turn the screen off? Ideally, you would need a subscription to YouTube Premium to be able to do this but Background Stream can do it for you with just the tap of a button on ColorOS 12.
Redesigned Phone Manager
The Phone Manager app on ColorOS 12 is used to declutter your phone’s storage, delete unnecessary apps and files, manage app permissions, etc. It has a list of features that’s now been properly segregated into different menus making it easier for users to find the functions they want.
This is one of the highlighting features of Android 12 and thankfully, OPPO has decided to include it in ColorOS 12 too. Privacy Dashboard displays all the permissions that apps on your phone use and when they were used last. If you don’t want certain apps to access your location, camera, microphone, or any other permission, you can control it from here.
Approximate Location Sharing
Another important privacy-related feature on Android 12, and now subsequently on ColorOS 12, is approximate location sharing. Each time an app asks you to share your location, you can choose to either share your precise location or an approximate location if you think the app isn’t trustworthy, or you simply don’t wish to share your exact location with an app that doesn’t really require it.
Microphone and Camera Toggles & Indicators
You can now add a toggle in quick settings to either enable or disable access to the camera and microphone on your device with ColorOS 12. Disabling access will prevent any app on your smartphone from getting access to the camera or microphone on your device which can be important to a lot of people.
Apart from the toggles, users will now also be able to see a small indicator on the top right corner of the screen each time an app requests access to the camera or microphone. Access to the camera will be denoted by a green dot while access to the microphone is denoted by an orange dot.
With Android 12, there’s a new widget that lets you put your most recent conversations directly on your homescreen for easy and quick access. This widget is available on ColorOS 12 too. When you have this widget on your homescreen, you can tap on it and you’ll be redirected to the conversation directly from where you can reply.
Omoji: OPPO’s version of Memoji
Omoji is OPPO’s adaptation of the Memoji feature introduced by Apple. You can create custom face emojis to match your style and these Omojis react in real-time to changes in your facial expressions. The implementation isn’t as polished as Apple’s since it only uses the front-facing camera and not IR emitters like on the iPhone. It’s still a fun feature that will make its way to OPPO phones with ColorOS 12.1.
There are several under-the-hood improvements that have been made with ColorOS 12 that add to the overall user experience. The animations feel smoother when launching and quitting apps and when scrolling, thanks to a new Quantum Animation Engine 3.0.
There’s a new AI system booster that optimizes the performance of the device based on your usage patterns. OPPO claims that this feature reduces memory usage by up to 30% and background battery consumption by up to 20%, resulting in a 12% improvement in battery life.
OPPO also claims that translations in multiple languages throughout the UI have been improved resulting in ColorOS now being more inclusive. The icons on ColorOS 12 also look slightly better with improved shadows. Other Android 12 features like chat bubbles and notification reply suggestions are also present on ColorOS 12.
That’s pretty much everything that’s new with ColorOS 12. There’s not a lot that’s changed when you look at the UI as a whole. Apart from the Android version bump to Android 12, most of the UI is similar to what we got with ColorOS 11. This will probably be the case with a lot of custom skins since all the new Material You and Dynamic Color goodness seems to be limited to the Pixel series only as of now.