Android 12 is on its way. Google finally showed off some of the major new features and design updates at Google I/O 2021, and overall Android 12 could be the biggest Android update in a while.
We don’t expect Android 12 to go on general sale around September, but the first two betas of the operating system are available for brave users and developers who want to install it, as long as they have the right phone.
Here’s everything we know about Android 12 so far.
What are the new features in Android 12?
At the developer preview stage of Android 12, we didn’t know much about the new operating system, but now that public betas are available, we have a pretty good idea of what Android 12 will end up being. And there’s a lot of interesting stuff out there. Android 12 is a major design revamp that will bring a lot of new features and control panels, as well as a lot more.
Here’s a quick overview of the new features offered by Android 12:
The biggest change in Android 12 is the design update. The buttons are bigger and bolder, everything has bigger and rounded corners, and Google isn’t as concerned about taking up more display space. Android 12 seems to be more about space efficiency than trying to cram more stuff in.
These larger icons seem to address almost every aspect of Android 12. Everything works more or less the same, but the Settings menu items, quick settings bar, sliders, etc. are larger, bolder and more colorful. Even the lock screen has been treated – when there are no notifications, the clock takes up most of the display, and even when there are notifications, it’s big enough to be easily seen at a glance.
In Android 12, there are small changes in animation and movement. For example, when you press the power button, there is an animation that illuminates the display from the button itself. It’s a cool touch.
Along with the design update, there are new design options. Google calls it “Material You,” and it’s basically a color scheme taken from your wallpaper. These include the primary colors and what Google calls “complementary” colors. The theme is actually system-wide, and even third-party developers can plug their apps into it to make the look more uniform.
Parts of Material You appeared as part of Android 12 Beta 2 in June, but it’s still very much a work in progress.
Updated Notification Shade
Parts of Material You were introduced in Android 12 Beta 2 in June, but it’s still a work in progress.
The general public is becoming more privacy-conscious, and Android 12 offers several features for those who care about privacy. The most notable of these is the new privacy dashboard, which displays information about the permissions granted to each app and allows you to revoke certain permissions at your discretion. You’ll also get information about permission usage, including a timeline of when apps have accessed your location.
Speaking of location: Android 12 introduces more location permissions. You can now give apps an “approximate” location instead of a specific location, which will be useful for apps like weather apps.
There are other privacy-related features as well. Like in iOS, there are now indicators for microphone, camera, and clipboard access. New switches in Quick Settings will allow you to disable the camera and microphone to keep your privacy intact.
Google is working to make other aspects of your data more secure as well. In particular, Android 12 includes the new Android Private Computer Core. This is a segmented section of Android that manages features such as Smart Reply, Live Captions and other AI-related features that focus on sensitive data.
Privacy Dashboard appeared in Android 12 Beta 2.
Digital Car Key
Last year, Apple announced the Car Key feature, allowing customers to use their phones to unlock a compatible car. Now Google has followed suit by releasing the Digital Car Key. The Digital Car Key uses an ultra-wideband connection, allowing users to unlock their cars while the phone is still in the user’s pocket. There’s also a fallback option in case the phone doesn’t support ultra-wideband – the feature can also work via NFC.
Of course, this feature requires the cooperation of automakers, and that could take some time. So far, only BMW has committed to using Apple’s Car Key, and BMW is also the first to support Digital Car Key. It is to be hoped that Google’s and Apple’s adoption of these features will encourage more support for these features by automakers.
Android TV remote control
If you’re connected to the Android ecosystem, you can use your Android TV device along with your Android phone, and Android 12 finally includes a built-in remote control for Android TVs. The feature will work with Chromecast with Google TV or TVs that have Android TV built in, and offers basic software controls, access to Google Assistant and volume control.
Previously, you had to install an app to use your phone as a remote for your Android TV, now you don’t have to do that.
Improved integration with Chrome OS
You can already use Nearby Share to share images between your Android phone and Chromebook, but Google is working to eliminate some of the difficulties in the process. According to Google, Chrome OS Phone Hub will add a new feature that allows you to show photos on your Android phone without having to wait for them to upload to the cloud. This feature is powered by Wi-Fi Direct.
When will I get Android 12?
Google shared a general roadmap of Android 12, but didn’t give a specific date when the operating system will be released to the public. Typically, new versions of Android are released around September, and judging by Google’s roadmap, that’s a good fit for this year.
Before a consumer version of Android 12 arrives, however, we have to go through a beta testing process. This process is divided into two phases: developer previews and beta releases.
We are currently in the middle of the beta phase. The first developer preview version of Android 12 was released in February, and updates were released in March and April. The first two consumer betas have already been released, with two more to go: one in July and one in August. The final release of Android 12 to the general public is expected around September.
Of course, even when the consumer version of Android 12 is released, that doesn’t mean you’ll get it right away – or ever. The update will come to Google’s Pixel phones and some other devices first, but it’s not yet known when it will appear on other phones. If your phone has a relatively stripped-down operating system, like Motorola’s OxygenOS or My UX, it may get the update before others. Samsung’s One UI, for example, is highly refined, and it may take some time for the company to create and implement a coherent interface that follows the One UI and Android 12 design principles.