We’re not expecting Android 12 to be released to the public until around early or mid-October, but with the beta testing period more or less done, the preview versions of the OS are available to brave users and developers who want to install it, provided they have an eligible phone.
Easily the biggest change to Android 12 comes in the form of a design refresh. Buttons are bigger and bolder, everything has large and rounded corners, and Google isn’t as concerned about taking up more space on the display. Android 12, it seems, is more about using space smartly than trying to pack more stuff into it.
There are smaller tweaks to animations and motion in Android 12. For example, when you hit the power button, there’s an animation that illuminates the display from the button itself. When you plug your charger in, another animation plays. It’s a very animated, very visually pleasant take on a mobile operating system.
These bigger icons seem to apply to pretty much every aspect of Android 12. Everything more or less works the same, but Settings menu options, Quick Settings panel, sliders, and so on are all much larger, bolder, and more colorful. Even the lock screen has gotten the treatment — when there aren’t any notifications, the clock takes up a majority of the display, and even with notifications, it’s large enough to easily see at a glance.
Android 12 is well and truly on the way now that the final beta, simply called Beta 5, has just been released. Google also finally showed off some of the major new features and design updates at Google I/O 2021, and they signify that Android 12 could represent the biggest update to the operating system in a while.
During the Developer Preview phase of Android 12, we didn’t know all that much about the new operating system, but now that public betas are available, we have a pretty good look at what Android 12 is. And there’s a lot there. Android 12 represents a massive design overhaul that will bring a slew of new features and dashboards, plus more.
Alongside the design refresh are new theming options that Google calls “Material You,” which essentially takes color scheme cues from your wallpaper. These include primary colors and what Google calls “complementary” colors. The theming is actually systemwide, and even third-party developers can hook their apps into it to make for a more unified look. For example, if you use green wallpaper, expect your phone to be shaded by tints of green. If you have green or yellow wallpaper, you’ll be able to pick which one the theming system chooses to accent your phone with. On the other hand, Google has taken out other customization options from Pixel’s version of Android as a result. Previously, users had the option to change font or icon shapes, but those are gone as a result of the new theming system.
Material You may well be the biggest part of Android 12, but you won’t see it outside of Google Pixels for the most part. Google has said that the aesthetic will be limited to Pixels at the start, but it’s not clear whether the color-based dynamic theming will become a part of Android over the next year as Android phone makers build out their versions of Android 12.
As part of the all-new design refresh, Google has moved some aspects of Android around — and as is tradition on Android, the notification shade gets one of the biggest revamps. Quick Settings, for example, are getting easier to access — you’ll be able to toggle four of your most-used Quick Settings on the first swipe of the notification shade, in the form of relatively large rectangular buttons. Then, you just swipe again to access all of your Quick Settings. Android’s Power Menu will also be rolled into this new Quick Settings area. That means that you’ll be able to access your smart home controls and Google Pay wallet from the Quick Settings menu while holding the power button will instead trigger Google Assistant. With Android 12’s Release Candidate, Google also added shortcuts both the home controls and Google Pay wallet to either side of the lock screen. You’ll now be able to access either of the two without needing to swipe down on the notification center.
Another small change Google is making is with a new Internet Panel for managing your connectivity. Google says it’s also meant to help users troubleshoot issues more easily and switch between providers faster, whether on Wi-Fi or mobile data. The general public is getting a little more hip to privacy, and Android 12 offers several features for the privacy-conscious. Most notable of these is the new Privacy Dashboard, which shows a range of information about the permissions you have granted to each app, and allows you to revoke specific permissions if you choose. You’ll also get information about permission usage, including a timeline of when apps have accessed your location.
Speaking of location, there are more location permissions in Android 12. You can now grant apps “approximate” location instead of specific location, which will come in handy for things like weather apps. There are other features around privacy as well. As on iOS, there are now brightly colored indicators for when your microphone, camera, and clipboard are being accessed by apps or websites, preventing clandestine use, for the most part. New toggles in Quick Settings will let you switch off the camera and microphone to preserve privacy. Lockdown mode lets you secure your device in seconds right from the lock screen.