The goal of this first Android 12 preview is to draw the app developer community’s attention to the possible new features that Google will bring to this OS iteration. This way, the search giant has enabled developers to get a head start on the changes that are to come while providing an opportunity for the Android team to receive real-time feedback on the new system’s features.
This decreases the chances of the company having to send out a string of corrective updates after the final version of the OS is shipped to Android-powered devices.
In Android 12 we’re working to provide new tools for developers to build great experiences for people. (Dave Burke)
A quick summary:
Android 12 | Features and News
Android 12 will offer more modern controls over cookie behaviour, following the pattern of changes made in Chrome and other browsers. This way, the WebView engine used by third-party apps will adopt Google’s new browser setting, known as “SameSite”. This might help reduce tracking to some extent.
So far, it’s not very clear how and if this feature will be visible to users, however, the VP of engineering did mention that this “will give users more transparency and control over how cookies can be used across sites.”
During my testing, I didn’t notice that much difference from the Android 11 user interface. Of course, it is far too early to tell at this point in time as there is still much work that could be done if required. What I did notice were some refinements, as you can tell from the settings:
The new blue shade in the quick settings and the separation between the search box and the user profile icon mark the differences between the current version and the preview version. However, nothing really stood out in being (r)evolutionary.
With regards to system customization, Android 12 carries a new option – the application grid. With this, you are able to align the app icons in a myriad of configurations, including 4×4, 3×3, 2×2, and even 4×5 in addition to the default option:
Due to the popularity of the HEVC video format which offers significant improvements in quality and compression over older codecs, most apps should be compatible with it. However, reality often fails to live up to ideals.
Therefore, Android 12 should bring a feature that enables all apps to support HEVC. In order to do so, incompatible apps will have their files converted in real-time to AVC, which is a widely used format. According to Google, the feature will be active on all devices that use the HEVC format for video capture.
We will also have support for the AVIF image format, which offers a significant reduction in image file size and yet manages to maintain a considerable amount of quality compared to older file formats like JPEG.
As I mentioned, the preview version of Android 12 was released for developers so that they can better prepare for what’s coming in the next OS. However, some new features can already be implemented, including a tech journalist like me. It was so with the system’s Dark Mode before, and the same applies to Nearby Wi-Fi now.
The next version of Android will make it much easier to share Wi-Fi login data with nearby devices. I tested out the new feature and it’s really simple and easy. In Android 11, the system only generates a QR code, but in Android 12, using the Nearby Wi-Fi feature allows you to identify a device and send the data wirelessly and without the need to get up from your chair.
Another interesting change would be the notifications of device resource usage by background apps. Currently, Android requires apps to display a notification when they are running an activity in the background, but in Android 12, all of that is set to change.
The idea here is to eliminate such notifications if the background activity ends in less than 10 seconds. This should increase the performance of the devices and save battery life – although not by too much, but every little bit helps.
Google wants to make it easier to insert images, videos, and other content in the Android ecosystem of apps. For that, it brings a new unified API that lets you accept content from any source: clipboard, keyboard, or via simple ‘drag and drop’ gestures.
Speaking of which, screenshots will be even more flexible in their use where Android 12 is concerned. In addition to being able to use gestures to move the screenshot shortcut around, it is now possible to use emojis and drawing features before sharing the screenshot on selected social media channels or instant messengers.
Android 12 should amplify the vibration function in smartphones equipped with haptic feedback, an experience that is well known to those who use the PlayStation’s DualSense controller. In Android 12, apps ought to be able to offer haptic feedback via the phone’s vibrate function.
According to Burke, the intensity and frequency of the vibration are derived via audio, allowing for a much more immersive gaming experience. More than that, we will have even more possibilities when it comes to the device’s audio features.
While we are still on the subject of audio, Android 12 will also include some improvements of its own. We will have support for MPEG-H playback and have up to 24 audio channels instead of just 8. With this, developers will certainly be able to be more creative regarding audio effects in apps.
However, none of this has yet to be set in stone in DP1, because it still needs to be adapted to the applications. I also noticed that in relation to the media player, nothing else has changed although I have seen some channels citing some modifications. What seems obvious to me is the design of the player that followed the visual alignment of the system:
Gesture navigation should become easier and more consistent with Android 12, especially with regard to videos, games, or reading. The new OS should prevent accidental gestures to a greater degree whenever we use the smartphone in full screen or in an immersive manner (when watching a video, for example).
As with every new Android version, Google makes incremental updates to the user interface, and Android 12 is no exception. The notifications design was improved in order to make them easier to use and more functional. We also had the transitions and animations optimized.
With the announcement of Android 12 DP1, Google also took the opportunity to reaffirm its efforts to bring the system’s security updates to the Google Play Store, as part of Project Mainline. What does this mean? The search giant is looking to improve the delivery of security fixes and updates via its app store, making it even more dummy-proof.
This improvement should be one of the most relevant for non-Pixel device users, who comprise most of the Android ecosystem. In theory, every device that runs on Google’s mobile operating system would receive monthly security updates. Today, we know that most manufacturers do not guarantee the delivery of such monthly security updates. To achieve this, Android Runtime (ART) will be added as an updatable Mainline module in Android 12.
Among the new features in the next OS version will be optimization for tablets, foldable devices, and smart TVs. Personally, I believe that Android is still far behind systems like iOS, for example, in relation to the suitability of apps for use outside of the smartphone environment.
However, I also understand that this kind of improvement depends a lot on the effort of the app developers. So, I’ll wait until the release of the final version of the system to share my opinion on this topic.
The Android team is forecasting to release the stable version of the operating system in August this year. The details of the release schedule can be seen in the image below:
What does this mean? A stable version of Android 12 should be available in August, when the system no longer introduces new features and one in which we can all identify as a “stable platform”. From there, we will concentrate on bug fixing (if any) before the release of the final version of the system.
Considering how Android versions 10 and 11 were released in September, it is possible that Android 12 will also follow the same path and hit your notification bar only at the end of the third quarter of 2021.
This first preview can be installed only on Pixel models or via Android Emulator in Android Studio. Here’s the list of devices that can already install Android 12:
- Pixel 3
- Pixel 3 XL
- Pixel 3a
- Pixel 3a XL
- Pixel 4
- Pixel 4 XL
- Pixel 4a
- Pixel 4a 5G
- Pixel 5
We have installed and tested the Android 12 developer preview on a Pixel 3. However, we don’t recommend you do so on your primary smartphone, as it’s still very unstable and has not been optimized for most apps on your manual phone.
The whole installation process needs to be performed manually. You can either flash the factory image on your Pixel or sideload an OTA image, in which case you won’t need to unlock the bootloader or wipe out your data. Either way, after the manual installation, you will receive future updates automatically Over-the-Air (OTA) for upcoming previews and future Betas.
So, what did you think of the possible new features of Android 12 so far? Have any of them really caught your attention? Why or why not? Share your opinion with our community in the comments below.