Here’s EVERYTHING you need to know about Android 12 after testing the new version for months: what’s new, changes, and update details
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Android 12 is here . Operating system update number 31 – if we count the API levels so far – has been released by Google after a preliminary version program that began in March 2021, to later give way to the beta program at Google I / Or celebrated in May.
In a most unusual year, with the telephone industry still in the process of recovery and most companies betting on known and more than proven formulas, Google has decided to hit the table by launching one of the most revolutionary updates of the operating system until now , completely changing the Android interface as we know it, and strengthening, more than ever, its commitment to privacy.
If Android 11 was seen by many as a minor update, Android 12 comes to introduce endless new features, big and small, some of them the result of several years of uninterrupted development. All of them are in this in-depth review of Android 12 .
Android 12, the new version of Google’s operating system.
- Material You
- Quick settings and notifications panel
- Lock screen
- Privacy Dashboard
- Privacy indicators
- Improved permission management
- Private Compute Core
- New emojis
- Play As You Download
- Hibernate apps to save resources
- Extended screenshots
- Device performance classes
- Smart screen rotation
- New easter egg
- Other changes and news
- What mobiles are compatible with Android 12?
Material You: an interface built by millions of people
In 2015, Matías Duarte and the rest of the Google design team showed the world for the first time the visual language Material Design. For years, this language inspired by the physical world and its textures, reflections and shadows, has served as a reference guide in the design of Android and the applications and services that comprise it.
Later, at Google I / O 2018, Material Design evolved to bring Material Theming to life , a series of design recommendations and good practices that encouraged developers to express their creativity using the elements of Material design in their apps. and services, without the need to adhere to strict aesthetic guidelines .
Now, everything changes with Android 12 .
The latest version of the system opens the doors to the third great iteration of Material design, which this time puts the emphasis on the user , as its name makes clear: Material You .
Material You does not mean a change in the elements that make up these design lines, but in the way they are applied. And it is that Google only puts the tools, but it is the user himself who is responsible for executing the design.
Sebastian Bauer, creative director of Android; and Matías Duarte, Material Design’s main supervisor, have worked for several years to ensure that Material You represents a great aesthetic advancement in the operating system and the rest of Google’s services, overcoming the different challenges involved in giving the user so much power on the aesthetics of the platform.
And although Material You will be spreading little by little between Google’s services and platforms, its path begins with Android 12, and it arrives made up of several different elements that, in conjunction, represent the biggest change in the operating system interface since the arrival of Material Design in 2015.
Initially, some of the Material You elements such as dynamic themes will be exclusive to Google Pixel devices . However, Android device manufacturers will have the ability to access the features and adapt them to their respective layers of customization.
All apps that already include support for Material You dynamic themes on Android 12
The first clues that pointed to the arrival of a native theme engine to Android are from 2017 . Of course, at the time, Android didn’t even have something as basic as a dark theme .
In all these years, Google has worked “secretly” on this theme system, known by its internal name, “Monet”, which is now finally being released.
“Monet” takes the customization of the operating system one level further , by taking Material Design elements as a basis and giving the user control over the aesthetics of their mobile operating system. And it does it without the east having to make the least effort, and despite having no notions of interface design: you just have to change your wallpaper to see how the Android interface adapts to it.
Various themes in Android 12, generated according to the wallpaper.
The technique is not new: Google has been working for several years with APIs capable of generating color palettes based on images. What changes is the way to apply the colors and tones extracted from the wallpaper in a consistent way.
To achieve this, Android 12 extracts a main tone from the wallpaper. From that tone, the system generates a color palette by modifying the saturation and brightness. At the same time, a complementary color is extracted that is harmonious with the color palette generated from the main tone. In case the default palette does not convince, the system will try to generate other alternative palettes, in addition to giving the option to choose between a series of predetermined colors .
Once the set of colors is formed, Android only has to apply each tone to the different elements that make up the user interface . From the clock on the lock screen, to the persistent notification of multimedia playback, through the background and cards of the settings application or some of the icons on the home screen – currently, only from Google apps, and not all. Basically everything is susceptible to changing its appearance thanks to the principles of Material You.
Each wallpaper used generates a totally different theme , and sometimes “Monet” surprises by generating the most peculiar combinations.
We tested the new automatic themes in Android 12: this is how they work
Of course, application developers also have the option of tailoring their applications to the system theme . To do this, Android provides three accent colors, and two neutral colors, each with different shades to choose from, which can be used in applications, and which will change automatically when the user modifies their wallpaper. for a new one.
The results are surprising , hypnotic and, why not, somewhat addictive. Combining Material You with an automatic wallpaper app like Muzei means you can enjoy potentially infinite styles on the same operating system.
Google stopped using the slogan Be together, not the same on Android some time ago. But the reality is that, thanks to Material You, this slogan makes more sense today than ever.
With the arrival of Android 12 and its new interface, a collection of new animations is also introduced in the operating system.
Google explains that the new visual effects have been designed to more clearly reflect what is happening when the user performs an action.
When reaching the end of a list by scrolling , for example, we will see a much more natural bounce effect than the previous “overscroll” effect used by Android since the days of Holo design .
Fun fact: despite what has been rumored in recent months, the “bounce” effect when reaching the bottom of a list used by Google in Android 12 is not the same elastic scroll effect patented by Apple, in a patent which expired in January 2021.
Other animations have also changed, such as the one shown when unlocking the mobile using the fingerprint reader, the facial recognition system – in the Pixel 4 – or putting the mobile to charge – by cable or wirelessly.
Effects as simple as touching an element on the screen also show new, more natural and striking animations than in previous versions of the system.
In general, the set of new animations makes Android “feel” smoother, more fluid and organic , eliminating the friction that was present in previous editions of the platform. The changes are even more noticeable on devices whose screens have a high refresh rate, but even models with relatively humble specs will benefit from the changes, since the new animation engine comes with a lower consumption of system resources.
And it is that the new “motor” of movements not only introduces aesthetic improvements. According to Google, all the improvements carried out in this regard have achieved a reduction in the load time on the processor of 22% , at the same time that the use of the “big” cores of the processor has been reduced by up to 15 %.
Many of these animations, yes, will probably remain on Pixel devices exclusively, since the rest of the manufacturers will implement their own visual effects in their respective customization layers.
Quick settings and notifications panel
There cannot be a version of Android that does not make major changes to the appearance of the quick settings panel and system notifications . And Android 12 comes with one of the biggest redesigns of this system component that we’ve seen in a long time.
The pulldown animation of this menu from the top has changed radically, so that now, when swiping from the top, we first see the quick controls on a black background – the color does not change, regardless of whether it is used the light or dark theme— while the screen content gradually transforms in the notification panel. When swiping up, the animation plays in reverse.
After unfolding the panel, we will see a new arrangement in the controls , all of them shaped like a rounded rectangle and the name of each setting next to its icon. When one of the controls is activated, it will change to one of the color tones of the Material You generated theme .
As an interesting novelty, we will see that two new controls appear, one for Google Pay and another to control the devices associated with Google Home. This is a change with respect to Android 11, a version in which these same controls were introduced in a new panel accessible through a long press on the phone’s power button. However, the operation is the same in both cases: only the way of accessing these sections changes.
There are other changes. One of the most notable is the disappearance of quick actions in notifications, which in previous versions appeared when partially swiping a notification card , and allowed, for example, to postpone a notice .
In Android 12, the option to snooze notifications appears directly on the notification card itself, as long as the option is activated through “Settings”> “Notifications”.
In this section, the * persistent media control notification has also been slightly modified. In addition to its appearance, which adapts to the chosen Material You theme, its behavior has changed by giving the possibility to set the player at the bottom of the quick settings even if nothing is playing, or include the option to show recommendations for multimedia content based on recent activity.
On the other hand, access to applications from the notification panel is now immediate . By touching a notification card, the app will be opened instantly, as long as the developers have implemented the necessary changes, consisting of executing the corresponding activity at the time the action is performed by the user. instead of using a “springboard” – a technique that, by the way, has been blocked in Android 12.
Google still does not recover the ability to customize the lock screen through widgets, something that was no longer possible several years ago. Despite this, Android 12 introduces major changes in the “lockscreen”, both at a functional and aesthetic level.
The first interesting change is functional, and it comes to offer the possibility of saving some time by doing an action as common as paying with your mobile.
If some kind of payment method has been set up in Google Pay, an icon appears in the lower right corner of the screen representing a card . Tapping on the icon opens the payment service, ready to carry out a transaction with the card set as the default.
A second button has also been added , located in the lower left corner, intended to open the controls of devices connected through Google Home.
The next change is cosmetic. And is that the lock screen clock has become much more prominent, occupying a larger area of the screen, as long as there are no unread notifications. If not, the clock varies its size dynamically to make room for the icons of the apps with pending warnings. Likewise, the clock font also changes its thickness dynamically , making the text thinner when the device remains in “ambient mode”.
For the rest, there are small changes in the interface of other elements of the lock screen such as the PIN input keyboard or the visual effect that appears when you slide your finger across the dots of the pattern.
It took Apple with iOS 14 to give Google the push it needed when it came to getting back to work on Android widgets . Although the company assures that it is not a “return”, but a series of improvements carried out on a function loved and used by millions of users around the world.
With Android 12, Google has redesigned some of its own widgets, as well as their selection menu. In this way, it is now easier to find exactly the widget you are looking for .
In addition, developers will have access to new features that they can implement in their widgets, such as checkboxes, radio buttons, switches, and more.
As for its design, the rounded corners take over the widgets , and the system will automatically adjust the separation to maintain harmony on any launcher and screen, regardless of its resolution.
Of course, the dynamic color APIs also affect widgets, so that they can automatically adapt to the appearance of the operating system based on the colors generated by Material You.
Finally, Google widgets are better integrated with Assistant , and in this way show more relevant information for the user.
Who thinks that the layers of customization have not contributed anything to “Android by Google”, have not seen the new settings menu of Android 12 .
Its interface is not very different from the one we can find in layers such as One UI or OxygenOS , with the controls and menu cards located in the lower three quarters of the screen , and the upper part dedicated exclusively to displaying static elements and information with the that the user cannot interact, thus facilitating use with one hand .
Some settings have also been reorganized , starting with the unification of the network configuration in the same panel .
This panel, called “Internet”, allows you to activate or deactivate mobile data and choose the Wi-Fi network to connect to from the same place, without having to access the system settings.
Google has made privacy one of Android’s strengths with each new release of the operating system, making it more important than ever over the past three years.
With Android 12, the platform introduces even more improvements in this regard, several of them inspired by the privacy systems introduced in iOS, with the aim of giving the user more information about how applications access their data and for what purpose they use it. .
The privacy panel encompasses many of the new features of Android 12 in terms of privacy.
This panel is present in the system settings , as a new section within the privacy section. From there, it is possible to view in a simple way how applications have access to certain permissions , and how often they take advantage of those privileges to access user data.
Within the privacy panel, it is possible to view a pie chart in the upper part where the use of camera, microphone and location permissions are reflected , while the lower part shows direct access to the timeline of each of those permissions .
The new privacy panel also gives the possibility to revoke the permissions of the applications directly, without having to search for each of the apps in the corresponding menu.
There is no doubt that the privacy indicators of Android 12 are inspired by the feature with the same name that Apple introduced in iOS 14. But I will not be the one who judges Google’s decision since it is a tool that can be of great helps to keep sensitive user data safe.
Its operation is simple: every time an application accesses the camera , the microphone or obtains the location of the device through the corresponding permission, a balloon appears in the upper right corner of the screen to alert the user.
This feature is complemented by a new quick setting built into the panel, which allows you to deactivate all the phone’s sensors , including cameras and microphones, with a single touch.
Improved permission management
The way to handle the permissions that are granted to applications has also improved with Android 12, thanks to a series of changes aimed at making it easier to manage privileges.
One of the most striking novelties is the possibility of granting applications permission to access the approximate location: when an app requests permission to access the device’s location, it is possible to choose whether to share the precise location , or to share one. approximate location .
The approximate location can be useful for applications that do not require an exact position on the map, such as a weather application . In this way, the user is assured that only those applications that they truly trust can know where they are.
Clipboard access monitoring
When an application accesses the content saved on the clipboard in Android 12, the system will display a toast type notification to warn the user.
This function is also inherited from a very similar feature present in iOS, and allows us to know if an application is trying to copy sensitive content that we could store on the clipboard, such as passwords or banking information.
Android 12 warns when an application accesses the content saved on the clipboard.
Private Compute Core
While being part of the privacy enhancements in Android 12, Private Compute Core deserves to be looked at on an individual basis.
Under this name is a set of protection measures integrated directly into the system , mostly aimed at keeping the data shared by users safe, which can be used to give life to operating system functions based on machine learning techniques or artificial intelligence.
Some of these functions are the Instant Subtitles , available from Android 11; the intelligent answers, which appear in the notifications of messaging apps; or the “It is sounding” mode of the Google Pixel, capable of identifying the name of the song that is playing around us.
All the functions that are under the range of Private Compute Core are isolated from the outside , since their data processing operations are executed locally on the device, and no type of information is shared with the servers, neither Google nor of any of its partners.
Private Compute Core protection measures are defined in the AOSP code , and therefore anyone can consult and inspect its code, as well as verify that these measures are effective.
With each new version of Android, you cannot miss its corresponding collection of new emojis . Those of Android 12 have not only been slightly redesigned , with a somewhat simpler aesthetic than in previous versions; Several new emojis are also introduced. They can be seen in the image below:
All new emojis included in Android 12.
Play As You Download
Having to wait several minutes while a game is downloading before you can start playing will be a thing of the past thanks to Android 12.
And, taking advantage of the incremental file system present in Android, Google has implemented the “Play as you Download” function , a novelty that will give users the option to start playing games, before they have been downloaded by complete .
Play as you Download works in such a way that a specific-purpose virtual Linux file system allows the execution of a program — a game, in this case — while its binary files and resources are downloaded on demand, as required by that program. Program.
Best of all, this system will be enabled by default for all new games published on Google Play from August , since it only works with games published in Android App Bundle format – a format that developers will be required to use. use for your new apps and games from that month on. It will not be necessary to adapt the games, thus eliminating the need for extra effort on the part of the developers.
Google claims that this feature can make a 400MB game take about 10 seconds to open for the first time and be ready to start playing. Before, this same process would have taken a few minutes.
Hibernate apps to save resources
Android 12 introduces app hibernation as a measure to save system resources by putting apps that have not been used for a long time into “standby” mode.
This mode will identify those apps that have not been opened by the user for a few months , and resets all their permissions, in addition to carrying out other operations such as clearing the app cache , blocking the execution of jobs or alerts in the background, as well like the arrival of push notifications.
All these limitations are removed in the event that the user interacts with the application . Since data remains present on the device, no information is lost after recovering an app from “hibernation”.
It took a while, but the option to take extended screenshots has finally come natively to Android.
Google has been working on this function for years, and it has been in Android 12 when a new option has been included that will appear when taking a screenshot .
Unlike other systems, Google has implemented its system of enlarged screenshots so that, when taking a screenshot , it is possible to choose how much content you want to save in the image through a slider. In this way, you do not have to wait for the system to automatically scroll over the list or page, as it does in other devices such as OnePlus.
Device performance classes
Developing applications that work equally well on the thousands of types of Android devices that exist around the world is not easy, and Google is aware of this.
For this reason, as of Android 12 , device performance classes are introduced , a more intuitive way to know what performance a device offers , by defining a series of capabilities that allow devices to be classified into different groups.
In this way, depending on the capabilities of a device, it can support more or less resource-demanding functions , with the aim of offering a good user experience regardless of its technical data sheet.
These classes are defined in the compatibility definition document —CDD— for Android 12, and developers have the option to check which class a device belongs to during the runtime of their app.
Each new version of Android will introduce a different performance class. The performance class for Android 12 sets the following requirements:
- At least 6 GB of RAM
- At least 400 dpi and 1080p screen resolution
- At least 150MB / s sequential write speed, 250MB / s sequential read speed, 10MB / s random write speed, and 40MB / s random read speed.
Smart screen rotation
Starting with the third beta version of Android 12, the screen autorotation system of the operating system was improved , making it more “smart” and faster.
An option included in the display settings allows you to enable face detection when rotating the screen. With it, the device uses the front camera to improve the precision of the automatic rotation . In this way, the device can determine whether the user really wants to rotate the screen content or not – for example, when we are lying down with the device horizontal, but our face remains vertical in front of the mobile camera.
Since this feature runs within the Private COmputer Core framework, the images captured by the front camera are processed directly on the device , and are never shared with Google’s servers.
This feature is only compatible with models released from 2019 , so owners of the Pixel 3 will not be able to use it. However, everyone who has a mobile with Android 12 will benefit from the rest of the improvements carried out on the autorotation system, including optimizations in animations or reduction in response time through machine learning models that reduce latency by up to 25%.
Android 12 detects the position of your head to rotate, or not, the content of the screen.
New easter egg
As with every new version of Android, the new easter egg could not be missed . In Android 12, the easter egg hidden by Google has Material You as the protagonist.
It consists of the now classic Android 12 clock that Google has used in much of the promotional material for the new version. When you move your hands and position them so that the clock reads 12 o’clock, the Android 12 icon appears on the screen , surrounded by colored bubbles. Colors, of course, obtained from the wallpaper thanks to the system’s ability to generate the palette of tones from the wallpaper .
This is the new ‘easter egg’ of Android 12, with Material You as the protagonist
POSTED 1 MONTH AGO
Other changes and news
In addition to the main novelties, Android 12 introduces many other changes , some of them functional but not as substantial as those mentioned before, and others focused on application developers.
Next, we list those changes to Android 12 that, although they may go unnoticed, are part of the set of new features introduced by the latest version of the operating system:
- Animated and Default Splash Screens : With Android 12, the SplashScreen API is introduced , which gives developers more control over the start-up animation of applications. This animation will now be activated by default for all apps, and new customization options are also added, such as the possibility of granting movement to said animation.
- Rich content insertion : another function aimed at developers, which facilitates the action of receiving rich content — images, text, video, etc.— from any source — clipboard, drag and drop, keyboard, etc.— by applications.
- Supported media transcoding : Android 12 includes a new feature that enables video capture apps to use more modern, storage-efficient encoding for videos recorded on the device without sacrificing compatibility with other apps. In this way, the system can automatically convert videos recorded in formats such as HEVC (H.265) to AVC (H.264) when the videos are opened by an app that does not support HEVC.
- RenderEffect API : a new API that allows developers to apply different filters to the interface elements of their apps, such as blurs or color filters, in a simpler and more efficient way.
- Audio focus enhancements : With Android 12 enhancements, when an app requests to highlight its audio while another app has focus and is playing, the transition from one app to another will take place in a smoother way through of an audio “fade out” effect.
- Picture in Picture mode improvements : New gestures and functions have been added to Android 12’s “Picture in Picture” mode, such as the ability to display controls with one touch, or the option to resize with a double touch. There is also the option to dock or undock the floating window to one side of the screen to be able to view the content that appears behind it.
- New Bluetooth permissions : Android 12 includes BLUETOOTH_SCAN, BLUETOOTH_ADVERTISE, and BLUETOOTH_CONNECT permissions. They allow applications to search for nearby devices without requiring permission to access the location.
- Rounded Corner API : As more and more mobiles have screens with rounded corners, Google has introduced an API that allows developers to know information about the screen in question, so that they can adapt their apps so that the content does not appear cut by the corners.
- AVIF support : Android 12 introduces support for AVIF , a modern video format that inherits features of the AV1 image format, to deliver the same image quality in smaller files.
- ART is updated through Google Play : as part of Google’s efforts to make Android an increasingly modular operating system —under the initiative known as Mainline—, this version introduces the possibility of updating the module corresponding to the environment execution of Android apps —ART, or Android Runtime— through Google Play in a more agile, faster way and without having to depend on the manufacturer of the device.
- Quick tap : an option has been included in the gesture settings, which allows you to double tap on the back of a Pixel device to carry out a predefined action, such as taking a screenshot, invoking the Google Assistant or opening the camera, among others.
- New way to invoke the Google Assistant: in addition to the new quick touch gesture, Android 12 also allows you to activate an option that allows you to activate the Google Assistant by long pressing the power button. That is why the shortcuts to Google Pay and home automation controls are now in the quick settings panel.
- Unlocking the car from the mobile : those who have a compatible vehicle will be able to unlock the car using their mobile with Android 12 , and even start it in some cases.
- More facilities for third-party app stores : due to pressure exerted by regulators and companies such as Epic Games, Google has decided to provide certain facilities for third-party stores that distribute apps on Android. As of Android 12, it is no longer necessary for these apps to ask the user for permission to install new versions of apps already present on the device.
- Search on device : Android 12 introduces a new API for local search on the device, open to app developers. Google explains that the AppSearch API is a high-performance “on-device” search engine, which allows apps to index and search structured data using text. It supports, among other things, multiple languages and the possibility of establishing rankings based on relevance.
What mobiles are compatible with Android 12?
There are a total of 10 smartphones that are compatible with Android 12. As expected, the models in the Google Pixel family are the first to update to the latest version of Android. They are as follows:
- Pixel 3
- Pixel 3 XL
- Pixel 3a
- Pixel 3a XL
- Pixel 4
- Pixel 4 XL
- Pixel 4a
- Pixel 4a 5G
- Pixel 5
- Pixel 5a
However, Google has decided not to release the Android 12 update to its devices yet. We will have to wait “a few weeks” until the update begins to reach the devices of the Pixel series, and later to those of the rest of the brands.
However, at the time of the launch of the new version there are already more than 200 phones with the update to Android 12 confirmed , which will receive the new version over the months.
Android 12 is, without a doubt, a huge advance on Google’s path in establishing Android as the reference mobile platform. In addition to the flexibility that the operating system provided since its inception, there is now a consistency at a visual level only seen on platforms such as iOS until now , with the added value of the ability to generate personalized and unique themes for each user.
To this must be added all the functions and improvements “of convenience”, security and privacy that the twelfth version of the system brings, and all the small changes that, despite going unnoticed at first glance, make Android 12 an even more important update. .
The launch of the new version marks the beginning of the path of Android 12 – except for those who have remained in the beta program in recent months. A path in which we will discover more and more secrets about this operating system.