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Google Unveils Android 12 Features; Releases First Beta

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

Google has released the first beta of Android 12, giving the public its first taste of what the upcoming operating system has to offer.

Android 12 Google photo

Credit: Google

The company revealed the update to the Android mobile operating system in its latest Google I/O event. Google said that the new update was designed to focus on bringing Android users a more personal experience while assuring privacy, security and making all their devices work better together.

If you thought that what Android 12 will provide sounds familiar, that’s because of Jon Prosser’s leak, which we discussed in a previous article. According to Prosser’s source, Android 12 will provide “a beautiful new experience, stronger privacy and security protections as well as that all of your devices work better together”.

Speaking of Prosser’s leaks, it seems at least some of them have been confirmed in the event. Android 12 is indeed fluid with smooth motion and animations. Google also simplified interactions and redesigned the entire underlying system to make the OS perform faster and more responsively. The redesigned system also comes with better power efficiency, so you can use your Android phone for longer between charges. According to Google, they reduced the CPU time needed for core system services by up to 22% and the system server’s use of its big cores by up to 15% to achieve better battery life.

Gif of phone screen swiping down to notification shade to show quick settings for Google Pay and Device Controls.

Android 12’s Quick Settings and new widgets Credit: Google

Google also made the notification shade easier to access, more intuitive and playful. It now has Quick Settings that lets you control the entire operating system with just a swipe and a tap. Quick Settings itself has been rebuilt to include Google Pay and Home controls. Additionally, Quick Settings still lets you customise it for you to easily access everything you need most.

Google Assistant can now be easily called on, allowing you to give Google’s virtual assistant quick commands with just a long press of the power button.

As for widgets, it seems Prosser got some things right. The edges look more round than sharp, and it does have an analogue clock widget, a weather widget on the home screen, a brightness slider and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth toggles. Most notably, stacked notifications have been confirmed to be coming to Android 12.

Gif of one phone fanning into five phones that show different color schemes.

A demonstration of Android 12’s Material You feature Credit: Google

With that said, there is something that Prosser didn’t mention in his leak: Google Pixel phones will have a new personalisation feature if they have been updated to Android 12: Material You. Using what Google calls “colour extraction,” the phone automatically determines which colours in your wallpaper are dominant, complementary and the ones that just look great. Material You then applies the detected colours across the entire operating system’s widgets, notification shade, lock screen and more.

Google said that Material You will be coming to Google Pixel phones in Fall 2021.

The notification shade isn’t the only thing that’s playful in Android 12. The lock screen was redesigned for it to have dynamic lighting. If you pick up your Android phone, then the screen will light up from the bottom. If you press the power button instead to wake your phone up, the screen will light up in a rippling manner from your touch, just like when you throw a rock into a pond.

Gif of phone screen showing privacy dashboard and opens location usage

A GIF showing Android 12’s new privacy-centred features Credit: Google

Android 12 has a new Privacy Dashboard that offers a view of your permissions settings and lets you easily revoke app permissions if you change your mind. The dashboard also shows what data is being accessed, how often and by which apps. This feature is similar to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature that came with the iOS 14.5 release.

Google also added a new indicator to let you know if an app is currently accessing the phone’s microphone or camera. Quick Settings has two new toggles if you want to remove an app’s access to those sensors for the entire system.

The company also added new approximate location permissions for you to limit apps to only knowing your approximate location instead of your precise one. Apps like those for weather forecasting need only your approximate location for it to offer an accurate forecast, for example. Google also introduced a new privacy feature called Android Private Compute Core to introduce new technologies that are private by design. It will also allow Google to keep your personal information safe, private and local to your phone.

google live captions

Android 12’s Private Compute Core will keep features like Live Captions private and secure Credit: Google

Additionally, Private Compute Core enables features like Live Captions, Now Playing and Smart Reply by ensuring that audio and language processing is done on-device and is isolated from the network to preserve your privacy. Google also said that Private Compute Core’s protections are open source, and therefore, any security community can inspect and verify the company’s claims.

Lastly, Google added improved accessibility features to Android 12 for people with impaired vision and other features like scrolling screenshots, conversation widgets and ways to make all your devices work better together. Third-party app stores will be easier to use on Android 12, as promised by Google.

To try out Android 12’s first beta, head over to Google Developers’ Android 12 page and find out if your device can support Android 12.

Even though Google has yet to disclose when Android 12 will be fully available to the public, we’re definitely excited to try out these features when it becomes available to us.


Written by John Paul Joaquin

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