Invariably, each year brings its major update to the Android mobile operating system. And while smartphone manufacturers are gradually updating their devices to Android 11, Google is already looking into the future of the OS.
Logically named Android 12, this new version is actually already accessible to developers (or to the curious ones sure of their skills who want to see what all this may look like).
On the menu: a new interface, additional features, and also an option making very large smartphone screens more convenient to use with one hand.
Android 12: release date
You will have guessed it when reading the few lines of the paragraph above: the release of version 1.0 of Android 12 is not for now. Currently, the beta is only available to developers.
According to Google’s calendar, the public beta will be spread out between May and August.
Usually, Google plans the official release of new versions of Android in late summer. For comparison, the final version of Android 11 was released on September 8, 2020… on a thin selection of smartphones.
Which smartphones will be compatible with Android 12?
Android is an operating system shared by a large number of devices. Thus, the updates are not deployed at the same time by each smartphone manufacturer.
Google being the one that holds the reins of Android development, it offers its Pixel smartphones the premiere of new versions of its OS. Thus, the Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 3a, Pixel 3a XL, Pixel 4, Pixel 4 XL, Pixel 4a, Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 will be able to be updated to Android 12 as soon as Google press the button to put online the operating system.
Then, some brands that participated in the Android 12 beta program will be able to take advantage of Android 12 as soon as possible. In recent years, OnePlus has positioned itself very well in terms of software tracking. We can therefore expect that the future OnePlus 9, but also the entire OnePlus 8 and 7 range can install Android 12 by the end of 2021.
Xiaomi, realme and Vivo are also often well placed to receive Android updates. Phones running Android One should also be served quickly. Finally, while Samsung seems determined to make efforts lately, its devices are rarely the most responsive to host an Android update.
Finally, it is still unclear which smartphones will be able to install Android 12. As the tracking of Android devices is subject to the will of each manufacturer, each must still clarify its policy in this area. Keep in mind, however, that only Google promises three major Android updates on its Pixel smartphones. The other manufacturers are usually limited to one, while continuing to deploy security patches.
How to install Android 12?
It’s been said: only developers are now encouraged to install Android 12 on their device. For good reason: the version is still (logically) unstable, and many bugs can occur. Not to mention the risks of «bricking» your smartphone when handling it incorrectly. You will have understood, do not go into this without being sure of what you are undertaking.
Fortunately, the installation of ROMs (and therefore of this beta) is made more accessible since the launch of Android Flash Tool. This is an official Google Web App that allows, in two steps three moves, to install the beta Android 12 on your smartphone.
You read it right. No need to go into command lines by ADB to install a ROM. Through this online tool, you are guided step by step by Google to install the beta-free Android 12. Keep in mind, however, that you must have a compatible smartphone. In the case of this beta dedicated to developers, it is therefore the Pixel devices mentioned above that are concerned.
When Android 12 is officially launched, the update will be offered via the usual process. Users will simply be asked to update their devices.
What’s new in Android 12
But in the end, what’s the point of Android 12? As often, this major update brings many new features. And this year, the time has come for a major overhaul of the interface.
The new Android interface
This is the tip of the iceberg. With Android 12, the user interface (UI) is undergoing a major facade overhaul. Keep in mind, however, that the following captures represent the Android Stock version. Manufacturers who are used to adding their own overlay (Samsung, Xiaomi, Oppo, etc.) are free to transpose these visual innovations or not.
As for Pixel smartphones or at least Android Stock, here’s what Android 12 will look like.
Called Material NEXT, this graphic tab pours as you can see in rounded and soft shapes. Aesthetic guidelines in the continuity of what is currently used on Android 11, but that seems to put a particular emphasis on the continuity of colors on the entire interface.
As we can see, the interface elements (notification panel, shortcut pane, parameters) are inspired by the colors of the user’s wallpaper to apply an opaque background that is somewhat connected. An original idea, which of course allows to vary the pleasures and to observe a global change in the interface with each change of wallpaper.
According to the findings of XDA Developers, the lock screen will also have a graphic redesign. The Always-On mode will be reworked to make the various displayed information more readable.
A new version of the Developers Preview also shows other adjustments in terms of interface. For example, the volume or brightness control bar offers a new design. New privacy options have also emerged, including the ability to allow access to approximate rather than precise location.
More integrated multi-tasking
Android 12 also reworks the multi-tasking feature. More specifically, it is about the feature that lets us split the screen in two to display an application in the upper part of the screen, and another on the lower part.
Dubbed “App Pairs”, this new feature will not only be easier to activate, but will also save the smartphone’s resources. In the same way as iPadOS, it will be a question here of creating a duo of applications that will work within the same «block» of which they share the resources (RAM, CPU).
A feature already seen also at Samsung.
A one-hand mode for large screens
At a time when the average size of Android smartphone screens is approaching 6.7 inches, it is not uncommon to see many people regret the era of compact smartphones. But while manufacturers do not seem very motivated to design new models that are more «practical» with one hand, Google is taking the problem to its heart on the software side with a «one hand» mode.
Like an iPhone and iOS, Android 12 will actually allow you to temporarily lower the height of the interface in order to be able to easily access the higher elements.
A “quality of life” feature, which can be triggered by switching down the screen.
New privacy options
Every year, Android fills itself with new features related to data privacy. With Android 12, Google is inspired by iOS 14 and will display a colorful icon in the status bar to signal the user that the microphone, camera or GPS is in use.
A way to prevent and point the finger at apps that would use smartphone features without our consent.
We also note the possibility of totally deactivating the microphone of his smartphone. Excellent news, which will hopefully be coupled with the possibility of defining exceptions (otherwise it may be complex to make a phone call).
More natural interface rotation
It happened to all of us to pester against our smartphone, which rotates its interface to landscape format when we consult it lying down.
With Android 12, Google tests screen rotation based on the user’s face sense. In other words: if you use your phone in your bed, or lying in your sofa, the interface will no longer be rotated automatically if you hold the screen in portrait mode.
Sharing Wi-Fi access made easy
This is a highly anticipated feature, and it finally arrives with Android 12. Thanks to Nearby Share (the ersatz of Android’s Airdrop), it will be possible to share the password of its Wi-Fi network.
Unused applications put into hibernation
Other “borrowing” from the latest version of iOS, Android 12 will hibernate apps you haven’t used in a long time.
What does that mean? Simply that, if you have not launched an app for some time, said app will be put into some sort of stasis. It will always appear among your apps in the drawer or on the home screen, but will need to be downloaded (with a single key) to access it.
The idea is obviously to optimize the storage space of the phone, and also to limit the amount of data that is transmitted to our applications, even in standby.
A double tap on the back of the phone to run shortcuts
Tested on Android 11 but eventually rejected, the double tap feature could make its comeback on Android 12.
As iOS 14 already offers, Android 12 will allow the ability to quickly tap the back of the smartphone twice to trigger a particular action. Open an app, launch the next piece of music, disable notifications… the possibilities are unlimited.
More flexibility in choosing an application store
Just as Android already offers us to choose our favorite internet browser, it will be possible in Android 12 to choose its store of alternative applications (other than Google Play Store therefore).
We still don’t know how this feature will materialize.
Redirect the vibrations of the smartphone to a gamepad
With Android 12, gamepads will be better supported. And especially when it comes to vibrations.
In the menus, it will indeed be possible to «redirect» the haptic returns of the phone to a joystick connected in Bluetooth. What to recover sensations of game closer than if we played on a console or a computer.
The possibility of «snoozer» notifications
If you’re used to waking up every morning because you can’t get out of bed, you already know the term “snoozer”.
On Android 12, it will be possible to do the same with its notifications. The concept? Imagine that you receive an email, but that you do not want to lose focus for the moment. By snoozant this notification, it disappears from your notification panel, but will be presented to you in 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour or 2 hours as a new notification.
So, you are no longer distracted by this notification, but you are sure not to miss a potentially important message.