- New privacy controls
- Improved support for other Google devices
- New design changes and more
Google took a step back and completely redesigned a lot of how Android looks and works. For example, a new feature called Material You will take the core colors of your phone's wallpaper, and then it will customize how your system looks — including the notification shade, quick settings panels, the new-look widgets, and more. It'll launch as an exclusive feature for Google's own Pixel phones, but you have to imagine it'll eventually make its way to all Android devices.
The notification shade and quick settings panel have a new look, regardless of the color matching feature. The buttons for settings are bigger, easier to read and look like they're easier to navigate. Notifications also have a new look to them, with grouping and interaction taking a playful feel.
Getting to Google Assistant no longer requires swiping up from the corner of your phone's screen; instead, you'll now long-press the power button to trigger the personal assistant.
As far as privacy is concerned, Google is getting serious about helping Android users keep their personal information to themselves. There's a new location-sharing option that will allow you to only provide an app with your general location info, instead of your exact location. For example, if you're using the Walmart app to look for something, it'll request your location. However, does Walmart really need to know where your home or work is? Probably not. Instead, you can tell Android 12 to give it your general location, such as the south side of your city.
There are also new colored dots that will show up at the top of your phone letting you know when an app is using your camera or microphone (another feature that iPhone users currently have). When you see one of these indicators, you can swipe down from the top of the screen to view your quick settings panel and in turn disable access to either functionality for that specific app.
For even more control, a new privacy dashboard will show you every category of personal data that's being accessed and show you the apps and the exact times that it was accessed. With that information, you can then restrict access to apps that you feel are being too aggressive.
Google also added the ability for Android users to take scrollable screenshots. It's a handy tool for those times when you want to take a screenshot of a very long web page, or maybe a conversation in a chat app. Now you just have to tap a couple of buttons. Another new feature changes how auto-rotation works. Google now uses the front-facing camera on an Android phone and adjusts the rotation of the screen based on your face. In other words, you will soon be able to lay down in bed and use the phone without it rotating to landscape mode.