Android 12: Release date, betas, features, and news

Google I/O just kicked off and we now know a lot more about Android 12.

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Google just started its annual developer conference, Google I/O , where the company announced several new products. One of the highlights of the event was the first major reveal of what users can expect to see when Android 12 officially launches later this year.

Google is including several enhancements in Android 12, ranging from improved privacy controls that are very similar to what iPhone users have in iOS 14, to a brand new look for nearly every part of the operating system.

If you have a Pixel phone, you can install the first public preview of Android 12 right now -- but, be forewarned, the beta is likely to have bugs and issues, be it in the OS itself or with third-party apps that aren't updated for Android 12 yet. 

What's the latest version of Android called?

  • Google has left its public dessert naming scheme behind
  • Numbers are the future: Android 12 is the name

With the release of Android 10 in 2019, Google announced it was no longer going to use dessert names for the yearly release of an Android update. Last year, Google released Android 11. So, by my count, that puts this year's release at Android 12, a fact confirmed by Google when it announced the update. 

That said, Google still uses sweets as its internal code names for upcoming releases, and thanks to XDA Developers, which has shared a ton of information about the OS update, we have a good idea that internally it's being called "Snow Cone."

When will Android 12 release?

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  • Google released the first developer beta on Feb. 18
  • According to Google's own timeline, the first public beta was released on May 18
  • An official release will happen in August or perhaps later

The development process for each new version of Android is lengthy, with a developer beta usually being released early in the year. In 2020, Google released the first developer beta of Android 11 on Feb. 19. Nearly a year to the day later, Google announced Android 12 on Feb. 18. 

The public beta, which allows anyone with a compatible Android phone like a Google Pixel can sign up and help Google test the next version of Android. True to how it's done things in the past, Google just announced the first public beta of Android 12 during the opening keynote of Google I/O. It's available for Pixel phones right now, with support by other device makers coming soon. 

An official release happens toward the end of the summer after developers have had time to get their apps ready for new APIs, and Google has time to finalize the build and get rid of any lingering bugs. Last year, Android 11 released on Sept. 8. 

What new features are in Android 12?

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  • The developer betas didn't have much for consumers
  • However, the public beta is all about normal users
  • 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 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 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. 

There's sure to be much, much more in Android 12 that we'll discover as we begin testing or Google makes changes in future beta releases. We'll keep updating this post as we learn more leading up to the release of Android 12 later this year. 

What are you hoping to see in Android 12? More iOS-like features, or something different? Let us know in the comments below.