Google just released the first developer beta of Android 12, the search giant's next major update to its mobile operating system. The initial release is for developers to learn more about under-the-hood changes and make adjustments to their apps. Google hasn't announced any consumer-facing changes yet, and after a few minutes with the beta installed, we can't find anything drastically different. We'll definitely need to spend more time with it.
What's the OS update 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?
- Google released the first developer beta on Feb. 18
- According to Google's own timeline, the first public beta will be out in May
- 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 or OnePlus phone, can sign up and help Google test the next version of Android. This year, Google is targeting a public beta launch in May, according to its own schedule.
Here's the full release plan:
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?
- The first developer beta appears to only have new features for developers
- We've installed it, and at first glance, nothing stands out
- Previous reports shine some light on what else we can expect
Google didn't have an official post on its blog to announce Android 12 as a whole. Instead, the developer site was updated with news of the release, and the Android Enterprise blog detailed changes to device security, work profiles, and passwords for managed devices.
After installing the beta, there doesn't appear to be any drastic UI changes. We're going to need more time to comb through the update, but right now the beta looks like it's strictly background changes.
That said, XDA Developers recently published some screenshots that are reportedly from documents shared with Google's partners to let them know what's new in Android 12 so they can start preparing. The beta we have installed on our Pixel 5 right now looks nothing like the screenshots above.
However, previous reports from XDA Developers have uncovered some of what we should expect in Android 12. For example, there's a new design approach called Material NEXT, at least internally, and it seems to encourage hardware partners to customize the apps to fit their brand on top of the material design.
Android currently has a few different solutions for one-handed use, but who makes your phone will determine how it's implemented. With Android 12, XDA has found evidence of a new one-handed mode that hardware partners can incorporate into their devices. It's unclear how it'll work, but XDA claims that when it's triggered the window will shrink down to 40% of its size with a gesture, bringing buttons and text near the top of the screen closer to your thumb. iPhone users have had a Reachability feature since Apple launched larger iPhone models that do something similar.
Android 12 also appears to have a new split-screen multitasking workflow, which should help increase productivity. This report is from 9to5Google, the new process will involve creating app pairs, much like you can do on Samsung Galaxy phones right now, to launch two apps you frequently use at the same time in split-screen mode. For example, you can have Gmail and Google Docs set as a pair.
Finally, another interesting feature that's rumored to be coming to Android 12 is a dedicated gaming mode. XDA reports that evidence has been found of a new GameManagerClient in Android 12. The service looks like it'll help those who like to game on their mobile devices do things like trigger do not disturb, change display brightness, and disable auto-rotate when a game is opened.
As we learn more about Android 12, we'll keep updating this post.
What are you hoping to see in Android 12? More iOS-like features, or something different? Let us know in the comments below.