Android 12 will be the latest version of Google’s new Android.
Update: March 18, 2021 (08:25 AM ET): We’ve added more Android 12 features spotted in the second developer preview. Read on for more!
Android 12 has hit its second major milestone. Google has now released the second Android 12 developer preview to the public, giving us access to a fresh new build of the OS. As with the previous developer previews, these are very early versions of the software, so they are not ready for public use.
Google is improving and introducing a host of facets in its latest iteration of Android. Tweaks to media handling and notification support, improvements to privacy and haptic feedback, and more polished notifications UI all make the cut. We’re barely brushing the surface here. For a deeper dive detailing these confirmed Android 12 features and more, read on!
Don’t miss: Android 12 developer preview hands-on: Lots of little changes
Confirmed Android 12 features
Easier Wi-Fi sharing
In stock Android 11, if you want to share your current Wi-Fi connection with someone, you can create a QR code easily. However, in Android 12, you can avoid the barcode scanning and just hit the “Nearby” button you see underneath the QR code in the image above. That will use Android’s Nearby Share feature to transmit the Wi-Fi credentials to whomever you like.
While scanning the QR code is pretty easy, this new feature allows you to share the connection info with multiple people without handing your phone around for everyone to scan. That’s definitely more convenient!
More screenshot markup options
With a Pixel device, if you capture a screenshot, you are easily able to markup that shot with paintbrush-like tools. With Android 12, though, you can add text, Emoji, and stickers to your screenshots using the same tool. This isn’t a revolutionary change, but it might prevent folks from needing a third-party app to do the same thing.
Wallpaper-based theming system
Android 12’s rumored wallpaper-based theming system has been switched on by a developer. Initially rumored in late January, the feature uses the wallpaper’s predominant color to set the hue of system elements. For instance, if you apply a wallpaper of orange bokeh, UI elements will adopt a shade of peach. Screenshots suggest that the colors are applied to Android 12’s notification shade, settings menus, and lock screen.
It’s unclear that this feature will make it to Android 12’s final cut, but it seems pretty advanced and well developed for Google to drop it. That said, Google hid the feature for a reason. While the feature is present on Android 12 DP1, there’s no telling if it will make the final cut. Notably, the screenshots also lack other rumored Android 12 UI tweaks, including the Conversation section and squircle icons.
AVIF image support
The days of JPEG as the de facto compressed image format on mobile are numbered. Android 12 introduces support for AVIF — an image format that promises improved image quality over JPEG without the penalty of larger file sizes. The format makes use of the open-source video codec AV1, which was first introduced to Android 10.
Compatible media transcoding
Although HEVC is growing in popularity, the video compression standard isn’t supported by all apps. Now, Google is set to introduce a transcoding layer to Android 12 that will let unsupported apps also take advantage of video compression. Video capture apps that don’t support HEVC can now request Android 12 to transcode that file in AVC — a more available video compression format.
Read more: The best camera phones you can buy
Google notes that this is a stop-gap solution and urges developers to include HEVC support for their apps. The performance of this feature is also largely dependent on a device’s processing power. For instance, a one-minute 1080p video takes nine seconds to transcode on a Pixel 4, suggesting that it may not be suitable for budget devices. Still, the feature will be available for all Android 12 devices with video capture capabilities.
Haptic-coupled audio effect
Google is allowing developers to mate haptic feedback patterns with audio in Android 12. The strength and duration of vibrations are derived from audio cues, which adds a more immersive layer to media playback or alerts. “For example, a video calling app could use custom ringtones to identify the caller through haptic feedback, or you could simulate rough terrain in a racing game,” explains Google.
Android 12 is bringing support for SameSite cookie behaviors to WebView. The SameSite attribute allows developers to declare if a cookie should be limited to a specific website. This addition should improve Android 12’s handling of cookies across the OS and various apps. Notably, major Android browsers already support the attribute.
Rich content insertion
Google is giving users more control over rich media through the keyboard, clipboard, and drag and drop. A new API will let users insert and move media from any of these sources. Supported formats will include “plain and styled text to markup, images, videos, audio files, and more,” per Google. For users, it should speed up the process of sharing files or styled text to others or across apps.
Android 12’s notification system will be redesigned to improve aesthetics, usability, and functionality. Google’s tweaking the drawer and controls and freshening up transitions and animations.
Responsiveness is also being targeted. Android 12 will prompt developers to ditch “trampolines” — middle-man broadcast receivers or services — that bounce users from the notification to the app. In Android 12, Google wants notification taps to take users directly to the app itself. The company’s also “delaying the display of some foreground service notifications by up to 10 seconds,” which will give short tasks a brief window to complete before pinging the user.
Related: The best Android themes, theming apps, and customizations
Android 12 updates via Google Play
The Android Runtime (ART) will be added to Project Mainline — Google’s Play system updates program. This will let the firm push key updates to ART and other essential Android 12 services through Google Play, negating the need for full system updates to tweak these facets. Google also notes that more module updates will be pushed through Project Mainline in the near future, including its aforementioned transcoding improvements.
Mockups of Android 12’s rumored Conversation widget appeared weeks before the Developer Preview was released. Now, it seems that the feature is indeed baked into Android 12 and works. With the help of some reverse engineering, XDA confirms that the widget is functional albeit not available yet on the Pixel Launcher. There’s another issue — the widget doesn’t work with other apps beyond Google’s suite That’s also understandable.
Considering the feature is at least present in the OS, it’s possible we’ll see Google unleash it later in Android 12’s development life. However, once again, it’s possible that Google could drop the feature before Android 12’s final build is released.
This feature appeared in the first DP as a hidden item but didn’t make its official debut until the second DP. It operates much as the one-handed mode does in iOS. First, you activate the feature within Android settings, and then you swipe down anywhere at the bottom of the display. Doing so brings the top half-or-so of the display downwards, allowing you to better reach any buttons, icons, or other features there.
Since this is easily found within Settings, it seems very likely it will make it to the stable launch. However, it’s early days yet so Google could change its mind.
New widget organization
When you add a widget to the home screen, you can now see more widget categories at once. This will allow you to easily find the app you want a widget for and then add the specific widget. It’s a small change, but it will make widgets way easier!
Before Android 12’s first developer preview dropped, early rumors pointed to the inclusion of face-based auto-rotate as a Pixel exclusive feature. Now, based on details uncovered by XDA editor Mishaal Rahman, the feature exists and may be available to all Android OEMs.
Rahman notes in a tweet that the feature is seemingly present in AOSP, but it’s currently hidden behind a flag. This means that any Android smartphone manufacturer could effectively employ it on their devices, too. While the feature doesn’t function at present, its existence in the Settings menu does point to a future inclusion in the OS.
As not everyone may want their device constantly surveying their facial orientation, it’s likely that Android 12 will keep gyro-based auto-rotate as the default, too.
More confirmed Android 12 features
- Hide the selfie camera on Pixel 5: Spotted by Android Police, Google is now giving Pixel 5 users the option to hide the punch hole in Android 12. When the setting is enabled in the Developer menu, the selfie camera is hidden by a black bar. Notably, the status bar will also be displayed in this bar.
- Slightly redesigned Settings pages: The Settings panel has seen a slight redesign with a smaller search bar with rounded corners. Some toggles littered throughout look a bit different as well. It is now much easier to tell if a setting is on or off.
- Multi-channel audio: Android 12 is gaining support for MPEG-H in passthrough and offload modes, while audio mixers, resamplers, and effects can now support up to 24 channels.
- Easy audio source selection: The media player that appears in your Quick Settings section in Android 11 is now more customizable. By long-pressing the notification and heading into its specific settings, you can turn on or off the apps with which the player should work. This would allow you to turn off YouTube, for example, so it doesn’t appear in that player — but Spotify will.
- Foreground services: In Android 12, Google will block background apps from launching foreground services. Instead, a new expedited job in Android’s JobScheduler will allow developers elevated process priority for their apps.
- Restricted Netlink MAC: In Android 11, only privileged apps could access a device’s Netlink MAC address. Now, Google is restricting all apps from accessing it, regardless of privileges.
- Immersive mode tweaks: Gesture navigation within immersive mode will be “easier and more consistent” in Android 12.
- System variability performance improvements: Google’s improving Android 12’s latency and workload distribution, which should yield performance improvements to key system processes.
- Optimizations to larger display devices: Google’s finally taking tablets, foldable, and TVs more seriously. Android 12 developer preview will be available for Android TVs, too.
- Toggleable changes for debugging: Google’s making it easier for developers to debug their apps by making opt-in changes toggleable. These options will be available from the Developer settings page within Android or via ADB.
These are the confirmed Android 12 features as showcased by the first developer preview. Read on for a look at the rumored features heading to Android 12.
Rumored Android 12 features
Android 12 code-name
If you are wondering what the “sweet treat” name of Android 12 could be, we have an idea for that. However, do note that two years ago Google did away with officially naming Android versions after a sweet treat. It does continue to use treats as internal code names, though. This year, our best guess (with help from XDA-Developers) is that the codename could be “snow cone.” This would follow up the internal codename for Android 11, which was “red velvet cake,” and the internal codename for Android 10, which was “quince tart.”
Smarter app storage management
Sick of apps occupying storage but don’t necessarily want to uninstall them? App Hibernation could play a pivotal role in how Android 12 manages the footprint of these apps. The feature’s already included in the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). It will effectively allow the OS to clear an app’s cache if it’s labeled as “hibernating.”
Related: How to free up storage space on Android
It’s unclear what constitutes a hibernating app, however. We don’t know if that status is determined by the OS or the user. Additionally, we don’t know if the feature will sport other storage management tricks like compressing unused apps or clearing the system cache.
It won’t really be felt by those using phones with heaps of storage. However, it will likely be a huge addition to entry-level Android devices or older phones in line for the OS upgrade.
Manage two apps as a single task
Google hasn’t turned its back on fervent multitaskers in Android 12. Evidence suggests the company is working on a feature called App Pairs. It would allow users to manage two opened applications in Android’s Recents menu as a single task.
Its name is reminiscent of Samsung’s App Pair feature on One UI. It allows users to simultaneously open two apps onscreen via the Edge panel. Microsoft’s Surface Duo has a similar feature as well, which lets users open the app pair directly from a home screen shortcut. It’s unclear if Android’s native solution would include either of these abilities.
However, the feature would be a boon for larger phones, foldable, and tablets. It would simplify toggling between split-screen and full-screen apps in the Recents menu.
Android 12 restricted network mode
A revised networking management mode could arrive on Android 12. It would give the OS more control over which apps can access the internet.
According to XDA, the feature will take the form of a blocklist activated by a setting toggled in the OS. This toggle will likely be accessible by the user, but it’s unclear if the actual blocklist can be user-tweaked. Judging by commits merged to AOSP, the feature will only allow certain apps with the CONNECTIVITY_USE_RESTRICTED_NETWORK permission to utilize the network. All other apps will be barred from communication with the outside world.
Android 11 already features one-time location permissions on a per-app basis. A restricted networking mode would be a valuable addition to improving user privacy. We would love to see a more granular implementation should it arrive in time for Android 12, though.
Scrolling screenshot support
It’s been a long-running rumor even before Android 10 made its bow. Yet, Android 11 disappointed by not included scrolling screenshot support. Could this be one of Android 12’s baked-in features?
So far, it appears it could be a reality. According to XDA, the code to make this work is in Android 12. It’s just not turned on yet.
You can take scrolling screenshots in Android already via third-party apps, but default support would be a welcome addition.
Pixel double-tap actions
When Android 11’s Developer Preview arrived, it packed a nifty double-tap feature that could be enabled with some work on the user’s end. It let users of Pixel phones control hardware or launch apps with a double-tap of the back of the phone. While it wasn’t an essential control method, it was a useful way to access important features without touching the screen. Unfortunately, it never made it to Android 11’s stable build. Now, it’s possible that this feature may make a return in Android 12, as exposed by 9to5Google.
The feature, codenamed Columbus, will let users snag screenshots, open the notification shade, or launch Google Assistant. Google may also allow users to adjust the sensitivity of double-taps or disable them entirely if they’re not to their liking.
Android 12 UI tweaks
While Android 12’s wallpaper-based theming support is currently baked into the OS, it remains unclear if all the other rumored UI changes will make the cut. The first developer preview of Android 12 didn’t feature any of the elements in these screenshots. It’s possible that these will make it into the OS somewhere down the line. For now, though, Android 12 looks very much like Android 11.
In the leaks, the home screen itself resembles Android 11 in layout, but the lock screen, always-on display, quick settings panel, and more receive UI refreshes.
XDA was able to capture screenshots of the new UI once again, this time without the heavy beige tone. These shots showcase many of the tweaks mentioned above but do not include the squircle quick settings icons or Conversations section.
Improved privacy features
The screenshots also suggest Android 12 will take privacy and app access to critical sensors more seriously. A pill button in the top right of the status panel alerts users to which apps have access or are currently using the camera and microphone. Tapping it will also tell users if an app recently accessed these features.
Another screenshot suggests users will have access to a dedicated privacy page with easy access for managing app permissions and killswitches to the camera, microphone, and location. However, it’s not overtly clear how users can gain quick access to this page.
Material Design “3.0”
In 2014, Google announced Material Design, a design language meant to unify all its products, including Android. Eventually, it launched an updated version of Material Design that developers colloquially referred to as Material Design 2.0 (even though Google never named it that officially). Now, according to documents obtained by XDA, it looks like a new iteration of Material is on the way.
In the leaked information, Google refers to this new Material as “Material NEXT.” That is probably not the official name for it either, but a significant change to the design language does line up with the leaked Android 12 mockup screenshots you saw earlier in this article.
Unfortunately, we only have inklings for what these changes could be. Whatever they are, they could have a large impact on the layout of Android, as previous Material updates have. Check out the full rumor roundup from XDA for more.
Other rumored Android 12 features:
- One UI-esque Settings revamp: If you enable a hidden flag in Android 12 DP1 called “silky home,” the various Settings pages look wildly different. To be blunt, they look very much like Samsung’s designs within One UI. You can see what they look like at XDA‘s site.
- Fixes to back swipe gestures: Google may make its back swipe gesture on Android 12 more intelligent and seamless by using machine learning models. Per a report by XDA, the OS will compute what the user intends to do using a number of data points. These may include the start and end points of gestures, the app itself, and the display width of the device. It will then use this to predict what the user intends to do. The report suggests that 43,000 apps may be supported by this feature.