At Google IO 2021 the tech giant announced Android 12, and it’s touting a refreshed UI and much more. You won’t be able to actually download the Android 12 update straight away, though, as the final release will probably come towards the end of the year.
Some users might be able to download the Android 12 beta though. Expect the Google Pixel 6 to come with Android 12 on it in the latter months of the year.
While the update will probably come to Pixel phones quickly, if you’ve got another Android phone, you’ll have to wait a bit longer – each company has to tailor Android 12 to their phone before it runs. This’ll probably be the case for Android 12 betas too.
Android 12 is the 2021 update for Google’s Android operating system, building on 2020’s Android 11, which some smartphones still don’t have. We’re expecting Android 12 to fully launch towards the end of 2021 and roll out from then, but the aforementioned public beta will likely come before that (and as we’ve said the developer beta is already out).
We’ve listed all the official Android 12 features that have been showcased at Google IO so far, and we’ll update this article as more come out – and continue updating it as Android 12 rolls out to phones.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The next big Android update
- When is it out? This “fall”, so later this year
- What’s the biggest feature? Refreshed, unified UI
- How much will it cost? It’s free!
Android 12 release date
Android 12 was announced at Google IO 2021. It’s coming to Google’s Pixel phones first, and to other Android phones in the near future.
The final finished version of Android 12 will likely land in September based on past releases of the OS, though most likely only on a small number of handsets to begin with, such as the Google Pixel 5 and Google Pixel 4a, along with the upcoming Google Pixel 6, assuming such a phone launches.
It will be up to device manufacturers to bring Android 12 to your phone, and that often takes months to do, so don’t be surprised if your specific handset doesn’t get Android 12 until 2022.
Android 12’s beta launches later today, and Google has confirmed it’s coming to phones from Asus, OnePlus, Oppo, Realme, Sharp, TCL, Vivo, Xiaomi and ZTE.
Android 12: Refreshed UI
Google has announced a new Material Design language for Android 12, called Material You, which is a rethink of the whole UI across the operating system.
With Beta 1 incoming, it brings more rounded buttons, more varied colors to shapes and motion, alongside much more.
The company calls it color extraction, where you can pick the color scheme that fits you best, and it’s applied to the whole OS in seconds.
Everything is much more unified this time, with a pastel color scheme that can be customized from a wide variety of options. However, once we have our hands on the beta, we will be able to see just how far these customizations can go across Material You.
The theme is also coming to Google’s web apps by the end of the year.
Widgets also sees a redesign, looking much more rounded this time. Due to iOS 14 showcasing widgets last year, it only made sense for Android 12 to see a redesign in this area too, where its appearance will match the color extraction you’ve picked.
During the keynote Google highlighted the UI being much more optimized and unified across the board. Before, the color scheme, and even fonts would look mismatched, but here, everything has been redesigned to look as unified as possible in Android 12.
Android 12: privacy
Google have made it a point this year of making sure that privacy is at the center of Android 12. They repeated the point of privacy being at the forefront this year, and that includes Android 12.
The Android Private Compute Core is the engine behind Android 12’s privacy features, making sure that the apps and the phone are following the privacy settings enabled by you.
To start with, the new privacy dashboard gives you an overall view of apps using the phone’s location, camera, contacts, and much more.
However, a nice touch here is a simple overview in the form of a pie-chart, of what has been accessed by the apps over the last 24 hours.
The notification center also has a quick-access to disable any features of the phone that an app is using. For example, if Facebook is using the microphone while you’re using another app, this part of notification center will show you explicitly that Facebook is using the microphone. Pressing this will disable the use of it to Facebook, and other apps if you wish.
Adding to this, Android 12 will also ask you for permission from an app to use a feature of the phone. You can select it to use while running the app, only once, or not at all.
There’s also locked folders, available across apps which allow you to lock a specific folder with a fingerprint.
There is also an unlock for a Chromebook by using your phone. Similar to the Apple Watch unlock feature for an Apple Mac, it will be a matter of having your Android 12 smartphone near to a Chromebook, and it will bring you to the home screen.
Finally, when using an app such as the camera, there will be a subtle UI hint that certain features of the camera being used, similar to how it shows in Apple’s iOS 14.
Android 12 other features
When held-down, the power button will now bring up Google Assistant, a much-easier method of summoning the service for a query when needed.
A new built-in remote is now a standard in Android 12, so if you have a TV that runs on Android, or just a Chromecast, you can use your phone to browse through your favorite shows.
Alongside this, a new feature also enables you to unlock your compatible smart car with your phone, which is called Car Key. This will allow you to unlock, lock and even start the engine from your smartphone.
It uses the UWB (ultra wideband) technology, meaning that you can walk up to your car and it’ll unlock, without you even having to take your phone out.
A slight nod to their competitor, Google are also touting better support for third-party app stores.
You’ll also be able to share digital access to your vehicle with others – allowing you to lend your car to a friend without giving them a physical key and allowing them access for a period of time.
A password manager is also being redeveloped, with a cross-platform integration across your Google apps and devices.