Update: May 18, 2021 (06:00 PM ET): With the launch of the first Android 12 beta today, we’ve updated the list below with more confirmed features. Read on for all the latest!
Android 12 has hit its next major milestone. Google has now released the first beta to the public, giving us access to a fresh new build of the OS. As with the previous developer previews, this is still a very early version of the software, so we wouldn’t advise using it as your daily driver.
We can confirm, though, that 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.
Related: Android 12 redesign is the biggest revamp in years: What you need to know
If you have a Google Pixel, you can install Android 12 on your device right now. It is also available for a select few devices from other OEMs. If you lack the proper hardware or just want the info, we take a deeper dive detailing these confirmed Android 12 features and more below. Read on!
Confirmed Android 12 features
These features are confirmed to land with the stable version of the software. Whenever Android 12 comes to your smartphone, you can rest assured that these features will be there (unless, of course, Google changes its mind).
Visual overhaul and color extraction
At Google I/O 2021, the company confirmed that the design of Android 12 will be its biggest visual overhaul in years. The revamp is part of the next iteration of its design language, known as Material You. The idea of Material You is that the users themselves should influence the design.
With Android 12, the OS will use a color extraction protocol to lift design elements from your installed wallpaper. This means that colors across the whole system will change depending on your home screen background. This will allow an easy and automatic way for your phone to feel unique to you.
Along with color extraction, there are numerous new design tweaks, animations, spacing changes, etc. We have a full roundup of what to expect here. Unfortunately, only some of the new design elements made it to the first beta — and color extraction isn’t one of them. Hopefully, we’ll see this in the second beta, which should land in June.
New Android 12 Quick Tiles
When you pull down the notification shade, you’re probably used to seeing round icons at the top of the panel. Well, in Android 12, those round icons are gone. In their place, we have rounded rectangles. These operate in the same way as previous Quick Tiles (a tap turns them on or off; a long-press takes you to the settings page). Now, though, they are larger and can accommodate more information.
Of course, that increase in size means that fewer tiles can be seen at once. On your first pull of the notification shade, you’ll only see four tiles, instead of the usual six. As the image above attests, the Quick Tiles will be themeable with the color extraction protocol.
Privacy and security improvements
At I/O 2021, Google announced new privacy features for Android 12 to make data collection by apps more transparent. The new tools also give users more granular control over app permissions to help them better manage how and when apps access their information.
Android 12 introduces a new Privacy Dashboard that gives users a detailed view of how apps access their information. When you open it up, you’ll see a summary dashboard that shows you an overview of how many apps accessed your location, camera, and microphone in the past 24 hours.
Within the new Privacy Dashboard on Android 12, users will get to access an option to tweak app permissions. You’ll see a Manage Permissions setting on the timeline view page from where you’ll be able to revoke a particular permission from an app.
There are a whole bunch of changes on the way in addition to the dashboard. For a full rundown of all the new privacy-centric features, check out our roundup here.
Credit: Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority
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
Easier Wi-Fi sharing
Credit: C. Scott Brown / Android Authority
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!
Credit: C. Scott Brown / Android Authority
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.
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 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.
So far, Google has confirmed at least one new widget is on the way: the weather widget you see in the image above. However, there could be more.
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 for now.
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.
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!
Sick of apps occupying storage but don’t necessarily want to uninstall them? App Hibernation, or the expanded “Unused apps” feature, 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), and now Google has confirmed its on the way.
The feature will strip an unused app of its permissions and clear temporary files and cache claimed by that app. It may also restrict notifications for these apps. This will be available to Android users through a toggle in the “App Info” section of each app.
The feature’s benefits 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.
Related: How to free up storage space on Android
More confirmed Android 12 features
- Universal splash screens: To bring some cohesion to the app-launching experience, Android 12 will have a built-in splash screen for every app. The app screen will appear automatically for every app — even if that app’s developer didn’t build it. However, devs will have the ability to tweak the splash screen to fit their apps’ layouts/branding better.
- 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.
- Screenshot markups: If you capture a screenshot with a Pixel device, you can easily 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. It should speed up the process of sharing files or styled text to others or across apps for users.
- 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.
Rumored Android 12 features
Above, you saw all the features we know for certain are on the way (unless Google backtracks). Below, you’ll find features for which we have evidence, but no confirmation as of yet.
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. It’s also been spotted in a newer Android 12 build and displays a separate window with the captured extended screenshot. Users can then crop or edit the shot as required.
You can take scrolling screenshots in Android already via third-party apps, but default support would be a welcome addition.
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.”
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 phone’s back. While it wasn’t an essential control method, it was useful to access important features without touching the screen. Unfortunately, it never made it to Android 11’s stable build. Now, 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.
Other rumored Android 12 features:
- New Emoji: The next version of Android could have new Emoji based on the Unicode Emoji 13.1 release.
- App Pairs: Theoretically, this 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 open two apps onscreen via the Edge panel simultaneously. Microsoft’s Surface Duo has a similar feature, which lets users open the app pair directly from a shortcut on the home screen. It’s unclear if Android’s native solution would include either of these abilities.
- 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.
- Fixes to back swipe gestures: Google may make its back swipe gesture on Android 12 more intelligent and seamless using machine learning models. Per a report by XDA, the OS will compute what the user intends to do using several 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 this feature may support 43,000 apps.
Which rumored Android 12 features would you like to see make the cut? Let us know in the comments down below.