What you need to know
- Android 12 beta has been announced at Google I/O 2021.
- The beta brings system-wide theming, new privacy features, and a visual overhaul to many different elements.
- The beta is available today on Pixel devices and other select Android smartphones.
After months of digging through the Android 12 Developer Previews to get an idea of what could be coming to the platform, Google has finally announced the Android 12 beta at its Google I/O 2021 developer conference. The platform is getting a visual overhaul with features focused on personalization and privacy.
Android 12 Material You
Google is calling its latest design language "Material You" to emphasize the focus on the user. This is why one of the first things you'll notice about Android 12 is the brand new system-wide theming, which extends to most aspects of the platform, including the lock screen. Android 12 can "extract" the dominant color from your wallpaper to apply a matching color scheme, including complimentary accents.
This new theming system will extend to Google's first-party apps like Gboard, the calculator, volume rocker, and more. And You can always switch up the colors if they're not to your liking.
Many Android 12 elements are also bigger, from the lock screen clock to the quick settings. There are now only four visible buttons when the quick settings panel is condensed, extending to eight buttons when expanded. Volume and brightness are also much more pronounced, as is the toggle to expand notifications. And when navigating menus, you'll notice that menu banners are much larger, and the UI is pushed down for easier reachability, not unlike Samsung's One UI.
Animations are also more fluid thanks to under-the-hood improvements to the platform. Android 12 has reduced the core system's CPU usage by 22%, along with a 15% reduction in the use of the more powerful cores. This should make animations and transitions more "silky," as hinted in early developer previews. This extends to things like unlocking your phone, swiping away notifications, and other interactions.
There are also other new features like the new Conversations widget that has been hinted at throughout the developer preview, as well as native scrolling screenshots, more accessibility features, and access to the Google Assistant from the power button. Additionally, Google is making it easier to access and use third-party app stores, something that it promised last year.
Privacy gets personal
Google is also giving you more control over your privacy. Android 12 introduces a new Privacy Dashboard that will give you a more detailed look at app permissions. It will provide you information on when certain sensors are in use and for how long. You can see what apps are accessing the camera, location data, microphone, and more, and you can also revoke access from this screen.
And so you're constantly in the know of when certain peripherals are in use, Android 12 will include a small indicator at the top right of the display. From here, you can quickly check to see what's in use and by what app. And to make things even easier, you can access new system-wide toggles in the quick settings panel, allowing you to revoke access to the camera and mic from the entire system.
Location access is also getting some changes. When an app asks for permission to use your location, you can grant it access to either precise or approximate location data. That way, you won't need to give precise location data to apps that won't necessarily need it, like weather apps.
Google is also introducing an Android Private Compute Core, which is a partitioned space within Android that helps secure certain on-device AI processing, like Live Captions, Now Playing, and Smart Reply. Google states that this allows the company to build new features into Android 12 that are "private by design," especially since Private Compute Core is open source.
Android 12 beta release
The Android 12 beta is available now on devices like the Google Pixel 5 and some of the best Android phones, although availability will vary by manufacturer. Fortunately we've rounded up the list of manufacturers for those who want to know how to install the Android beta. Since it's a beta release, it should be much more stable than the developer preview, but since it's the first beta, it may still be rough around the edges, so it may not be best to use your everyday smartphone to run the beta, at least not yet.
Get Android 12 first
The Google Pixel 5 is one of the best value flagship smartphones. It has exceptional cameras, fast updates and is usually the first to gain the latest features arriving on Android. If you're an early adopter, this phone will be the best choice to try Android 12 before most people.
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Derrek is a long-time Nokia and LG fanboy who loves astronomy, videography, and sci-fi movies. When he's not working, he's most likely working out or smoldering at the camera.