Google makes it possible to downgrade from Android 13 to Android 12, with a catch

Clock widgets on Android 12
(Image credit: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google has provided "Developer Support images" for the Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro, and Pixel 6a.
  • These are builds of Android 12 and 12L featuring the updated bootloader that was provided with Android 13.
  • Unfortunately, Google states these are not to be used by anyone other than developers.

Following the launch of Android 13 a few weeks ago, users who upgraded but subsequently wanted to go back to Android 12 (or 12L) found that they weren't able to do so. This is because Google implemented a new bootloader update with the release of Android 13 for the Pixel 6a, Pixel 6, and 6 Pro, which includes security patches and an "anti-rollback counter."

While this was done to prevent the bootloader vulnerabilities from being harmfully taken advantage of, it still proved to be a point of frustration for developers. Now, Google has released its "Developer Support images" for its three most recent Pixel phones. However, these builds are not intended to be used by anyone but developers as there are a few caveats to doing so. 

The images are, in fact, based on the stable builds for Android 12 and Android 12L. However, Google provides the following "advisories:"

  • Developer Support builds are for developers only and aren't suitable for general use.
  • Devices using developer support builds don't receive OTA security updates like other devices, and Developer Support images aren't rebuilt with the latest security fixes. Only an updated bootloader version is included, with its own security fixes and an incremented anti-rollback counter.
  • Developer Support builds aren't Compatibility Test Suite (CTS)‑approved, but they have passed preliminary testing and provide a stable set of APIs for developers. Apps that depend on CTS-approved builds or use SafetyNet APIs might not work normally on Android 12 Developer Support builds.

Essentially, this means that if you flash one of these images on your own Pixel device, it will not receive any future OTA security updates. And if you end up wanting to upgrade to Android 13, you will need to manually flash the image. This will result in you needing to wipe your device entirely and will need to set it up as if you just took the phone out of the box for the first time.

For the most part, there's little reason that non-developers would need to downgrade from Android 13 to Android 12. This is a more iterative update compared to the drastic changes going from Android 11 to Android 12, and Google has implemented quite a few security patches and bug fixes. While it may seem like a rather large inconvenience, it just goes to show that Google is doing its part to keep Pixel owners from being the subject of nefarious software attacks.

Andrew Myrick
Senior Editor - Chromebooks, tablets, and wearables

Andrew Myrick is a Senior Editor at Android Central. He enjoys everything to do with technology, including tablets, smartphones, and everything in between. Perhaps his favorite past-time is collecting different headphones, even if they all end up in the same drawer.