Android apps for Windows get their most significant update yet

Windows 11 with Android apps
(Image credit: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft has updated the Windows Subsystem for Android to Android 12L. 
  • When the Subsystem was originally launched, it relied on Android 11. 
  • The update is currently available for those on the Windows 11 Insider Program.

Microsoft has announced that it is providing an update to the Windows Subsystem for Android through the Windows 11 Dev channel. With this update, Android apps will now be running on Android 12.1, also known as Android 12L.

Along with providing a newer version of Android as the backbone for your app experience, Microsoft brings some much-needed improvements. These include privacy updates that will show which Android apps on Windows 11 are using features like your microphone and location, right in the Windows taskbar. 

According to the changelog, we'll soon have even better integration and communication between the apps installed on your computer and peripherals such as Bluetooth speakers, security cameras, and other smart home devices.

Microsoft is also changing the way that Android notifications are presented. Instead of relying on the traditional Android 'toast' look, your apps will soon look like they are a part of Windows.

The full changelog is below:

  • Windows Subsystem for Android updated to Android 12.1
  • Advanced networking on by default for newer x64 Windows builds
  • Updated Windows Subsystem for Android Settings app: redesigned UX and diagnostics data viewer added
  • Simpleperf CPU profiler recording now works with Windows Subsystem for Android
  • Windows taskbar now shows which Android apps are using microphone and location
  • Improvements to Android app notifications appearing as Windows notifications
  • Reduced flicker when apps are restored from minimized state
  • Apps are not restarted when devices come out of connected standby on recent Windows builds
  • New video hardware decoding (VP8 and VP9)
  • Fixes for on-screen keyboard in apps
  • Fixes for full screen Android apps and auto-hidden Windows taskbar
  • Windows Subsystem for Android updated with Chromium WebView 100
  • Added support for Android NetworkLocationProvider in addition to GpsLocationProvider
  • Improved general stability, performance, and reliability

All of these changes come along with the standard "stability, performance, and reliability" improvements that you would expect to see. But that doesn't mean this update isn't without bugs, which is just one of the reasons why the 12L update is first coming to the Windows 11 Dev channel. Below are some of the issues currently being worked through:

  • Instability with camera on ARM devices
  • Instability printing via Android apps
  • Some apps rendered at lower resolutions may lay out incorrectly
  • Some VPNs may not work with Advanced Networking. If you use a VPN and find Android apps do not have network connectivity, please disable Advanced Networking in the Windows Subsystem for Android Settings app
  • Some apps that were previously available might be missing from the experience, fail to launch, or function incorrectly for various known issues. We’re working with our partners to address these issues as soon as possible.

Given that this update is just now rolling out to the Windows 11 Dev Channel, we don't expect this to be widely available for a little while longer. But if you're enrolled in the Windows Insider Program, you can download and install the latest update and start playing around with the different changes.

Andrew Myrick
Senior Editor - Chromebooks and tablets

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.