What you need to know
- The first Developer Preview for Android 12 is released by Google today.
- Notifications are receiving improvements, new image encoders are getting support, Google Play system updates are being expanded, and much more.
- The Android 12 Developer Preview system image is available on select Google Pixel smartphones.
Google is releasing the first Android 12 Developer Preview today, giving users an initial taste of what the upcoming OS update will bring. While many features have been speculated for Android 12, don't expect to see all of them here since the first preview normally gets a lot of the background API stuff out of the way. Still, some interesting things are coming out of this initial version, and you can be sure we're going to dive into them with an Android 12 developer preview hands-on.
Notifications are getting some work done, which is no surprise. Android 11 brought more organization to the notification shade, and this time around Google is focusing on speed. With Android 12, developers will be able to make notifications faster and more responsive, sending you instantly into an app when tapped. Additionally, Google is giving notifications a bit of a refreshed look to make them more functional, with smoother transitions and faster animations. Notifications now include icons on the far left while the toggle to expand notifications is now larger. There also appears to be a dedicated snooze button on the notification itself, with the indication that the half-swipe notification settings could be phased out.
Android 12 will now support the AV1 Image File Format (AVIF) at the platform level. This is important because AV1 brings higher quality images than JPEG but at similar file sizes, which it achieves by using the same lossless compression techniques from AV1-encoded video. For example, the above photos were already quite comparable with the JPEG image at its full 74kB size, but when compressed to a similar size as the AVIF image (left), the JPEG image (right) suffers greatly. You can find out more about AV1 in this blog post.
Android 12 is also introducing better ways to interact with apps. This includes a unified API that lets developers accept various types of rich content into their apps, like photos and videos, from sources like keyboards, clipboards, or drag-and-drop. There's support for enhanced spatial audio and haptic-coupled audio feedback that can use the device's vibration motor to match what's playing. For instance, your device vibrations can match music or ringtones and even simulate different types of experiences based on gameplay.
Google is also expanding its support for Play Store system updates via Project Mainline, which was first introduced with Android 10. This streamlines the update process by allowing certain parts of the OS to be updated through Google Play. With Android 12, Google is making the Android Runtime module part of Project Mainline, this was it can be updated easily by Google and allow for a more consistent app ecosystem without input from OEMs. In short, we're seeing Google put more important parts of Android into Project Mainline and that's a good thing because the best Android phones can get updates faster.
Other changes coming to this initial version of the Android 12 Developer preview include automatic media transcoding, various system optimizations, improvements to full-screen gesture navigation, and of course more privacy and security features. Developers will now be able to toggle individual changes on and off to test app compatibility with new features in Android 12. There also seems to be a setting to change aspects of the Android 12 design to look more like Samsung's One UI.
Android 12 is further optimizing apps for various screen sizes such as tablets, foldable smartphones, and Android TV. Google is also launching the Android 12 Developer Preview for Android TV, allowing developers to test their apps for the new Google TV experience.
The Android 12 Developer Preview is available to download today for Pixel smartphones, from the Pixel 3 to the Pixel 5. Of course, the Android 12 Developer Preview is intended for developers to prepare them for the full release, so regular users should steer clear at least until the Android 12 Beta becomes available closer to the final release. For more information on this release, you can visit the Android 12 developer site.
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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.