I've never been one to use or recommend unfinished software on personal phones — at least, not since I stopped habitually rooting my phones back in college. But I've been using the Pixel 5 almost daily since the initial review period, and even after installing the first Android 12 developer preview build for hands-on coverage, I haven't wanted to put it down; if you ask me, it's one of the best Android phones around.
Of course, I expected that sentiment to quickly change as I inevitably ran into dozens of show-stopping bugs that made my phone of choice nearly unusable — but to my surprise, that hasn't really happened yet. In fact, everything's been running so smoothly that I've forgotten at times that I'm even running pre-release software, though it isn't completely perfect just yet. Still, this may be the first time I'd feel confident encouraging enthusiasts to flash a preview build on their phones.
You really would be forgiven for mistaking the Android 12 developer preview for Android 11 based on performance; whether I'm scrolling through my app drawer, jumping between recent apps, or taking photos, I have yet to see a single stutter or dropped frame on my Pixel 5, and things run as smoothly on the 90Hz display as ever. The only minor glitch I've noticed happens every so often when I unlock my phone where, for a brief moment, I'll see the image of a background app appear on-screen while the unlock animation plays.
Otherwise, the only giveaways that I'm running pre-release software are the aesthetic changes made in Android 12. I'm still not sure I'm completely sold on the redesigned notification shade, which enlargens individual notifications and increases the spacing between images and text, and I definitely don't love that dark mode is no longer pitch-black. But as Alex detailed in his video on hidden features in Android 12, Google seems to be working on custom themes that pull colors from your wallpaper, so who knows what color the system UI will end up.
Bubble notifications are just as broken as ever, at least in the apps I've tried like Google Messages and Telegram, but this is no worse than the situation in Android 11. I'm hopeful that Google will get this feature right in the end, but in the meantime, you're still better off treating conversational notifications like any other, and tapping into the corresponding app.
As for the headline-grabbing redesign of the Settings app enabled with the Silky Home feature flag, I still think the UI feels almost comically large, particularly the individual icons and menu items, but the idea is great. Samsung largely kicked off the trend of making upper menu items easier to reach one-handed with One UI 2, and easier reachability is something I'm always in favor of.
Amazingly, the single broken experience I've had with Android 12 has been Instagram. Facebook's photo-centric platform isn't exactly known to have a robust Android app in the first place, and scrolling through Stories is a choppy, lag-filled experience, almost as if my entire screen had suddenly jumped down to something like 30Hz. Videos in my feed have been largely nonfunctional, as well — seemingly depending on luck of the draw, some videos show as completely black while the audio plays, while others refuse to play at all.
Reels and IGTV videos have been just fine, as has the Stories camera, but if consuming Instagram videos is large part of your day, you might want to steer clear of the Android 12 developer preview for now.
In any other case, though, while I still don't think most people should install a developer preview on their phones (at least, assuming they don't have a spare to fall back on), this is about as stable of a preview build as I've ever seen. If you're curious to try Android 12 and see some of its new features in action, the Pixel 5 handles it like a champ.
Disclaimer: If you have a Pixel 4 or earlier, we don't recommend you install the Android Developer Preview on your phone as it is not nearly as stable as it is on the Pixel 5.
My favorite phone
More than just great software.
The Pixel 5 isn't just a great platform for early software release, it's a fantastic phone with all-day battery life, an aluminum backing that supports wireless charging, and some of the best cameras on the market.
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Hayato was a product reviewer and video editor for Android Central.