Google has just released its Android 12 Developer Preview 1, and while it's not a beta that laymen like you or I need to be downloading, it gives us a sneak peek into what changes are being lined up for the rollout of Android 12 proper.
There are a slew of nifty features that await users, which are currently only available to experiment with if you sideload the Android 12 Developer Preview on your Pixel device; or you can just delve into the details below for the highlights of what we're most excited to see roll out.
From improved accessibility and features for mobile gaming, to additional privacy options and overhauled UI, Android 12 is set to impress, and takes into account the changing form factors of smartphones, including foldables like the Galaxy Z Flip and upcoming Galaxy Z Fold 3.
If you're getting serious FOMO after looking at the list of features, you can follow Google's instructions on how to download the beta which is compatible with the the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL, Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, Google Pixel 4a and Pixel 4a 5G, and Google Pixel 5. Otherwise, we'd suggest hanging on until the software update rolls out, and catching up with the official Android developer blog for a more in-depth look.
The tidbits below come courtesy of XDA Developers' Mishaal Rahman, who has done some serious poking around and posted his findings over on Twitter.
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It looks like Android 12 is bringing a new UI for notifications, lockscreen, and Always on Display; that includes rejigging the clock to a more prominent, central position, which will shrink in size and scoot over to the top-right corner of the screen when notifications start stacking up.
The notifications panel itself is possibly getting revamped, swapping out the practically transparent background of the current interface to an opaque background to match day/ night themes. According to XDA Developers, Google has a wallpaper-based theme system under wraps – codename Monet – which should let users customise their UI to a greater degree.
Easily accessible privacy features
Android 12 is testing new privacy sensor options for smartphone cameras and microphones, Rahman reports. Should they roll out to the consumer version of Android 12, users will be able to easily access 'Mute Microphone' and 'Block Camera' options in the Hidden Quick Settings Tiles section of their phones.
Hidden Quick Settings tiles to mute the microphone and block the camera. pic.twitter.com/JhVXm5XHzqFebruary 19, 2021
Improved safety and emergency settings
The Android 12 beta has introduced a safety and emergency top-level settings page complete with Emergency SOS feature. That means that when you open up your phone's settings, there'll be a dedicated safety and emergency section which includes emergency information, wireless emergency alerts, and Emergency SOS.
The Emergency SOS feature will see your phone automatically carry out a series of actions when you initiate it. Looking at Rahman's screenshots, you can start an SOS by quickly pressing the power button five times or more, after which it will play a loud countdown alarm (which can be toggled on or off) as well as calling for help.
Fuss-free sharing of WiFi passwords
We've all been through the rigmarole of popping over to a friend's house and asking for the WiFi password, before sitting through five minutes of them indulging in an unsuccessful memory test, flubbing the password they're reading aloud to you, or explaining why it's actually really funny, and why aren't you laughing already? Well no more!
Android 12 will let you share your WiFi password with anyone using Nearby Share, which just got an update this week that lets you share apps and games with friends and family – no internet required.
Android 12 us finally adding scrolling screenshots natively. You may already have used this feature via OEM (original equipment manufacturer) skins, but if you're a Google Pixel owner, this will be a welcome new feature.
Scrolling screenshots allow you to screengrab a larger portion of the information than is being displayed on the screen, without having to take additional screenshots. Rahman says this is a hidden feature in the Android 21 beta and is still very rough, but it is working, which means we may see it release once it's had some fine-tuning.
More immersive mobile gaming
Google may have abandoned developing games for Stadia, but it knows that many Android users play games on their phones, and this new feature is going to be a hit with those of you who like to sync your controllers with your smartphone, for the best gaming experience possible.
Android 12 is going to make that even better with controller vibration support. Under the 'languages and input' menu, there's a 'redirect vibration' toggle which sends vibrations to game controllers when they're connected.
App pairing for better split screen multitasking
While split-screen isn't anything new on Android, some OEM skins have built on the feature for better functionality, like Samsung's App Pair on the Galaxy S20 series. In a nutshell, App Pair allows you to select two apps you want to open at the same time, and launch them in split-screen.
The option is hidden right now, and Rahman hasn't figured out how to add the paired icon to the home screen, but it bodes well nevertheless.
Android 12 is also set to improve accessibility by changing the Accessibility settings layout so that it "make sense", as Rahman says. Features like font size, color correction, and display size are organised into common-sense categories like 'text and display'. The menu has also ditched the lines that separated the subsections in Android 11 for a much easier-to-read interface.
All of that sits alongside a new Reduce Bright Colors accessibility feature which is in addition to the regular brightness control
Improved one-handed functionality
As previously reported, Google is looking to improve its UI for one-handed use, and we can see that coming to fruition in the Android 12 beta. Rather than stuffing the display to the far reaches of every corner, the new UI leaves blank space at the top of the panel, shifting on-screen content down a couple of notches to make it easier to reach if you're using your phone with just the one hand.
Google Pixel 5-only feature
This one isn't for everybody, but if you've picked up a Google Pixel 5, there's a new double-tap feature possibly rolling out for users once the full version of Android 12 drops. The feature was first spotted in the Android 11 Developer Preview 1 (as per XDA Developers) but wasn't implemented in the final version.
Double-tap gestures allow you to tap the rear panel of your smartphone to carry out a specific action; this is done using the accelerometer and gyroscope. Android 12 offers five options that can be mapped to the double-tap, including Open Assistant, Take screenshot, Play and pause media, See recent apps, and Open notifications. The sensitivity can also be tweaked.
Of course, not all of these features will make it to the final version of Android 12, and there are more besides the ones listed here, but our list comprises those that we'd like to see when Google rolls it out later this year.