Android 12 is the next major update to Google’s ubiquitous mobile OS, and at Google I/O 2021 we got a preview of all the big new features headed our way later this spring including a focused push for increased privacy, revamped notifications, an updated design language, and more.
In Android 12, one of the biggest changes Google is making is an update to its Material design language where “form follows feeling,” which allows Android’s UI and home screen to adapt to your favourite colour scheme while still maintaining a cohesive look.
What’s even better is that Google’s new design language — Material You — can be transferred across multiple devices and apps, though support for this will launch first on Pixel phones later this spring.
In addition to Material You, Android 12’s interface and design are also getting an overhaul allowing you to create a custom home screen palette based on your home screen wallpaper. Additionally, Android 12’s lock screen has also been updated with more dynamic lighting and a clock that changes size depending on if you have unread notifications or not.
As for the notification shade itself, Google has updated its “At a Glance” feature to better highlight things like currently playing music, while updates to the Quick Settings menu adds new icons for home controls, Google Pay, and more. Android 12 is also changing the way you summon the Google Assistant by holding the power button down for a couple of seconds. Under the hood, Google even says it has optimised a number of animations and other metrics in Android 12, reducing CPU system server time by 22%, so be prepared for a faster and smoother Android experience.
When it comes to privacy and security, Google says it’s looking to enhance data transparency by creating a new privacy dashboard that shows you what kind of data your apps are accessing and when they are doing it. Google says the privacy dashboard reports on all of your apps, both first-party apps from Google and third-party software. And if you see an app acting weird, you can manage and revoke permissions for an app directly within Android 12’s privacy dashboard.
On top of that, Google is adding a new indicator in Android 12 that will let you know anytime an app is using your device’s microphones or cameras, along with two new Quick Settings toggles for completely disabling those components with just a couple of taps.
Meanwhile, by leveraging Android’s Private Compute Core, Google is looking to create new features that leverage AI to create personalised responses such as improved Now Playing song identification and Smart Replies that are unique to you, without needing to expose that data to other apps or services.
Next, Google is working to improve the way Android 12 devices connect to other gadgets — from laptops to cars. For Chromebooks, Google is adding a new feature in Android 12 that allows you to unlock and sign-in to a nearby Chromebook from your phone.
Additionally, Google is also making it easy to see incoming messages and notifications sent to your phone on your Chromebook, so you don’t miss anything regardless of which device you’re using. And in the future, Google says it will also provide a way to see pictures recently snapped with your phone on your Chromebook too.
However, if you’re chilling at home, Google is adding built-in remote control features into Android 12 that works with Android TV and Google TV devices, so you can use voice search or use your phone’s keyboard to quickly search for a show or movie.
As for Android Auto, Google is collaborating with a number of major automakers to expand support for wireless Android Auto, so you can finally skip plugging in your phone before every trip. And later this year, Google’s new digital car keys feature will allow users with supported vehicles and devices to lock, unlock, and even start their car remotely from their phone. You’ll even be able to share your digital car key with a friend, in case they need to borrow your ride in a pinch. Google’s digital car keys will be available first on select Pixel and Samsung Galaxy devices later this spring.
But all this is really just scratching a few of the bigger improvements Google has in store for Android 12. If you’re particularly keen on trying Android 12 out yourself, you can download the first Android 12 public beta today (with support for more than 11 different devices), before Android 12 officially gets release later this year.