Android 12 is here! The most useful features at a glance

Google has officially presented Android 12. The new operating system is not yet available on any device. What has changed is summarized by atechbook.

Android 9 “Pie” was the last version of Google’s operating system with a sweet snack in its name. Since Android 10, there has only been a numerical designation. So too with Android 12, which has been ready since October 4 – but only on paper.

Android 12 now available as an open source project

Google has made the latest Android version official with a post on the Android Developer blog. Unlike previous versions, however, the finished operating system is not immediately available as an update. This is because it is “only” the “Android Open Source Project” (AOSP), which the manufacturers use as a basis for their own interfaces. Google is still taking a few weeks to adapt Android 12 for its own Pixel smartphones. That is unusual – so far, Google devices have always received the update at the launch of a new version. Owners of smartphones from other manufacturers will also have to be patient. They can only expect the new Android version “later this year”.

The most useful innovations in Android 12

As we expected in advance, Android 12 gets a completely new look and new privacy features. The most important innovations at a glance:

More control over privacy and data protection

Android 12 bringt unter anderem die bereits auf der Google I/O angekündigte Privatsphären-Overview (Privacy Dashboard). Diese zeigt an, wie oft und wie lange Apps – auch Googles eigene – auf die Smartphone-Sensoren (GPS, Mikrofon, Kamera, etc.) zugegriffen haben. Aus der Overview kann man direkt auf die App-Berechtigungen wechseln, um einer App den Zugriff auf bestimmte Sensoren zu entziehen.

Android 12 also copies the colored indicators from iOS 14 that appear when an app accesses the camera or microphone. However, Google even goes one step further. There are now DeepL accesses in the notification bar that allow you to revoke all apps’ access to the microphone or camera with one click.

New notification and control center

The notification bar with the DeepL accesses has been completely redesigned. Both notifications and the DeepL accesses now have larger areas, and the overall number of elements has been reduced. This makes the interface look much clearer.

There is also a new control panel for media playback, and for the first time since Android 4.2 Jellybean, Google has changed the look of the brightness slider. In addition, there are new buttons for Wifi and Bluetooth. However, one of the most important innovations is certainly the “Stacked Notifications” – literally “stacked notifications”. Individual elements can be grouped together with a swipe gesture to make the notification bar clearer.

New camera algorithm

A new machine-learning algorithm has been developed for the camera that automatically adjusts the white balance to accurately display darker skin tones. Especially in low-light conditions, dark areas appear completely black, making faces partially unrecognizable. The new camera technology should ensure that skin tones are preserved – without overexposing lighter areas.

Revived widgets

Apple has shown that widgets are apparently not dead after all – so Google is breathing new life into its own widgets. There is a new notification widget that displays information about recent messages, missed calls or the activity status of chat partners. The widget pictured is just big enough to display one message, call or status at a time. Also new is the clock widget in the shape of a sun and the Google Photos widget that displays automatically generated reminders.

Widgets on Android 12
This is what the new compact widgets look like on Android 12. Photo: XDA Developers

Power button menu is dropped

Google hat das sogenannte “Power Menu” erst mit Android 11 eingeführt – schafft es in Android 12 aber schon wieder ab. Durch Gedrückthalten des Anschaltknopfs gelangt man in Android 11 zu einer Overview, in der neben der Google Wallet auch Smart-Home-Geräte und Ausschaltoptionen befinden. In Android 12 öffnet man damit den Google Assistant. Google Home und Wallet haben auf dem Sperrbildschirm dafür zwei runde Shortcuts bekommen, die ähnliche wie die Schnellzugriffe auf Taschenlampe und Kamera beim iPhone aussehen. Zudem gibt es in der Benachrichtigungsleiste eine neue Schaltfläche für Zahlung mit Google Pay.

Continuous screenshots

Many Android manufacturers already offer this feature, and now it’s coming to Pixel smartphones. Because in Android 12, the option to take longer screenshots is finally integrated into the system itself.

Improved performance in Android 12

Google has not only changed a lot on the surface – a lot has also happened under the hood. Accordingly, the company was able to reduce the time that system services take up the smartphone processor by 22 percent. This frees up performance that benefits other apps. In addition, apps should now be able to start and load faster.

Android 12 now prevents so-called “notification trampolines”. Many apps first start a small part of the app – a trampoline – when pressing a notification and then load the rest. This can sometimes lead to very long loading times, for example the Twitter app is known for this. In Android 12, these trampolines are blocked, so the app has to load directly from the notification. Google itself was able to speed up the loading time of the Photos app by 34 percent, for example.

To really harness the power of high-end smartphones, Google has defined “performance” classes for Android 12. This consists of certain capabilities that a device must have in order to display content that requires more power. Apps can call up the “performance” class and thus use the full performance.

Better integration of alternative app stores

Android includes the Google Play Store. Unlike its competitor Apple, however, Google already allows using alternative app stores. A prominent example is, among others, the Amazon App Store or Samsung Galaxy App Store, but also the platform for third-party apps F-Droid.

Google plans to further loosen the grip on alternative app stores in Android 12, which should make it easier for developers and Android users to access the platforms. The company has already described the plan in detail in the “Google Developers Blog”. Android has always been an open-source software that is open to all developers. In the fall of 2020, however, there were complaints from them about Google’s billing model. If developers market their apps in the Play Store, Google retains a portion of the revenue from app purchases and in-app purchases. By further opening up alternative app stores, Google wants to make it easier for developers to find alternative marketing options if they disagree with the company’s policies. This will allow users to access apps even if they are not offered in the Play Store.

Google deletes millions of reviews from the German PlayStore.

Apps in idle mode

Many Android apps consume resources on the smartphone even when they are not actively used. A new feature in Android 12 is supposed to put an end to this. According to “XDA Developers”, Google is apparently planning a sleep mode in its upcoming firmware. Not much is known about the feature so far. It is currently unclear whether the apps are automatically shut down when they are not used for a longer period of time or whether users have to actively activate the mode for certain apps. In any case, it seems to be certain that the app idle mode is primarily used to save storage space. This happens on the one hand by compressing memory packages and on the other hand by automatically deleting the cache files of an app. This should be particularly noticeable for streaming apps or games that partly use a lot of cache memory.

Improved split screen

Split-screen mode allows users to open two apps in parallel and display them on the split screen. Google has offered the feature natively in its system since Android 7. However, the implementation of split-screen is still a bit bumpy in Android 11. That is supposed to change in the upcoming firmware. According to “9to5Google”, the company wants to introduce the so-called app pairs. Unlike the split screen, where two apps are virtually pinned together by several clicks, app pairs allow users to set two apps as one task. This way, a frequently used app duo can be saved, which allows access with just one click. But it should also be possible to quickly swap one of the two apps.

Google integrates Nearby Share in Android 12

In Android 12, Google apparently wants to integrate a feature that already exists. It is Nearby Share, which allows smartphone users to share their WLAN password. Entering a password or creating a QR code (current solution in Android 10 and 11) is no longer necessary. A user shares his WLAN with simple clicks, so users in the immediate vicinity can dial in. Only the nearby share connection has to be approved by both users, which secures the connection.

Smartphones set to receive the update

Google has once again collaborated with smartphone manufacturers to test Android 12 in detail before the official release. Owners of the selected models could already try out the various betas of the new Android version in advance. Now that Android 12 is ready, they can also look forward to rapid updates. Here is the official list of smartphones that are qualified for the beta:

  • Asus: ZenFone 8
  • Google Pixel: 3, 3 XL, 3a, 3a XL, 4, 4 XL, 4a, 4a (5G), 5, 5a.
  • OnePlus: 9, 9 Pro
  • Oppo: Find X3 Pro
  • Realme: GT (China only)
  • Samsung: Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21+, Galaxy S21 Ultra
  • Sharp: Aquos R6
  • Tecno: Camon 17
  • TCL: 20 Pro 5G
  • Vivo: iQOO 7 Legend
  • Xiaomi: Mi 11, Mi 11 Ultra, Mi 11i / Mi 11X Pro
  • ZTE: ZTE Axon 30 Ultra 5G (China only)

Google’s Pixel smartphones will get the update to Android 12 within the next few weeks, followed later this year by devices from Samsung, OnePlus, Oppo, Realme, Tecno, Vivo and Xiaomi

Those who currently own a new mid-range or high-end smartphone will most likely receive Android 12. However, the manufacturers often do things differently with their entry-level smartphones, so future Android updates are not as foreseeable here.

Android 12 update at Samsung

Samsung wants to change its update principle and has announced at the end of 2020 that it will deliver Android updates for some of its model series for three years instead of two so far. Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21+ and Galaxy S21 Ultra We have already received the Android 12 beta and will therefore also be the first to receive the final version.

Xiaomi extends update promise

Xiaomi smartphones now also receive three major Android updates as well as four years of security patches. The company has already announced Android 12 for some devices:

  • Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, Mi 11 Pro, Mi 11
  • Redmi K40 Pro, K40 Pro+

More devices like MIX 4, Mi 11X, Poco F3, Mi 10/10 Pro/10 Ultra, etc. already have the Android 12 beta.

OnePlus

The OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro are part of the Android 12 beta program. Gradually, all models starting with the OnePlus 7/7 Pro will receive the final version of the operating system. The OnePlus North, North CE and North 2 will also get the update. As already announced, the entry-level devices OnePlus Nord N10 and N100 will be left empty-handed.

Huawei and Android

With the official release of Harmony OS, Huawei said goodbye to Android. Since 2019, the manufacturer has had to ship its Android smartphones without Google apps anyway due to the dispute with the US. Thus, the devices are based on Android, but Huawei relies on its own developed apps and services. This was also the case for Honor for a long time. However, Huawei has sold the Honor brand in the meantime, so it could possibly get access to Google again.

Sources

  • The Verge
  • Android Developer Blog
  • 9to5Google
  • XDA Developers