Android 12: new features coming your way

Android will get a new look and tons of useful features

I distinctly remember Google’s decision to move away from naming the subsequent Android versions after savoury delicacies. While I wasn’t all for it, I will admit, the nomenclature did seem a tad pointless – after all, the last few major Android updates have, for the most part, offered the same flavour. But, all that changes with the brand-new Android 12, which was unveiled recently at Google’s annual developer conference. The new version of the world’s most popular mobile operating system brings a bevvy of visual changes – so much so, you might not recognise the platform anymore.

The company has also added a bunch of safeguards to better protect users’ privacy. While the UI is still in its infancy, I managed to get the beta working on a Pixel 4a and in this article, I’ll walk you through all the changes that you can expect to see with Android 12. Let’s jump straight into it.

Material You design is all about, well, You

For long, Google’s approach to Android’s aesthetics has been – for the lack of a better word – bland. In fact, when referencing the company’s stock Android approach, users often cite the firmware as Vanilla, i.e, having no special or extra features. Well, that changes with the company’s Material You design language, which per Sameer Samat, VP of Product Management, Android & Google Play, “is the biggest design change in Android’s history”. And, sure enough, Android 12 comes across as more modern and colourful than ever.

To do so, the company has employed a new theming engine that uses colour extraction to figure out the dominant and complementary colours in your wallpaper. Then, the interface smartly applies the same across the numerous UI elements, including your lock screen, notification shade and more. Now, as of writing this article, the theming engine doesn’t work as intended and you’ll have to manually feed in the colours from a bunch of presets but, it’s a welcome change nonetheless. As an example, in the slider attached above, you can see how the new theming engine will impart more appealing visuals to the interface when compared to stock Android 11 running on the Moto G60.

Moving on, the company has also completely redesigned the notification shade. For as long as I can remember, Android’s notification shade comprised circular toggles to access a device’s quick settings, such as the Wi-Fi or the Bluetooth menu. While you could change the shape of the toggles to a certain degree, Android 12 ups the aesthetics of the notification tray tenfold. To that note, you’ll now be greeted with bigger, rectangular toggles with rounded-off edges and a colour palette that compliments your current wallpaper. While you do lose out on some functionality as the notification tray can only fit a handful of shortcuts now, the refreshing design language more than makes up for it.

Android 12 also promises swifter, more expressive UI animations. Be it unlocking your phone, docking it to a wall charger or dismissing notifications from the lock screen, you’ll find more visually appealing transitions with the newer version. I can attest to the same and the Pixel 4a’s UI animations felt noticeably smoother and less jarring on Android 12.

Speaking of lock screens, Google has also improved the always-on displays on the latest iteration of its software and unlike yesteryears, you’ll now see a bigger, more colourful clock face which is more legible from a distance too.

Stringent privacy measures to put your mind at ease

Google is strengthening privacy controls with Android 12 too, and for good reason – after all, your Android phone has access to a ton of personal information, including your location. To that note, the company will bring about a slew of changes with the subsequent Android 12 builds wherein, users will get the option to grant an app either approximate or precise location permissions. Ergo, you can choose if apps can pinpoint your location, or if they’re fed approximate data about your whereabouts. As an example, you can grant approximate location permission to the weather app of your choice as it doesn’t require your precise location for a weather forecast.

The company will also introduce a brand-new privacy dashboard that will serve a multitude of different purposes. For one, the utility will allow users to get detailed insights regarding the permissions granted to various apps. The dashboard will also allow users to revoke said permissions easily. Furthermore, the company is also adding a new pill-shaped mic and camera indicator, which will pop up whenever an app is accessing either of these two parameters. Google has also deployed two new toggles in the quick settings, which will allow users to block all apps on their phones from using the microphone or camera with the touch of a button.

Smoother performance, even on budget Android phones and other notable improvements

Android 12 also comes with a slew of performance improvements. Notably, the company has introduced some under-the-hood tweaks that should, in theory, reduce the CPU time needed for core system services to run by up to 22 percent. The company has also managed to reduce the use of Big cores by up to 15 percent, which could pave way for some battery gains.

Now, barring the swifter animations, Android 12 also comes with support for AVIF file format. In a nutshell, AVIF offers higher-quality images at remarkably compressed sizes when compared to popular image formats like JPEG, as demonstrated in a blog post by Jake Archibald. What’s more, Google has also added support for audio-coupled haptic effect which will allow third-party apps and games to leverage a phone’s vibration motors to simulate a more immersive gaming/media consumption session. As an example, you could see the next Asphalt game leverage the feature to introduce vibrations whenever your car skids on rough terrain.

And, that wraps up the key features of Android 12. Suffice it to say, Google has really upped the ante in the aesthetics department with the latest update and I for one can’t wait for the company to roll out more features in the subsequent updates. Of course, I would like to see more customisation option on the newer builds, including support for third-party icons. Do let us know your wishlist for the next Android update and as always, stay tuned to our blog for the latest insights on everything tech.