It’s been nearly 2 months since Google released the first Android 12 developer preview, and we’re expecting the third developer preview to drop at any moment. Thanks to leaks, extensive hands-ons, and code digging, we’ve learned a lot about the upcoming version of Google’s Android OS. Still, with each new release, we’re learning more and more, and today, I’m ready to share my findings from a hands-on preview of an unreleased version of Android 12.
This unreleased build was given to us by a source who wishes to remain anonymous. We were asked not to redistribute this build, so we can’t share download links at the moment. This build is newer than the latest Developer Preview 2.X releases but is highly unstable and thus has lots of semi-broken features. Still, it also contains newer code for a lot of the features we’ve already uncovered, and it also adds a couple of features not previously seen in the public developer previews. Here’s what we’ve found so far.
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- Functional Changes in Android 12
- Improvements to Scrolling Screenshots
- More Progress on App Pairs
- Hold power button to call Google Assistant
- Search bar in the widget picker
- Dual panel home screen for tablets
- New Emojis
- New Wi-Fi & Internet changes
- Quick Setting tile for Device Controls, Cards & Passes
- Design Changes in Android 12
- New volume panel UI
- Splash screens for every app
- Tweaks to the Ripple and Overscroll effects
- New App Drawer Opening Animation
- New Charging Animation
- Slight tweak to the Thicker Brightness Slider
- “Reduce Brightness” renamed to “Extra dim”
- Slight tweak to the Conversation widget picker
- Privacy Features in Android 12
- Clipboard Access Prompts
- Enhanced Notification Permissions
- Better Location Permission Dialog
- Slight tweak to sideloading apps
- Media Management Apps & Alarms and Reminders Permissions
Functional Changes in Android 12
Improvements to Scrolling Screenshots
Native support for taking extended screenshots has been a long-time feature request, and it looks like it’s finally coming to Android 12. In its current form in the public developer preview, it’s prone to breaking and doesn’t work with every app. While the implementation in the build I was sent is also incomplete, we can see that Google has made some behind-the-scenes improvements. For example, instead of scrolling the page down as it captures the view, the in-development expanded screenshot implementation simply opens a separate activity with an expanded view of the page you want to capture and asks you to manually select the area you want to capture.
I’m not sure if this will be how the scrolling screenshots feature works by default, but I can confirm that code for this feature is present in the public developer preview. It’s called the “Magnifier” View and seems to be a way for users to precisely control how much they want to capture. Since Google’s scrolling screenshot implementation doesn’t actually involve stitching images together, Android 12 can skip having to show the user an animation of the page scrolling down. This “Magnifier” View thus lets users cut right to the chase and make an expanded screenshot of the right length right away. The only problem is that it doesn’t seem to work in every app, but this could just be a problem with the buggy pre-release build I was using.
More Progress on App Pairs
Before the release of Android 12, we heard that the company is revamping Android’s split-screen multitasking feature. In the first and second developer previews, we managed to partially enable the new “App Pairs” feature, but it’s wildly incomplete in its current state. While the same bugs two months back are still present in the current App Pairs implementation, we’ve managed to enable one of the previously leaked features: the ability to swap the position of each app by double tapping the center.
Interestingly, the “split screen” button in the recent apps overview has been changed to say “pin to top.” Tapping this button causes the current app to occupy the top ~1/4th of the display until you tap on another app in the recent apps overview, causing both apps to split evenly on screen. We’re not sure if “pin to top” is just a UI change and not part of some broader change to multitasking, since “pin to top” only appeared for me after I toggled a split-screen flag in the launcher’s developer settings.
Hold power button to call Google Assistant
There are a multitude of ways to launch the Google Assistant on Pixel phones. You can squeeze the phone if you have a Pixel 2, Pixel 3, Pixel 3a, or Pixel 4, swipe up from the bottom corners if you’re using full-screen gesture navigation, say “Hey Google” if you have voice access enabled, and in Android 12, double tap the back of your Pixel 5. It looks like Google is about to add another way to launch the Assistant: holding the power button for a few seconds.
We’ve seen this feature appear in loads of Android skins from Chinese OEMs, and it looks like Google is finally following suit.
Search bar in the widget picker
Google tweaked the launcher’s widget picker in Android 12 DP2 to be more compact and collapsed by default. While the latter change makes it easier to scroll through and find the app whose widgets you want to select from, it also means you’ll have to manually expand each card if you aren’t entirely sure what widget you want to add. If you have an inkling about what widget you’re looking for, then the new search widget added to the widget picker in the leaked Android 12 build will be a welcome change.
Dual panel home screen for tablets
An interesting change we spotted in Android 12 DP2 is a taskbar for large screen devices like tablets. Another hidden change in the launcher app is a new dual panel home screen view. On large screen devices, the launcher can be forced to show two pages side-by-side.
Last week, we shared a mod that brought some of the new emojis included in Emoji 13.1 to any rooted Android device. These emojis should be included in Android 12, and they’re already being tested by Googlers out in the wild. I can confirm these emojis are present in the leaked build, as shown below.
New Wi-Fi & Internet changes
There are a handful of changes related to connectivity settings that we spotted in the leaked Android 12 build. First of all, “Wi-Fi” is now just called “Internet,” and the Quick Setting and Settings page have been renamed accordingly. Under network details, you can see the simplified name for the type of Wi-Fi network you’re connected to (eg. Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fi 6, etc.). Under Wi-Fi hotspot settings, there’s now an “extend compatibility” option that “helps other devices find this hotspot.” This feature simply changes the frequency of the hotspot from 5GHz (default) to 2.4GHz.
Quick Setting tile for Device Controls, Cards & Passes
Android 11 introduced a neat feature called “Device Controls” that puts smart home controls in the power menu. This feature is still present in Android 12, of course, but Google is now providing another way to access it: a Quick Setting tile. In addition, they’ve also added a Quick Setting tile to show the Cards & Passes menu. We assume these have been added in case users opt to change the power button behavior to launch the Google Assistant, as we previously explained.
Design Changes in Android 12
New volume panel UI
Android’s volume slider is getting a redesign to be a lot thicker. As you can see in the screenshots below, the volume panel in Android 12 has a thicker slider that’s more rounded and matches the accent color of the current system theme.
Splash screens for every app
Prior to the release of the first Android 12 Developer Preview, we detailed many of the upcoming UI changes in an exclusive report. One of the minor changes we revealed was the inclusion of automatically generated splash screens for every app. In the Android 12 build we were sent, it seems this feature has finally been added.
As you can see in the video, a splash screen showing the app’s icon with a background matching the current system day/night theme is briefly shown while the app’s main activity loads. In the case of our very own XDA app, though, this automatically generated splash screen is shown before our own splash screen. This is a bit jarring to see, and we don’t know how Google plans to address these cases. Having a splash screen for every app makes the app launch experience feel more unified, but I’m hoping the final system will be able to better detect if the underlying app already has its own splash screen. (I’m not even sure if that’s possible since many apps use their own splash screen implementations rather than Android’s version.)
Tweaks to the Ripple and Overscroll Effects
Two of the changes in Android 12 spotted by friend of the Portal kdrag0n are the new overscroll and ripple animations. These animations, respectively, play when you scroll past the top or bottom of a page and when you tap on any item on a page. The leaked build that we obtained has slightly tweaked the animation and, in my opinion, made them feel less jarring.
New App Drawer Opening Animation
Google is already taking cues from Samsung when it comes to one-handed ease-of-use, but it looks like other design ideas are being carried over. One of the smaller changes in Android 12’s launcher app is a new animation for opening the app drawer, as you can see below. The app drawer is quick to open, very bouncy, and doesn’t track your finger anymore.
New Charging Animation
When you connect your phone to any power source in the leaked Android 12 I obtained, a new ripple animation plays that starts from the bottom and expands upward. The same ripple effect that’s used for touches is used here.
Slight tweak to the Thicker Brightness Slider
In the first Android 12 developer preview, we enabled a change in the brightness slider that made it much thicker than before. That thicker brightness slider is still present in the leaked build we obtained, but it’s received a slight tweak that makes it thick up to the current level and thin the rest of the way.
“Reduce Brightness” renamed to “Extra dim”
Android 12 DP1 added a new setting called “Reduce Bright Colors” that was renamed to “Reduce Brightness” in DP2. This accessibility feature adds a dark overlay on top of the screen to make the screen seem even dimmer than the panel actually allows. In the leaked build, this feature has been renamed “Extra dim.” It seems that Google can’t settle on the name for this feature, so it’s possible it’ll be called something else in a future release.
Slight tweak to the Conversation widget picker
One of the most anticipated features of Android 12 is a new widget to show your recent conversations with friends and family. We’ve seen the widget go through various changes in DP1 and DP2, and in this build, the widget picker UI has been further tweaked. There are no functional changes, however.
Privacy Features in Android 12
Clipboard Access Prompts
One of the significant privacy-related changes in Android 10 was the blocking of clipboard access in the background. Since Android 10, apps can no longer read the contents of the clipboard if they aren’t in the foreground or they aren’t set as the default keyboard app. If the app is in the foreground, though, it can continue to read the clipboard like before.
In Android 12, Google is testing a new “show clipboard access” toggle under Settings > Privacy that, when enabled, will show a toast message whenever an app reads the clipboard. This is a small change but will be useful in alerting you when an app you’re using is accessing the clipboard.
Enhanced Notification Permissions
One of the changes that are live in the public Android 12 Developer Preview is a “bridged apps” page under “Notification access.” There’s no description for what it does, but our best guess was that it’ll let you pick and choose with app’s notifications a particular notification listener service can intercept. Notification Listeners are powerful services on Android that have the ability to intercept all notifications on the device, so it makes sense that Google would want to rein them in a bit.
In our leaked Android 12 build, we spotted a new set of toggles under the notification access page for a particular app. These toggles presumably allow one to fine-tune the level of access a notification listener has to your notifications. There are options for toggling access to notifications under the “real-time”, “conversations”, “default”, or “silent” categories. However, I wasn’t able to toggle any of these options because none of the apps that were listed “support enhanced settings.” Presumably, this means that apps with a notification listener targeting API level 31 (Android 12) will have to implement some changes to support more granular notification access.
Better Location Permission Dialog
Android recently made a significant change to the way location access works for third-party apps. Instead of permanently granting an app 24/7 access to the device location while in the background, an app can now request access to either the device’s precise or approximate location and must seek approval to collect location data in the background. This is still the case in Android 12, but now it seems that the permission dialog for location access has been refined a bit. In the build we were sent, Google added images that quickly inform the user what the difference is between granting an app their device’s precise or approximate location.
Slight tweak to sideloading apps
In response to Epic Games’ lawsuit and mounting pressure from legislators and the media, Google finally lowered its Play Store service fee from 30% to 15% for most developers. One of the other compromises that Google is making is to make it easier for third-party app stores to install apps in Android 12. While we haven’t seen exactly what those changes will entail, there’s a slight tweak to the way sideloading apps works in Android 12. After downloading an APK file and granting the downloading app the “install unknown apps” permission, the installation dialog for the app pops up immediately instead of after exiting the page. It’s a very small change but results in less confusion in cases where the user has to manually initiate the installation session again.
Media Management Apps & Alarms and Reminders Permissions
Two new permissions have been added under “Special app access”: Media management and Alarms and reminders. I don’t have a description yet for the former since no apps request the permission, but the latter is described as a permission that lets the app schedule alarms or other timing-based events. Only the preinstalled “wireless emergency alerts” app requested this permission on my device, which makes sense since it always needs to be able to schedule alerts for emergencies.
That’s all I’ve found so far from a cursory glance at the leaked Android 12 build I was sent. I’ll be digging into the system apps and see if there are any other in-development features or if I can find additional information to further elaborate on some of the features described in this article. If you’re interested in learning about all the other features we’ve found in Android 12, then check out this article.