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Author Topic: Android 12: Everything we know so far about Google’s next big update 1/2  (Read 65 times)
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« on: February 15, 2021, 04:38:01 PM »

Android is the world’s most popular smartphone operating system, running on billions of smartphones around the world. As a result, even the tiniest of changes in the OS has the potential to affect millions of users.

But because of the way that Android updates are delivered, it’s debatable whether these changes actually make a difference. Despite that, we’re always looking forward to the next big Android update in hopes that it brings significant change.

Speaking of which, the first developer preview for the next major update, Android 12, is right around the corner, and it can bring about many improvements. In case you missed our previous coverage, here’s everything we know about Android 12 so far.

When is Android 12 releasing?

Google has not confirmed the official release date at the time of writing. However, we can make some educated guesses based on how things have panned out in the past. We’ll update the post with the official timeline when Google releases the same.

Android 12 Developer Preview

Android 12 will first make an appearance as Developer Preview releases. We expect to get a couple of these, with the first one, hopefully landing on Wednesday, 17th February 2021. The Developer Preview for Android 11 began in February 2020, a few weeks ahead of the usual release in March, which gave developers more time to adapt their apps to the new platform behaviors and APIs introduced in the update. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t completely blown over in several parts of the world, we expect Google to follow a longer timeline this year as well.

As their name implies, the Android 12 Developer Previews will allow developers to begin platform migration and start the adaption process for their apps. Google is expected to detail most of the major platform changes in the previews to inform the entire Android ecosystem of what’s coming.

Developer Previews are largely unstable, and they are not intended for average users. Google also reserves the right to add or remove features at this stage, so do not be surprised if you see a feature in the first Developer Preview missing in the following releases. Developer Previews are also restricted to supported Google Pixel devices, though you can try them out on other phones by sideloading a GSI.

Android 12 Beta

After a couple of Developer Preview releases, we will make our way to Android 12 Beta releases, with the first one expected either in May or June this year. These releases will be a bit more polished, and they will give us a fair idea of what the final OS release will look like. There may also be minor releases in between Betas, mainly to fix any critical bugs.

Around this time we will also start seeing releases for devices outside of the supported Google Pixel lineup. OEMs will start migrating their UX skins to the Beta version of Android 12 and they will begin recruitments for their own “Preview” programs. However, these releases may lag a version behind the ones available on the Google Pixel. Again, bugs are to be expected in these preview programs, and as such, they are recommended only for developers and advanced users.

Android 12 Beta with Platform Stability

After a beta release or two, the releases will achieve Platform Stability status co-existing alongside the Beta status. This is expected to happen around July-August this year. Platform Stability means that the Android 12 SDK, NDK APIs, app-facing surfaces, platform behaviors, and even restrictions on non-SDK interfaces have been finalized. There will be no further changes in terms of how Android 12 behaves or how APIs function in the betas that follow. At this point, developers can start updating their apps to target Android 12 (API Level 31) without being concerned about any unexpected changes breaking their app behavior.

Android 12 Stable

After one or two beta releases with the platform stability tag, we can expect Google to roll out the first Android 12 stable release. This is expected to happen in late-August or September. As is the case, Google’s Pixel devices are expected to be the first to get Android 12 stable releases.

For non-Pixel phones, we expect to see wider public betas at this stage. The exact timeline for the same will depend upon your phone and its OEM’s plans. A good rule of thumb is that flagships will be prioritized for the update, so if you have a phone that is lower down the price range, you can expect to receive the update a few weeks or months down the line.

Will my device get Android 12?

The answer to the question “will my device get Android 12” largely depends on which device you have.

Google will officially provide the update to these devices:

   • Pixel 5

   • Pixel 4a 5G

   • Pixel 4a

   • Pixel 4

   • Pixel 4 XL

   • Pixel 3a

   • Pixel 3a XL

   • Pixel 3

   • Pixel 3 XL

These supported Google Pixel devices will get the Android 12 update on day one across the release cycle, barring any unexpected showstopper bugs.

The answer is fairly complicated for unsupported Google Pixel devices and non-Pixel devices. Unsupported Pixels will not get these updates from Google, but they should be in a position to install the GSI right at launch. A non-Pixel device is entirely at the discretion (read: mercy) of the OEM and how it exists within their product lineup. It’s logical to presume that lighter UX skins like ASUS’ Zen UI will be first in line to upgrade their flagships to an Android 12 base. In comparison, heavier UX skins like Samsung’s One UI and Xiaomi’s MIUI tend to take longer to rebase their skins. However, this isn’t always the case, as lighter UX skins have been equally slow at adoption, if not slower. Thus, predicting the Android 12 update timeline for non-Pixels is very difficult at this stage.

What’s new with Android 12?

All Android version bumps bring along major changes. However, changes over the past few years have been less radical than the sweeping changes in the early life of Android, which is a sign of the platform maturing over the years. Still, we can expect a fair few goodies in this new update. As the first update is not live yet, all the information below is based on leaks and other details we’ve gathered along the way.

UI Refresh

We got our best look at the new features and changes that Android 12 could bring from our recent leak. Note that this is a leak, so the UX on the first developer preview may or may not resemble these screenshots. We’ll find out soon enough. For now, this is what we’ve seen:

With Android 12, we might be treated to a UI refresh extending from the homescreen all through the UX. There appears to be an overall shift from the overtly-white UX as it exists now to a more beige-tone. But this beige tone can be linked to one of several possibilities: it could be from an accent picked up from the wallpaper, it could be a value set by Google, it could be related to the extensive theming system, or it could also be something else entirely.

We also see a new notifications panel UI, with the transparency on the panel being swapped out for a light beige background. Notifications now have more pronounced rounded corners. The number of Quick Settings tiles in the partially expanded state is down from 6 to 4, which gives way to larger icons. The date and clock have also swapped positions.

Widget Changes

When Apple recently added widgets to iOS, we argued that they’re better than Android’s implementation in some ways. While we don’t know if Google is planning a major overhaul of widgets, it does look like they at least plan to make a few changes. In some of the screenshots below, we can see an alleged new “Conversations” widget in Android 12 that may highlight recent messages, missed calls, or activity statuses. The widget that’s shown is small and only seems to be big enough to accommodate one message/call/status at a time in its smallest size.

“Conversation Widgets” might even turn out to be a mandatory feature for all Android 12 devices — we’ll know soon enough. These widgets will provide access to “People Shortcuts” which contain an avatar, name, notification content, and status information, all set in the PeopleManager class.

Privacy Indicators and Privacy Setting Changes

The screenshots below show what looks like privacy indicators. Users could receive a warning in status bar indicators whenever an app is using the camera or microphone. Tapping on these status bar icons may show a pop-up at the top of the screen that tells you exactly which apps are using the camera or microphone. Google has been testing these privacy chips for over 2 years now, so it would be nice to see them finally make an appearance in Android 12. These camera and microphone indicators might even be mandatory to include in Android 12 builds, with leaked documents indicating that these indicators must be shown prominently at the top of the screen, always be visible whenever the camera or microphone is accessed and must have the same color across the ecosystem.

The “Privacy” settings within Android could also see a revamp with Android 12. The new Privacy settings may contain toggles to disable the camera and mute the microphone entirely, in addition to toggling location access. You can already disable all sensors on your device using the “sensors off” Quick Setting tile, but this tile can only be shown once you enable Developer Options. Android 12 may make the sensor toggles more user-accessible by placing them in the Privacy settings.

Scrolling Screenshots

One of the most hotly anticipated new features is scrolling screenshots. This feature will allow you to take a screenshot of a lengthy page without having to manually stitch together multiple screenshots. This feature was originally planned for inclusion in Android 11 but didn’t make the cut. We expect it to finally appear in Android 12, however.

Anti-tracking Features

While this feature has not been revealed in a leak, Google did express an intention to build a “less stringent” version of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature. Google is looking to balance privacy with an ad-supported ecosystem. Hence, Google’s version of the feature will likely be less strict and may not require developers to get permission from users to track their data.

The approach that Google could take for Android may be similar to the one planned for the Chrome web browser. Google previously announced plans to phase out third-party cookies in Chrome within two years. Instead, the browser will use an alternative that allows some ad targeting with less specific data collection. Advertisers will be able to target groups of people with similar interests, but not individuals.

« Last Edit: February 15, 2021, 04:40:46 PM by javajolt » Logged

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