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Author Topic: Android 12: Everything we know so far about Google’s next big update 2/2  (Read 16 times)
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« on: February 15, 2021, 04:37:32 PM »

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Expanded Theming System

We briefly mentioned the expanded theming system as part of the UI refresh, but there’s a bit more to discuss.

The expanded theming system in Android 12 may allow users to change the system’s primary color and accent colors and also apply those colors to supported third-party applications. The OS may even offer theme suggestions based on the wallpaper, which could explain the beige tones on the leaked screenshots.

Android 12’s deeper theming options will likely vary from brand to brand as OEMs provide users with their own custom colors. However, you won’t be able to craft your own unique color scheme. The colors you choose may be reflected inside Android apps, but only if developers choose to support them. This expanded theming feature may even get scrapped if Google deems the changes not to be in-line with their vision for the OS, so don’t get too fixated with the idea just yet.

Restricted Networking Mode

Google was spotted working on a new restricted networking mode feature for Android 12, though it may not be the system-level firewall that you’re probably wishing it to be.

When this new restricted networking mode is turned on, only apps that hold the CONNECTIVITY_USE_RESTRICTED_NETWORKS permission will be allowed to use the network. Since this permission can only be granted to privileged system applications and/or applications signed by the OEM, network access will be blocked for all applications installed by the user. Effectively, this means that you’ll still receive push notifications from apps using Firebase Cloud Messaging (FCM), as these notifications are routed through the privileged Google Play Services app that holds the requisite permission. Still, no other app — excluding a handful of other system apps — can send or receive data in the background.

There’s no indication that Google will be opening up the feature to let users make their own allowlist or blocklist of apps.

Hibernating Unused Apps

One of the commits spotted in the run-up to the Android 12 Developer Preview indicates that Google could be adding a new app hibernation feature. The app hibernation system service “manages app hibernation state, a state apps can enter that means they are not being actively used and can be optimized for storage.” We do not know the parameters used to classify the hibernation/use-unuse state of the app. We know from commits that the app hibernation feature will automatically clear an app’s cache files and delete its compilation artifact files. The amount of space that will be freed up by deleting these files likely won’t be a lot, especially compared to the file sizes of cached images or videos. However, on lower-end devices with small amounts of internal storage, saving dozens of megabytes will free up space for dozens of additional photos.

Better Split Screen Multitasking with App Pairs

Split-screen is a feature that has been present on Android for quite a few years now, but it is a little cumbersome to execute. Samsung took the functionality further with its “App Pair” feature on the Edge panel on One UI. You can essentially select two apps that you would like to open simultaneously and then click on the resultant icon to do so very quickly. LG and Microsoft also had similar ideas for their dual-screen devices, though Samsung’s approach worked on conventional smartphones. Google is now rumored to bring this App Pairs functionality across Android.

The split-screen multitasking system in Android 11 works by pinning one app into a smaller window and then launching another app, making it a multi-step process. With Android 12 and App Pairs, you may be able to group two recently launched apps and launch them both in split-screen view with one click. You will also be able to swap between a recently used single app and then back to the app pair. The divider between the two apps may also be double-tapped to quickly switch positions of the split-screen apps.

Decoupled Emojis

Android 12 will fix one of the more minor annoyances in Android. Whenever Unicode gets new emojis, we need to wait for an OS update to reach our phones before we can actually make them a part of our Internet lingo. Google is making it easier to receive new emojis by decoupling them from Android system updates. This means that new emojis can be added to phones by simply pushing an updated font file instead of requiring a full system update just for this change.

The commits for this change have been merged way ahead of the stable release, so this feature is likely to come with Android 12.

Ultra-Wideband API

Samsung was the first Android OEM to incorporate Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technology to aid in precise indoor positioning of smart home devices and high-speed peer-to-peer data transmission. Xiaomi also planned to get onboard with UWB, and we can surely expect many other Android OEMs to also jump on board. To deal with this new technology, Google added an API to AOSP to support UWB.

The API has been added in time for inclusion into Android 12, but it remains to be seen if it actually does get incorporated. Keep in mind that the UWB APIs are marked as SystemAPIs right now, so they will not be accessible to third-party apps, though we aren’t sure why this restriction is in place.

Wi-Fi Password Sharing with Nearby Share

Sharing your Wi-Fi password can be a cumbersome affair if you need to do it with many people. Disclosing your password is not an option in this instance, and typing it in is also cumbersome. On phones running Android 10 and above, you can easily share your saved Wi-Fi passwords through QR codes, which can be a feasible solution but also impractical in situations when there are just too many users to onboard.

Google is improving this by letting you share the generated QR code with other users using Android’s Nearby Share feature. Since Nearby Share does not require physical contact or scanning of any codes, this would make it easier to share the password across a room, if needed. The commit for the feature has been merged, so we can expect to see it make its way to Android 12.

Game Controller Rumble Support

Android right now provides only minimal support for vibrating connected input devices, restricting them to on and off, and with no way to control the amplitude of vibrations or generate custom vibration effects. But this could change with Android 12, as improvements to input device rumble support are on the cards. Code submitted to AOSP adds in support for amplitude control and paves the way for generating custom vibration effects.

However, keep in mind that these commits have not been merged. So they might not make it in time for the final Android 12 release.

“Install Hints” to speed up the installation of important apps on new Android phones

Migrating to a new Android phone is a pain that has only been marginally relieved in all these years. Google was spotted working on “install hints” as a feature to let app stores decide which compiler filter to use when bulk installing new apps, making it quicker to set up a new phone. This feature is primarily intended for the app store, namely Google Play Store in this context, which will get the ability to prioritize the most-used apps from the older device and install them quicker on the new phone.

Ease-of-Use for Third-Party App Stores

Android as an OS allows users to install apps from sources other than the Google Play Store. But when Epic Games filed its lawsuit against Google (and Apple), the company complained that users have to grant permissions that used dissuasive language in installing apps outside of the Play Store. Further, such sideloading mechanisms lack the ability to silently install and update apps, placing third-party app stores at an inherent disadvantage against the Google Play Store.

Back then, Google retorted against Epic. In the response announcement, Google mentioned that it would be making changes in Android 12 that will make it even easier for people to use other apps stores on their devices while being careful not to compromise the safety measures that Android has in place. The company did not share what these changes are, but we need to keep an eye on the measures introduced for ease-of-use for third-party app stores on Android 12.

Android Runtime (ART) as a Mainline Module

Android Runtime (ART) is the default runtime on Android that translates an Android app’s bytecode into native instructions. Google did indicate interest in transitioning ART into a Mainline module, which would allow the company to exercise much more control over it, in line with the overarching theme of Project Mainline. Google will then be able to update it without needing to push a system OTA update, and OEMs will be locked out from making modifications to ART, giving app developers a lot more behavioral consistency across the ecosystem.

WireGuard VPN support in the Linux kernel

WireGuard is a next-gen VPN protocol that features modern cryptography standards and has a secure, auditable code base. After its inclusion in Linux Kernel 5.6, Google has added support for the protocol to Android 12’s Linux Kernel 4.19 and Linux Kernel 5.4 tree. This means that kernel acceleration for WireGuard will be supported in Android 12 on devices with Linux Kernel 4.19 and 5.4. However, it remains to be seen whether Google will add APIs to interface with the kernel module.

« Last Edit: February 15, 2021, 04:43:45 PM by javajolt » Logged

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