Yesterday, Google dropped Android 12 Beta 2 on us. While we’re still a few months away from the public release, the latest beta release represents a big step forward for what is the biggest update to Android in years. Android 12 Beta 2 officially brings along the privacy dashboard that Google showcased at Google I/O, toggles and indicators for microphone/camera, a revamped connectivity experience, and more. But as always, there’s a lot more changes to the software than what Google detailed in the official changelog. We loaded Android 12 Beta 2 on a Pixel 3 XL and took a deep dive into the new software to find out what has changed since the last release. Here are all the new features and changes we have uncovered in Android 12 Beta 2 so far.
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New user-facing features in Android 12 Beta 2
Material You’s dynamic theming support goes live
In Android 12 Beta 2, Material You’s wallpaper-based theming system is now turned on by default. The new theming system, code-named “monet”, create a palette of colors based on the current wallpaper and applies these colors to the lockscreen, Quick Settings tiles, app drawer, Settings, pop-ups, dialogs, and much, much more. The one thing that (sadly) doesn’t get themed is the background of the Quick Setting panel — it’s always dark no matter what wallpaper you have or even if dark mode is turned off!
Currently, you can’t disable Material You theming nor can you adjust the colors that are selected. Furthermore, the implementation is a bit buggy at the moment, often requiring a reboot to force color changes and sometimes colors generated from an older wallpaper persist even as you change wallpapers. As we approach the stable release later this year (there are still two betas left!), these issues will likely be resolved.
Third-party developers can query the accent color generated by the system to apply the themes to their own apps, but Google has yet to publish developer documentation on Material You thus most developers haven’t started work on it. We can catch a glimpse at what monet-based theming looks like on non-system apps by looking at what Google is doing to the Google Feed, Gboard, and Google Messages, but these are all clearly works-in-progress. Once Google publishes the documentation and Material You libraries, we should start to see an uptick of apps with support for dynamic coloring.
Available in Settings > Privacy, the new Privacy dashboard offers a timeline view of apps requesting the most sensitive permissions. You can see which apps have recently accessed the location, camera, microphone, body sensors, calendar, call logs, contacts, files and media, nearby devices, phone, physical activity, and SMS permissions. You can see when these apps used those permissions, and a big “Manage Permission” button at the bottom lets you quickly navigate to the page listing all apps that hold that permission.
Currently, the privacy dashboard only lets you see which apps have recently accessed certain permissions within the past 24 hours. A chart at the top shows which permissions have been accessed the most within the past 24 hours, though it lumps everything other than microphone, location, and camera under an “Other” category.
iOS-style camera and microphone indicators
A feature that Google has been working on since Android 10 is making its debut in Android 12 Beta 2: status bar indicators for when an app is accessing the camera or microphone (location access is also shown but was already present in previous releases).
Whenever an app is actively using the microphone or camera, Android 12 Beta 2 now shows an indicator in the status bar. The indicator appears as a chip with a colored background in the top-right corner, and it has an icon representing the permission being accessed. After a few seconds, the chip fades away and minimizes to become a small, colored dot. When the user pulls down the status bar, they can tap on the chip to see which apps are currently using the permission in question.
Shortcuts to block camera and microphone access
Android 12 Beta 2 also adds two new tiles to the Quick Settings to let users quickly cut off camera and microphone access to all apps. These toggles are also available under Settings > Privacy. When these toggles are enabled, apps are given blank data so they won’t outright break. When these permissions are blocked and an app tries to access either of them, you’ll be given the chance to unblock access if you want the app to work normally.
Clipboard access prompts
By default, Android 12 Beta 2 will display a toast message at the bottom whenever an app accesses your clipboard contents (text, images, etc.) This can be turned off under Privacy settings, however.
New notification panel design
Android 12 Beta 2 debuts the new notification panel design shown off at Google I/O 2021. The new design has a clear separation between the Quick Settings area and notifications, but there are also other changes of note. First of all, a new power button has been added to the bottom row of the Quick Settings panel. This will come in handy if you have enabled the Hold for Assistant gesture which lets you long-press the power button to launch the Google Assistant. Next, as we previously mentioned, the Quick Settings background is persistently dark no matter what wallpaper or system theme setting you’ve applied.
Lastly, the notification half-swipe actions are gone, so swiping left or right will only ever dismiss a notification rather than bring up any additional options. The notification half-swipe was the only way to snooze a notification in Android 11, but you get a snooze button to appear under the notification after turning on notification snoozing in Settings > Notifications.
Revamped power menu
The power menu has been overhauled in Android 12 Beta 2. Rather than taking up the entire screen, it now appears as a much smaller floating window. Three options are shown by default: “Emergency,” “Power off,” and “Restart,” though you can add a fourth, “Lockdown”, under “Face & Fingerprint Unlock” settings. While the options themselves are unchanged, they now have rounded icons instead of squares. Since this power menu is much smaller, the “Device Controls” and “Quick Access Wallet” module have been removed from the Power Menu, and their settings are no longer part of Settings > System > Gestures > Power Menu.
In Android 12 Beta 2, the power menu can now be called by telling Google “Power off.” Google is also working on letting you access the power menu by pressing the power button and the volume up button, but this isn’t working yet in Beta 2.
New shortcuts for Wallet and Device Controls
Since the “Quick Access Wallet” and “Device Controls” features have been nixed from the power menu, Android 12 Beta 2 added Quick Settings tiles for them so they’re still accessible. Furthermore, you’ll see a floating button for “Quick Access Wallet” appear on the lockscreen if you’ve set it up.
Quick Tap gesture
The double-tap on the back feature, which has been in the works since Android 11, is now finally live in Android 12 Beta 2. Originally known as double-tap, Android 12 Beta 2 renamed the feature to Quick Tap, and it can be found under Settings > System > Gestures on certain Pixel phones running the Beta 2 release. The feature seems to only be live for the latest Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5, though, as the feature isn’t accessible unless you search for it on other Pixel devices. Once activated, Quick Tap lets you double-tap on the back of your phone to trigger Google Assistant, take a screenshot, play or pause media, or open an app of your choice.
A new conversations widget is something that Google has been working on since the first developer preview, but the feature has finally gone live for many users in Android 12 Beta 2. It also has a proper setup UI now and exists under its own “Conversations” section in the widget picker rather than under “System UI” like in Developer Preview 3. Currently, the widget only displays the profile picture and name of the contact, but in a future release, it may support showing the last message from the conversation as well as other details pertinent to that contact.
A simplified connectivity experience
In the past, Android used to support expanding a Quick Settings tile to let you control certain settings without opening the Settings app. That has now somewhat returned in Android 12 Beta 2 with the new Internet panel. Long pressing on the new Internet tile now brings up a new panel at the bottom of the screen that shows your Wi-Fi networks and mobile data in one place. There’s also a new reset toggle in the top-right corner of Internet settings which lets you quickly reset all Wi-Fi networks.
One downside of the combined Wi-Fi and mobile data “Internet” tile is that it takes more taps to disable Wi-Fi or mobile data. You now have to go to Settings to turn off either radio entirely, or enable Airplane Mode from the Quick Settings panel. On the plus side, you don’t have to go to Settings just to disable your current connection or switch to another one.
Slimmer volume panel
Many users weren’t happy with the oversized volume control panel of Android 12 Beta 1, and that’s being addressed in Beta 2 with the introduction of a new volume panel that’s slimmer and taller.
A more streamlined battery usage page
Rather than using a line to plot the remaining battery percentage over time, Android 12 Beta 2 now uses bars. Also, the battery usage page now shows app usage and system usage in separate sections. Earlier, the system usage had to be toggled from the overview menu. Another useful change is that you can now filter the battery usage page by 2-hour increments to better understand which apps drained the battery the most during those 2-hour periods. A demo of this can be seen here.
Android 12 Beta 2 also puts the “background restriction” and “battery optimization” settings into one page. This is accessible from an app’s info page and then going to “Battery.” In earlier versions, “don’t optimize” and “optimize” options appeared on a separate page than the “restricted” setting, which was only accessible under the “special app access” page.
Streamlined media player design
One of the more prominent changes introduced with Android 11 is the media player in the Quick Settings panel. This feature is still present in Android 12, but Google has tweaked the design a bit since the last beta. Compared to Beta 1, the media player in Beta 2 is slimmer by moving the app icon from the top-left to underneath the album art and moving the media controls to the bottom right instead of underneath the title/album. The media player’s background also inherits its color from the palette generated by “monet.”
Miscellaneous (smaller) changes
Here are some of the smaller changes we spotted in Android 12 Beta 2 that aren’t worth their own sections:
- More Accessibility settings have been consolidated. The new “System controls” submenu consolidates the system navigation, one-handed mode, “power button ends call”, and “auto-rotate screen” settings, while the new “timing controls” submenu consolidates the “touch & hold delay”, “time to take action”, and “autoclick” settings.
- Android 12 Beta 2 has added a key layout file for the Sony DualSense controller, enabling proper keymapping and sensor support for the accelerometer and gyroscope. The PS5 controller already works quite well on newer Android devices and versions, but it’s about to get even better support on Android 12.
- There’s a new pop-up animation when you open the context menu by long-pressing the home screen in the Pixel Launcher. A demo of this effect can be seen here.
- For the recent apps overview, the background is now opaque, the text and icons that appear when you long-press on the app icon are now left-justified, and the icons for “screenshot” and “select” are new.
- The recent apps overview now shows a live preview of the app instead of using a static screenshot. Certain elements like text are still static, though. A demo of this effect can be seen here.
- The animation for entering and exiting the one-handed mode is more fluid. A demo of this effect can be seen here.
- Launching an activity from a widget will show a bouncy opening and closing animation. A demo of this effect can be seen here.
- The latest YouTube beta update now supports Android 12’s more fluid picture-in-picture enter/exit animation. This change isn’t directly related to Beta 2, but the update to the YouTube app does coincide with the release. A demo of this effect can be seen here.
- Another picture-in-picture related change is that PiP windows now have rounded corners. Furthermore, Google has removed the ability to resize the PiP window by dragging from the corners. You can, however, still resize the window by double tapping it or pinch and expanding. You can also still stash the window.
- System toggles are now more prominent with their own pill-shaped background that inherits the color pallet of your wallpaper.
- The work and personal tabs in the app drawer are also pill-shaped and match the color of your wallpaper.
- Adaptive notifications are now called Enhanced notifications. As far as we can tell, this just a name change, but some users are getting a notification informing them of potentially updated functionality.
- The new charging animation, which was added in Beta 1, is now more subtle in Beta 2. A demo can be seen here.
- New icons for Pattern, PIN, Password, and Pixel Imprint in the screen lock section.
- As we’ve reported, Google is working on a gaming mode for Android 12. In DP3, a “Gaming” schedule was added under Settings > Sound & vibration > Do Not Disturb > Schedules. Tapping on the settings cog for that schedule now launches a new activity that tells you what the schedule is for: It will automatically turn on DND mode when you’re playing a game. Google’s game mode/dashboard hasn’t gone live yet, though, so this isn’t actually working yet.
- Drag and drop targets in the Pixel Launcher have been redesigned. They now have an outline matching the system accent color and generally stand out a lot more.
- A new display cutout option called “Hide (avoid apps in cutout region)” has been added under Developer settings to prevent apps from being displayed in the cutout area.
- 5G will now be shown as the “recommended” network setting on 5G phones.
- Face unlock on the Pixel 4 has received a subtle animation tweak when unlocking the phone. The unlock animation is
- When you turn off location access, the description has been updated to inform you that “apps with the nearby devices permission can determine the relative position of connected devices.” This is because Android 12 has added a new “Nearby” permission that apps must use to scan for nearby Bluetooth devices.
- Currently playing media information is missing from the lockscreen. A bug report has been filed which you can see here.
- Weather information is missing from the lockscreen. A bug report has been filed which you can see here.
- Screen on time is missing from battery usage statistics, but this will return in a future build.
- Sometimes, a black bar randomly appears at the top of the screen.
- The color palette generated by a wallpaper sometimes fails to apply until a reboot. Furthermore, older colors sometimes persist after changing the wallpaper.
- The brightness slider sometimes changes color when sliding it.
Hidden Features in Android 12 Beta 2
Material You-based app icon theming
At Google I/O 2021, Google shared images suggesting that app icons on the homescreen will also follow the system theme generated by “monet.” We can confirm this feature is present in Android 12 Beta 2, as you can see in the example of Chrome below. Other app icons that support this kind of theming currently includes Google Drive, Gmail, Google Keep, Google Maps, Google Photos, Youtube, Google App, Settings, Google Meet, Google Play Games, Google News, Google Play Books, Family Link, and Translate. The icons are only themed on the homescreen and not anywhere else, such as in the app drawer or recent apps overview.
Google seems to have hardcoded the list of app icons that support theming, but we suspect that this is only temporary. Once the Material You documentation and APIs are made public, it’s likely that third-party developers can add support for having their app icons themed.
Universal App Search
The upcoming universal app search feature has received some updates in Android 12 Beta 2. Besides deep links, system settings, contacts, Chrome tabs, the Google Play Store, and more, the service can also source from the Pixel Tips app.
Unfortunately, this feature still isn’t working properly as the App Search service hasn’t been added to the Device Personalization Services app. Fortunately, we expect it to go live soon as the API documentation has been updated in Beta 2. According to Google, AppSearch is
Shared x-axis transition animation in Settings
The Settings app is testing a new transition animation for opening and closing pages. This is based on the shared x-axis transition detailed in Material Design’s Motion guidelines. More details on this test can be found here.
Evidence suggests Google is preparing a new “Live Translate” feature for its Pixel phones running Android 12. We don’t know exactly what it’d do, but it’s possible that Google is making a service that operates like Live Caption but goes a bit further by also translating text to your native language.
Ongoing call duration chip
Google is working on a new status bar chip that will display the duration of an ongoing phone call.
New app closing animation
This change is so subtle that we debated even adding it here. We can’t really tell the difference when we enabled the feature, but developer kdrag0n says there is one. If you want to see what it looks like, see this tweet by him.
That’s all we’ve found so far while digging through Android 12 Beta 2. As always, you can read up on a summary of the previous beta and developer preview releases here, which will soon be updated with all our findings from Beta 2. Our Android 12 tag page also lists our coverage on the OS in reverse chronological order, so you can catch up on all the news from latest to oldest.