Today, Google is releasing Android 12, the most significant update to the Android operating system in years. Google is starting to upload the source code for the new OS today, but the rollout of the Android 12 update to select Pixel phones comes later.
What’s new in Android 12?
The last few Android releases weren’t that exciting compared to Android 12. Following our first look at the new OS back in February, we knew we were in for big changes. Since there are so many new features, here’s a breakdown of some of the highlights:
By far the biggest change in Android 12 is Material You, the latest version of Google’s Material design language. Material You, as Google describes, “seeks to create designs that are personal for every style, accessible for every need, alive and adaptive for every screen.” When developing Android 12, Google created a new theme engine code-named “monet” that generates a rich palette of pastel colors derived from the user’s wallpaper. These colors are then applied to various parts of the system and their values are made available through an API that the user’s applications can call, thus letting apps decide whether they want to recolor their UI. Google, for instance, is going all-in on Material You (obviously), and they’ve already updated a number of their own apps to incorporate dynamic colors.
Since “monet” isn’t fully open source yet, we likely won’t be seeing other OEMs incorporate wallpaper-based theming in their forks of Android 12, unless they decide to create their own implementation. Custom ROM developers, meanwhile, can implement this open-source implementation of “monet”. Third-party app developers are free to add support for dynamic colors right now, even if it’ll only work on Pixel phones running the latest release or custom ROMs.
Material You doesn’t end at dynamic colors. Android 12 also redesigns the notifications panel UI, simplifies the power menu, tweaks the layout for the lockscreen, and makes several other UI changes. Google is also modernizing the Android widget and pushing developers to update their widgets for the new release. The company has already rolled out a number of updates that bring updated widget designs, many of which are beautiful to look at.
Android 12 finally adds a highly requested feature: scrolling screenshots. With this feature, you can take a screenshot of a page that scrolls, without needing to take and then combine multiple screenshots. Because of the way it was built, Android’s native scrolling screenshots feature won’t work in every application, but it should work most of the time.
Apple has offered “Reachability” in iOS for years, and now Google is offering a similar feature in Android 12 called … one-handed mode. It’s a simple name, but it does exactly what you’d expect: Bring the screen down so you can reach the top with one hand.
Google is putting some effort into mobile gaming with this year’s release. With the new game dashboard, you get quick access to useful tools like an FPS meter and screen recorder that can be accessed in-game through a floating button. You can also change the device’s performance profile on a per-game basis, stream live to YouTube, or check up on your achievements in Play Games.
A new page called the “privacy dashboard” lets you see how often apps request the most sensitive permissions. You can view a timeline of usage for permissions like location, camera, and microphone. From here, you can also quickly manage which apps have access to sensitive permissions.
Camera and microphone privacy
Whenever an app is accessing your phone’s camera or microphone, you’ll see an indicator in the status bar. In addition, new toggles let you cut off camera and microphone access so no app can use them.
Do you have a contact you frequently talk to? Android 12’s new Conversations widget lets you see their latest message or status update, right from your home screen.
What else is new?
The new features don’t end there, of course. For example, there’s a better auto-rotate system, a URL and image sharing feature from the recent apps overview, a new Internet panel, and much, much more.
For a deeper look at what’s new in Android 12, I recommend reading our article that breaks down all the changes. Alternatively, you can skim through our feature overviews of each Developer Preview and Beta release to see how the OS has changed since its initial preview.
These summaries cover the majority of what’s new, but we’ve often also published individual articles highlighting new features. To find those, visit this page which chronicles our Android 12 coverage from the beginning.
Android 12 – Which Pixel phones are getting the update?
Soon, if you have one of the following Pixel phones, you should soon see a notification for the update:
- Google Pixel 3 / 3 XL
- Google Pixel 3a / 3a XL
- Google Pixel 4 / 4 XL
- Google Pixel 4a
- Google Pixel 4a 5G / 5
- Google Pixel 5a 5G
You will get the update regardless of which OS (11 or 12) your device is currently running, though depending on what version you’re updating from, the update size will differ. For example, if you’re updating from the latest Android 11 release, the Android 12 update may be several gigabytes in size. On the other hand, if you’re updating from the fifth Android 12 beta, then the update will be much smaller in size.
If, for whatever reason, you don’t receive the update once it starts rolling out, or you don’t want to wait for Google’s rollout of the update, then you can manually install it. If you’ve unlocked the bootloader of your device, you can manually install the device OTA image or factory image, or use Google’s web-based Android Flash Tool to automate the process. In any case, visit this link to download the Android 12 update image for your device, and then visit this link to learn how to install it.
When will other phones get the Android 12 update?
Since Google’s major OEM partners have already had pre-release access to the source code, their engineers have already begun the process of forking the OS to add custom features and UI tweaks. Smaller OEMs, independent developers, and other entities without pre-release access can today take a look at the Android 12 source code to analyze or rebase their work on top of the new release. Unfortunately, we can’t offer a definitive timeline for when every OEM will release an Android 12 update for their devices, but we can list some of the devices we suspect will get the update soon based on whether or not a beta update has already been made available.
Here are the devices that have received an Android 12 beta release and thus are expected to get the stable update soon:
- ASUS ZenFone 8
- iQOO 7 Legend
- Nokia X20
- OnePlus 9 / 9 Pro
- OPPO Find X3 Pro
- Realme GT
- Sharp AQUOS sense5G
- TCL 20 Pro 5G
- Samsung Galaxy S21 / S21+ / S21 Ultra
- Xiaomi Mi 11 / Mi 11 Pro / Mi 11 Ultra
- Xiaomi Mi 11X Pro / Mi 11i / Redmi K40 Pro+
Apart from the Nokia X20 and the Galaxy S21 series, the other devices were treated to their first Android 12 beta release back in May. We don’t know exactly how close each OEM is to releasing a stable update for these devices, but we know some are very close. Xiaomi, for instance, has recruited users to give feedback on the Android 12 update (with MIUI 12.5) for the Mi 11 series. ASUS has opened up a closed beta program for the ZenFone 8’s Android 12 update with ZenUI 8. OnePlus just released “Developer Preview 2” for the OnePlus 9 series, which notably brings ColorOS 12 to the mix.
Speaking of ColorOS 12, OPPO already unveiled the latest version of its Android OS fork last month, and they also already announced a release timeline, at least in China. The Find X3 Pro “Photographer Edition” already has access to a beta build, while the rest of the Find X3 series will get the beta update later this month. Meanwhile, the Find X2 series and Reno 6 series will get ColorOS 12 beta builds next month, followed by the OPPO K9, A95, A93, Ace 2 series, and OnePlus 8 series in December.
Samsung, as always, sticks to its own rather than sharing the spotlight with other OEMs. The company first announced its One UI 4 Beta program last month before rolling it out the very next day, but only to the Galaxy S21 series in select countries. The first One UI 4 beta brings a ton of new features, but notably new major UI changes, at least so far.
Following today’s release by Google, we can expect more OEMs to announce their own update plans. Keep an eye out on the XDA Portal for any such news!
What’s next after Android 12?
You may think that the next release after Android 12 will be Android 13, which is a reasonable assumption. Indeed, Google is working on Android 13 already, and it’s already got an internal dessert code-name: Tiramisu. But Android 13 is not what’s coming directly after Android 12. Instead, we’re expecting to see an interim release, which we’re tentatively calling “Android 12.1”. We got our hands on an early build of Android 12.1, showing off what could be a major update for foldable phones, if you’re interested in what comes next.