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The Android 12 Developer Preview lands today! Breaking with the expected schedule, Google has just pushed out our very first taste of the next version of Android, available now for the Pixel 3 series, 3a series, Pixel 4 series, Pixel 4a series, and the lonesome Pixel 5. Developers that this release actually targets can also get their Android 12 on via Android Studio's emulator.
We're already diving into this latest release for our usual feature-level coverage. As usual, Google has pushed out a mostly developer-centric changelog with its announcement. While much of it has to do with things like APIs, activities, and services, there are a few highlights worth pointing out:
- Notification UI tweaks: Building on the changes in Android 11, Android 12 claims to offer a notification design that's "more modern, easier to use, and more functional," plus improved animations and transitions. This includes a tweak to snoozing notifications, an experiment disabling the half-swipe. However, more substantial changes don't seem to be live (yet).
- Faster notifications: Google's adjusting the way developers can call activities via notifications, and the user-facing difference should mean that they'll open much faster — though apps will need to target Android 12 before this is strictly enforced.
- Better support for rich content: A new unified API allows you to pull content from a clipboard, keyboard, or even just drag and drop. There's more to it than that, but in short, users can move content like photos or videos between apps even more easily in Android 12.
- Haptics tied to audio: Android 12 allows for "audio-coupled haptic feedback." The description and examples aren't as clear as they could be, but it sounds like your phone will be able to "play" dynamically generated haptics based on sound in certain circumstances.
- Better gesture navigation in immersive mode: Google tried its best with Android Q, but a change for system for gesture navigation in full-screen views is coming. Apps may need to be updated to support it, but anticipate needing just one swipe rather than two to exit that view.
- HEVC and HDR transcoding: Android 12 will allow apps to work with the new format, even if they don't directly support them, converting between HEVC or HDR and AVC on the fly, and it's easy for developers to implement. For you, that means fewer issues playing back content recorded on other devices.
- AVIF image support: Android 12 adds support for the new container format, which can hit a higher quality at lower sizes compared to older formats.
- New Mainline modules: The Android Runtime is becoming a mainline module, as expected, but the new transcoding functionality is also a mainline module. The effect: Google can update even more system stuff via the Play Store, helping your phone last longer and stay secure.
A handful of security and privacy-targeted changes like some cookie adjustments for WebView, MAC restrictions, and controls for device identifiers are also included. Curiously, Google doesn't mention the microphone and camera indicators that previously leaked. They may not be enabled in this version, they could be hidden, or they may have just escaped the announcement. Often we'll spot pretty obvious changes that Google simply glossed over mentioning in these developer-targeted blog posts, after our initial publication we did.
Highlighting some of the changes we found that Google didn't mention:
- A One-handed mode: It's disabled by default, but Google's working on it.
- The new, blue look: Android 12 has a baby blue thing going on in Settings.
- Limits for which apps can show media controls in Quick Settings: If you don't want a specific app to be able to crowd up your Quick Settings panel, you can individually disable that permission for them.
- An emergency SOS button: Much like the feature in iOS, you can rapidly press the power button to trigger an emergency mode that places an emergency call.
- Better notification snoozing: It's just a tap away now.
- A better screenshot editor: Way more tools to mark up a screenshot after you take it, including text and emoji stickers.
- "Redirect vibration" to game controllers: Bring your on-device rumble to your external game controller. It doesn't seem to work yet, but the setting is there and it's labeled.
- Swipe to dismiss screenshots: Easier than hitting that tiny X, though you can still just wait it out.
- Bigger, bolder new toggles in some spots: Sporting a second icon so you can be doubly sure they are enabled or disabled, A12 has a new toggle that appears for header-type settings to enable and disable categories in Android 12.
- Scrolling screenshots: They're hidden, they're broken, but they're finally here.
- Nearby Share for Wi-Fi passwords: You don't have to ramble off that string of characters or try to awkwardly share a QR code, just send it to them wirelessly courtesy of Nearby Share.
- Signs of a redesign: "Silky home" gives Android 12's Settings menu a whole new One UI-inspired look, though it's a hidden feature you have to enable with an ADB command for now.
There's also a new change to how foreground services can be started, which could have significant implications that we'll need to dig into some more. However, it sounds like Google is doing what it can to minimize any detrimental effects.
For developers: App-facing changes are currently opt-in in Android 12, giving you more time to make changes. Many of them are also toggleable in developer options or ADB, in case you need to troubleshoot any of the new changes or examine their effect individually. As usual, more non-public APIs/non-SDK interfaces are getting locked down in Android 12, so be sure to check out the full list if you're worried about anything your app might be using. The final platform stability milestone is set for August, so you've got until then before APIs and behaviors are written in
stone the final release.
We've also got the skinny on the full schedule for Android 12's slow release: Three previews are planned (two, counting the current one), plus four betas. We might also get a "release candidate build" — Google mentions it in one list, but it's not included in the image above.
The Android 12 Developer Preview is also available for Android TV, via the ADT-3 developer device. And that release doesn't just have ATV-related system changes, developers can also check out the Google TV experience from the new Chromecast with Google TV.
As we've repeatedly noted in our coverage until now, this first preview release is super, very, and explicitly not for general consumers, targeting developers only. We urge most of our readers hoping for an early look to hold off at least until DP2 (if not the later, more stable beta releases) and satisfy themselves instead with our coverage. If you really wanna, though, we've got instructions here.