Google’s next iteration of the popular OS comes packed with new features which makes things a bit more personal, and privacy-focused. It seems like Google is reinforcing the emphasis on security while polishing various UI experiences. With features like a new privacy dashboard and adaptive theming, as well as a design overhaul, Android 12 looks to be a promising and welcome update.
Let’s dive into some of the features we can expect to see when Android 12 drops this September.
1. Material You
In 2014, Google introduced; a set of rules and principals used to guide Google’s visual identity. With Android 12, a new design language called Material You will be introduced. This huge design overhaul is touted by Google as “a more humanistic approach to design.”
It’s designed to be “alive and adaptive,” reacting to the context of the screen. The Android 12 beta, available now, gives us a preview of Material You, showing off new shapes, colors, and styles for various UI components. Google’s plan for Material You is to first roll it out in Android 12, and then slowly roll it out across all of Google’s products and ecosystems, making this a multi-year effort.
2. Adaptive Theme
Arguably one of the coolest features coming to Android 12 is adaptive theming. Google is utilizing “color extraction” to update the colors used in apps, system settings, and more, based on your background! The color extraction mechanism uses a predefined set of Material color targets to extract color palettes from your wallpaper. The extracted colors are then used to define a set of “system” colors, which developers can utilize to style various app and widget components.
Users have the option of choosing from various color palettes the system has created or turning the feature off altogether. Some of the UI components I’ve noticed with this change in the Android 12 beta are the lock screen, quick settings, the notification panel, and the fingerprint sensor prompt. These colors will also be used for app icons that support the new feature. You’ll be able to toggle themed icons on and off in the Wallpaper & Style section of settings.
3. Redesigned Quick Settings
The quick settings, located in the pull-down menu of Android 12 look a bit different than in previous iterations. The settings options are now larger, pill-shaped, and include support for adaptive theming. The brightness slider has a larger draggable area, providing a smooth slide experience and an easy-to-grab target. GPay and Google Home controls have both moved from the power menu to the quick settings, for better or worse. GPay can now be accessed via the lock screen in addition to the quick settings area. A small picture of your default card is also visible from here, which is a nice touch. Home controls work the same as in Android 11 but now enjoy the real estate of a dedicated screen without GPay.
Another new addition here is the Wi-Fi toggle. Instead of long-pressing to jump to the corresponding settings screen, a half-screen overlay now appears at the bottom of the screen. It took some getting used to, but the ability to quickly toggle and view network settings from here has proven to be pretty useful. As a developer, it can be extremely useful to have easy access to the Wi-Fi settings for testing purposes.
4. Privacy Dashboard
The privacy dashboard is a shiny new feature coming to Android 12. The dashboard provides users with an up-to-date look at which applications have used what permissions. Towards the top of the screen, users will get a donut chart providing a snapshot of the permissions used in the last 24 hours. Underneath the donut chart lies a list of permissions and a high-level overview of how many apps users have granted the permission to.
Drilling down into one of these permissions will give you a complete timeline showing the permission usage. You’ll be able to see exactly what application used the permission along with the time they used it. You view a specific app’s permissions on a more granular level by tapping a timeline entry. From the App Permission screen, you can easily adjust the app’s “allowed” and “not allowed” permissions. This dashboard is a step in the right direction for Google, giving users more insight into how and when apps are accessing various permissions.
5. Scrolling Screenshots
This feature was made available in the third Android 12 beta. After capturing a screenshot, users will now see a “Capture More” option. Selecting this option will bring users to a new screen where they can crop their screenshot, with a twist. The crop area extends both above and below the area that is currently presented on the screen! This feature comes in handy when there is a snippet from a news article or a Twitter thread you’d like to share that doesn’t quite fit in your phone’s visible area. Aside from the ability to crop an extended area, you can also annotate the screenshot with a Snapchat-like text feature, and share it in your go-to messaging app.
Between the sweeping design changes, scrolling screenshots, and security and privacy enhancements, Android 12 has a lot to offer. While some of the changes may not make much sense (looking at you power menu), the updated functionality becomes second nature extremely quickly. Features like the new Wi-Fi screen and the privacy dashboard make accessing important data and settings quick and seamless. The new design language promises to be organic and fluid, based on a user’s unique style. Android 12 will be here come September and if you’re like me, a fresh coat of paint on an already refined user experience is always welcome.