Google releases Android 12 beta

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Google is releasing the "biggest design change in Android's history."

Google unveiled this week the beta version of Android 12, according to Sameer Samat, VP of product management for Android and Google Play at Google.

The company "re-thought the entire experience" of its mobile operating system, from colors to shapes and light and motion.

Samat calls the new version "more expressive, dynamic and personal than ever before."

Android 12 was developed to be "secure by default and private by design" and make all of a user's devices "work better together." 

The beta is offering users "a look into some of the features that will be available in future releases."

Android 12 beta is available on Pixel and select other devices.

There are over 3 billion active mobile devices running Android, due partly to it being an open ecosystem that gives users choice, according to Samat.

Google Android 12 beta screenshots. Photo via Google.

Screenshots of the beta version of Google's Android 12 mobile operating system. Photo via Google.


"From the beginning, Android has always been about personalization," Samat says.

  • Users can personalize their phone with a custom color palette and re-designed widgets
  • They choose a wallpaper, and the system automatically determines which colors are dominant and which ones are complementary 
  • The system then applies those colors across the entire OS: the notification shade, lock screen, volume controls, new widgets and more

The personalization work is being done through a collaboration between Google's software, hardware and material design teams.

Samat adds that Google is unifying its software and hardware ecosystems under "a single design language" called Material You.

Fluid motion and animations

"From the moment you pick up an Android 12 device, you’ll feel how it comes alive with every tap, swipe and scroll," Samat says.

  • The phone responds to a user's touch with "smooth" motion and animations. For example, when a user dismisses their notifications on the lock screen, the clock will appear larger, so they know when they're caught up
  • Google re-crafted the entire underlying system to make a user's experience "more fluid and efficient" and facilitate "simplified interactions" 
  • The mobile OS is "faster and more responsive"
  • Better power efficiency, so a user can use their device longer without a charge: in part, by reducing the CPU time needed for core system services by up to 22% and reducing the use of big cores by the system server by up to 15%

Re-designed system spaces

Some of the most important spaces on the phone — like a user's notification shade, quick settings and the power button — have been re-imagined to help users "get things done."

The notification shade is more "intuitive and playful," with an at-a-glance view of a user's app notifications and whatever they're currently listening to or watching.

  • Users can control nearly the entire mobile OS with a "swipe and a tap" in their Quick Settings, which "looks and feels different"
  • It’s been re-built to include Google Pay and Home Controls, while still allowing for customization and everything a user needs most in one easy-to-access place
  • To make sure a user always has help from Google, a long press of the power button will invoke assistant to make a phone call, open apps, ask questions or read text-heavy articles

Privacy and security

In addition to the features below, there are more privacy and security changes coming later this year.

"We’ll continue to push the boundaries," Samat says.

  • More transparency around which apps are accessing a user's data
  • More controls to make informed choices about how much private information a user's apps can access
  • Privacy Dashboard with a single view into permissions settings as well as what data is being accessed, how often and by which apps. Easily revoke app permissions.
  • Indicator to the top right of the phone's status bar to know when apps are accessing a user's microphone or camera. Ability to remove app access to these sensors for the entire system
  • More control over how much information a user shares with apps
  • Approximate location permissions. Apps can be limited to seeing just a user's approximate location instead of a precise one. For example, weather apps don’t need a precise location for an accurate forecast
  • Android Private Compute Core. It allows Google to introduce new technologies that are private by design, allowing it to keep a user's personal information safe, private and local to their phone
  • Private Compute Core enables features like Live Caption, Now Playing and Smart Reply. All the audio and language processing happens on-device, isolated from the network to preserve a user's privacy. The protections in Private Compute Core are open source and fully inspectable and verifiable by the security community

Other features

  • Improved accessibility features for people with impaired vision
  • Scrolling screenshots
  • Conversation widgets that bring a user's favorite people to the home screen
  • Ways for all of a user's devices to work better together
  • Make third-party app stores easier to use

Apple iOS 14

Apple released the latest version of its mobile operating system, iOS 14, in September of 2020, and says it gives the OS a "fresh look" and makes tasks "easier than ever." 

The version marks the "biggest update ever" to home screen pages, with re-designed widgets, an App Library that automatically organizes all of a user's apps and App Clips — or a small part of an app experience designed to be "discovered the moment it is needed."

iOS 14 also features a number of updates across the OS: pinned conversations, a more "compact" user interface and privacy, such as App Tracking Transparency, and much more.

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Google, Android, Android 12