Android has a new version coming out later this year – Android 12 – and it’s one of the biggest redesigns in its history.
Google’s Android OS may sometimes feel like it’s playing second fiddle to Apple’s iPhone’s iOS operating system, but it’s actually much more prolific when it comes to usage numbers. Android runs on over three billion devices worldwide. iOS, on the other hand, runs on about a third of that.
Of course, Android runs on so many more devices because the ecosystem of Android devices is highly fragmented. Not all those three billion devices run the latest Android OS. As a matter of fact, only a fraction do.
But speaking of the latest Android OS, Google has just released a preview of what Android 12 – coming later this year – will offer. And it’s pretty impressive. As Google boasts: “Android 12 includes the biggest design change in Android’s history. We rethought the entire experience, from the colors to the shapes, light and motion. The result is that Android 12 is more expressive, dynamic and personal than ever before.”
So what are the major new changes going to Android 12? Let’s have a look.
Android 12: Major Design Overhaul
The most radical change coming to Android 12 is a major design overhaul. And it’s not just one design. The big feature behind this design change is its customizable based on the user’s choices.
In Android 12 when you select a wallpaper background – no matter if its a factory installed wallpaper or a custom photograph you shot yourself – Android 12 will read the color data in the wallpaper and automatically adjust the color details, trim and elements of other parts of the operating system to match their color highlights with the wallpaper you’ve chosen.
For example, if you choose a photo of a lake as your wallpaper, Android 12 will automatically change the color trim of various elements of the operating system to match this color scheme. This includes color changes and matching to the notification shade, the lock screen, the volume controls, and new widgets.
Android 12: Better And More Fluid Animations
Another big change coming to Android 12 is improved motion and animation effects. This is an area iOS has always exceeded in – all the animation on an iPhone are nearly flawless they are so fluid. With Android 12 we can now expect the same level of animation quality, making Android 12 feel that much more organic.
Android 12: Redesigned Notification Shade
Another much-welcomed change is that Android 12 will feature redesigned system spaces, such as the Notification Shade and Quick Settings. All these elements of Android 12 have been retooled so they are both quicker to access as well as more intuitive to use. They are also redesigned to place the tools you are most likely to use at that moment right at your fingertips.
And if you’re a big Google Pay or Google Home users, those controls have now been baked into Quick Settings, which is even more customizable than before.
Android 12: Privacy Enhancements
Okay – I know what you’re going to say: Google isn’t exactly known as a company that values privacy. If you want that, you need to be using an iPhone. But precisely because Apple offers its users greater and greater privacy controls each year with iOS, Google really has no choice but to play catch up or end up looking bad.
That’s why Android 12 is offering new privacy features – many of which iOS included all the way back in 2020. Android 12 will offer a new privacy dashboard, but two of the best features are borrowed right from Apple’s iOS 14.
The first is a microphone and camera indicator that now appears in the top corner of your screen whenever an app is using the mic or camera. This is an iOS 14 feature that allows you to see when an app is actively using your mic or camera. In Android 12 you’ll now be able to see that too.
The other major privacy update is to location services – again this is something take from iOS 14, which came out in 2020. Now in Android 12 when an app asks to access your location, you can either give it access to your precise location or a new approximate location.
This approximate location works the same way it does in iOS – it allows the requesting app to have location to your approximate marabouts – like the city or neighborhood you are in, without allowing the app to see the exact street or address you are at.
Approximate locations are helpful for apps such as weather apps, which don’t need to know your exact current location to tell you if it’s going to rain.
The Android 12 beta is out now and the operating system is scheduled to ship to compatible handsets later this year.
Apple expert and novelist, Michael Grothaus has been covering tech on KnowYourMobile for the best part of 10 years. Prior to this, he worked at Apple. And before that, he was a film journalist. Michael is a published author; his book Epiphany Jones was voted as one of the best novels about Hollywood by Entertainment Weekly. Michael is also a writer at other publications including VICE and Fast Company.