Google’s annual developer conference — Google I/O — for 2021 is now underway, and it is being held virtually this year due to the pandemic. Day one of the conference saw a slew of announcements from Google around its products and services. While most of these were consumer-oriented and featured updates around Wear OS, Android 12, Google Maps, and a few more, there were also some exciting updates about Google’s work in the field of AI and quantum computing.

android 12 features

Talking about Android 12, though, Google officially unveiled its first Beta of Android 12 last night and opened the doors to Beta testing for those interested in getting their hands on the latest Android version.

Android 12 Beta 1

Android has always had a reputation of being a highly personalizable mobile operating system, and with Android 12, Google is taking this a step further, thanks in part to the various UI changes (in  Public Beta 1) that flair the visual elements of its latest release.

In fact, not just the UI changes, but Beta 1 also hints at Google’s stance on user privacy and security as it refocuses on the privacy and security bits of Android to offer more transparency to users about which apps access their data and puts them in control of managing how they want to share their private information with various apps on their device.

Android 12 Beta 1 Feature Highlights

While the final release of Android 12 is still a few months away, Beta 1 gives us a glimpse of what to expect from it when it arrives on our phones later this year. So, in the meantime, let’s take a look at all the noteworthy aspects of Android 12’s first release.

1. All-New UI

With Android 12 Beta 1, Google is introducing one of the biggest design changes to Android since 2013. The latest redesign brings a completely new look and feel to the system UI: one that reimagines everything from the colors and shapes of UI elements to other components like light and motion.

android 12 beta personalization

Google calls this new design Material You, and it brings along some radical changes to the way the interface looks, feels, and behaves. Some of these visual element changes include:

i. Custom color palette: Android 12 on Pixel devices will offer a unique ability for users to personalize their phones with a custom color palette. To do this, all you have to do is choose a wallpaper, and the system will use color extraction to determine the dominant colors and complementary colors in the wallpaper. After this, it will apply the color scheme to various elements on the system, such as the notification shade, lock screen, volume controls, widgets, and more, to give you a more personalized experience.

ii. Redesigned widgets: Widgets on Android have not had the best run for the past few days, but the new design changes seem to be moving towards changing that perception and making them better as they now appear more aesthetically pleasing, useful, and easily discoverable. If you are running a Pixel, you can take advantage of the custom color palette to make your widgets use system colors and personalize the appearance even further.

android 12 beta widgets

iii. Stretch overscroll: With Android 12, you will now see a system-wide stretch “overscroll” effect that will tell you when you have scrolled past the end of the available content in the UI, so you know when to stop scrolling. It will be available on both horizontal and vertical scrolls.
It will be available on both horizontal and vertical scrolls.

iv. Redesigned system spaces: Besides widgets, Google is also changing the design, appearance, and behavior of other components on the system with Android 12. The Beta 1 brings along a fresh look to the notification shade, quick settings, and power button, which appear to be designed to help you get things done more quickly.

android 12 beta system spaces

For instance, the notification shade now shows up as a page as opposed to an overlay. It offers a better at-a-glance view of all your app notifications and is also more intuitive than before. Similarly, quick settings get more functional, and it now lets you control more elements of your system than before. Further, you can even use it to access Google Pay and Home Controls with just a tap.

Besides, another interesting addition to Android 12 is that you can now invoke Google Assistant by simply long-pressing the power button — similar to Siri on the iPhone.

2. Improved Performance

With Android 12, Google is investing its focus on getting the performance element right on different Android devices. To accomplish this, it is investing both in foundational performance: making the system and apps faster and smoother; and in a new standard: helping developers deliver richer experiences through their apps and services.

As per Google, improvements to the overall experience include a faster and more responsive experience, with a 22% reduction in CPU time consumed by core services and a 15% reduction in the use of system cores, for a more power-efficient run.

android 12 beta performance improvements

Similarly, visual elements on Android 12 also benefit from the performance improvement, and this reflects in the form of faster transition and startup times across the system UI.

3. Improved Privacy and Security

Besides visual and performance updates, Android 12 also comes with new privacy and security updates to strengthen the system’s overall integrity and provide users more control over their personal information. Some of the biggest privacy and security features coming to Android 12 include:

i. Privacy Dashboard: It shows all your permission settings along with your personal data accessed by the apps on your phone in a single view. You also get in-depth details like how often your data is being accessed and by which app. Besides these, another useful addition to the dashboard is the ability to revoke permissions directly from the dashboard, so you do not have to go into settings to do it for every single app.

android 12 beta privacy dashboard

ii. Microphone and Camera Indicator: Android 12 introduces a new indicator element to the system that sits in the top-right corner of the status bar and indicates when apps use the device’s microphone or camera. It is somewhat similar to the one on the iPhone, which was introduced with iOS 14.

iii. Limit Data Sharing: With Android 12, Google is bringing the ability to let you control how much information you share with the apps on your device. This makes it possible to only allow apps access to your approximate location, instead of the precise location, to keep your actual location data private.

android 12 beta location sharing

iv. Private Compute Core: Android 12 will also feature a privileged space on the system called Private Computer Core, which will allow the operating system to protect your data while granting its access to other system-level functions on the device.

4. Miscellaneous

Apart from the visual changes, performance improvements, and privacy and security upgrades, Android 12 also comes with lots of other useful features to improve your overall experience. Some of these additions include scrolling screenshots, conversation widgets to interact with your favorite contacts easily right on the home screen, and new and improved accessibility features to help people with impaired vision.

Android 12 Beta 1 Availability

Android 12 Public Beta 1 is now live, and you can get your hands on it if you own any of the following devices:

  • Google Pixel 5
  • Google Pixel 4a 5G
  • Google Pixel 4a
  • Google Pixel 3
  • Google Pixel 3 XL
  • Google Pixel 3a
  • Google Pixel 3a XL
  • OnePlus 9
  • OnePlus 9 Pro
  • Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
  • Xiaomi Mi 11
  • Xiaomi Mi 11i
  • Xiaomi Mi 11X Pro
  • OPPO Find X3 Pro
  • Realme GT
  • Asus Zenfone 8

To install Android 12 Beta, head over to the Android Developers website to find the instructions specific to your Android make. However, if you do not have a compatible device, you need to wait for a stable Android 12 release, which is expected to arrive in August this year.

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