It’s time for an update for Google’s mobile operating system. The latest version is Android 12 and is full of all sorts of improvements, some big and some small.
Google’s Android runs on more than 3 billion devices worldwide. You will find it on the best smartphones from Samsung, Motorola, LG, Sony, OnePlus and of course in the Pixel line of Google. Upgrading to Android 12 is more of a step than a leap, but some significant upgrades lurk here. Before we dive into the features, here’s how to get your phone updated.
How to download Android 12
Not everyone will be able to download Android 12 right away. Most manufacturers take months to push out major updates, often putting their head on Google’s version. But some devices can upgrade now.
If you have Google Pixel 3 or later, you can get Android 12 now. It will soon be available for Android One devices, and Google says it will arrive for Samsung Galaxy, OnePlus, Oppo, Realme, Tecno, Xiaomi and Vivo devices later this year (many of which were part of Android 12 Beta program). Before you upgrade, it’s always wise to back up everything, so head to Settings> System> Backup> Backup now. We have more detailed instructions in our Guide to backing up your Android phone.
To find out if you can download the update now on your Pixel, take a look Settings> System and tap Advanced> System update. It should automatically search for the update, but you can also tap Check for update. Remember that updates are usually released for a few days, so even eligible phones may have a short wait.
If you have an Android phone from another manufacturer, check the company’s website, forums or social media to find out when you can expect Android 12 to arrive. Most high-end Android phones can expect at least two years of upgrades (Samsung S10 phones and more -new can expect four), so if you bought your phone in late 2019 or sooner, then you should be able to get it at some point.
The best new features
We’ve been running Android 12 beta for a while now and these are our 12 favorite features. There are many other smaller upgrades, and you can dig deeper into Google’s developer site or the Android 12 website to learn more.
1. A new look
The fresh look is the first thing you’ll notice about Android 12. Google has updated its design language with a visual adjustment based on its deep customization options. Material You are focused on customization and you can automatically extract a color palette from your chosen wallpaper and apply it throughout the operating system, from the lock screen, application icons and notification shadows to volume controls and gadgets. These colors even penetrate the apps themselves, although they currently only work with Google apps. Material You is Pixel’s first exclusive feature, but it will spread to the wider Android ecosystem next year. The redesign also includes larger tiles for quick settings, bolder text and a larger font throughout the operating system.
Fun and smooth, the new interface animations and transitions are also more energy efficient. The user interface is more adaptable than ever, with changes based on context and data entered. For example, the striking new clock widget clearly shows the time, but shrinks on the lock screen when you receive a new notification, so you can tell at a glance when something is waiting. Speaking of gadgets, expect more than a dozen new and refreshed from Google by the end of October.
2. Better quick settings
When you download the notification canopy in Android 12, you’ll see that the quick settings icons at the top have changed. Old round icons have become rounded rectangles that show more information (and are also easier to touch). Now they match your color scheme and you can still customize what tiles you want to see and in what order. Google has also added controls for Google Pay and Home, which give you quick access to payments or smart home devices. You can still tap to turn things on and off, or long press to go to the appropriate settings page.
You may not like that turning off Wi-Fi or data is now a two-step process, as the two have been merged into one tile. Tap it, then tap the switch next to the name of your carrier or your Wi-Fi network if you want to turn off one of them.
3. Privacy board
Privacy is a major theme in Android 12, or at least Google is trying to make it a priority. This is reflected in the new privacy dashboard. All your permission settings are displayed on one screen. It shows what data is being accessed, from which applications and how often in the last 24 hours. The convenient timeline view adds some transparency and should make it easier to control what you share and override the permissions you don’t want specific applications to have.
4. Microphone and camera control
Wearing a device with a microphone and camera is always a matter of privacy, so an indicator in the upper right corner of the status bar that lets you know when apps are using any of them is very welcome. Google has also added the option to mute the microphone or camera throughout the system in the new quick settings when you download your notifications.
5. More location tracking controls
The idea that third-party apps can track your exact location and do who knows what with the data is troubling. Some apps, like weather apps, have good reason to check your location, but they don’t need them precisely data. That’s why Google has added a new option to location tracking that allows you to specify Exact or Approximate. You can now get local data without having to share an accurate record of your movements.
Similarly, Google updates Bluetooth permissions on Android so that your connected devices, such as headsets or smartwatches, no longer need access to your location information.
6. Richer notices
Notifications look cleaner and have sleek transitions in Android 12. They can still be expanded, but can now contain richer content, and touching them gives you direct access to the app faster than ever. There is also more leeway for developers to protect lock screen notifications by first requesting user authentication.
7. Scroll screenshots
Phone manufacturers like Samsung and OnePlus now allow you to go beyond the visible screen with screenshots and scroll down to capture an entire web page. Now scrolling screenshots are saved to Android. You take a screenshot in the same way as before, but now there is Catch more button. Tagging tools for editing and annotating screenshots have also been improved, with the ability to add text, emoticons and stickers.
8. Easier Wi-Fi sharing
You can now share your Wi-Fi password with a QR code, but Android 12 makes it even easier by adding Nearby button below the code that activates the nearby sharing feature on Android. It will scan for any nearby devices and you can touch the device with which you want to share your Wi-Fi data wirelessly.
9. Search for a device
Google has added AppSearch to Android 12; this device search engine can potentially search indexed content in apps and other content on your phone, such as Spotlight Search on iPhone. Works even when your device is offline. On Pixel phones, this option appears as a separate search bar in the app drawer. You can filter your search with shortcut switches, people, settings, and pixel tips.
10. One-handed mode
Like the convenient accessibility option on the iPhone, one-handed modes have become vital as the screens of phones have become larger. You can turn it on via Settings> System> One-handed mode in Android 12 and you can swipe down in any app to swipe the top of the display down. This makes it much easier to access these notifications and thumb icons without having to use your other hand. To exit, simply swipe up from the bottom of the screen or tap the top of the screen above the app.
11. Better games
There are several improvements in Android 12 only for mobile gamers. Google has added a game board to Pixels, which offers quick access to Do Not Disturb, screenshots and screenshots, live streaming for YouTube, and a switch to display your frames per second (FPS) during gameplay. Other manufacturers have had variations of this feature for some time.
You can now start playing some games when they are only partially downloaded, instead of waiting for the full download to complete, just as you can on the PS5 and Xbox Series X. Google has also allowed developers to prioritize things like battery life or performance to allow people more choice in settings.
12. Odds and end
- You can now press and hold the power button to call up Google Assistant (many phones, such as Pixels, have the ability to see the power / restart menu in the notification drawer). If you don’t like it, you can disable it Settings> System> Gestures> Press and hold the power key.
- Auto-rotate is smarter and faster, using the Pixel 4’s front camera and newer Google phones to take a quick look at your face to determine when to rotate that screen. The process is local, so it doesn’t send images anywhere.
- Haptic feedback can now be connected to audio, so music and movies can be more captivating, your personalized melody can prompt your phone to vibrate over time, or the game can add vibration to simulate uneven driving.
- The quick-tap feature is only for Pixel phones, but allows people to double-tap the back of their Pixel to open notifications, launch an app, call Google Assistant, or take a screenshot (among other options). You can find it at Settings> System> Gestures.
- Emoji’s new designs are being distributed with changes to almost 400 existing Emojis.
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